Web Works
How to Use Corel PhotoPaint 8 to Make Web-Friendly GIF & JPEG Images


Why The Web Safe Palette is Becoming Less Useful.

Hands up all those using an 8-bit graphics card in their computer. No, I didn't think so. OK then, hands up all those who know someone still using an 8-bit graphics card (that is, 640x480 screen resolution or less and 256 colours or less). Maybe a few. How many of these later devotees of archaic computer collectibles actually use the WWW on a regular basis? Again, I think the answer is clear - not very many at all and even fewer by choice.


As much as the use of the 216 colour Netscape Web Safe palette is touted by most prominent web designers, it is now clear that this palette is not as essential as it was even just two years ago. This is mainly due to the quite incredible improvements and reduction in cost in computer graphics cards. I personally haven't used a graphics card that is incapable of displaying 24 bit graphics for sale over the past three years. Most graphics cards manufacturers are now well past the development stage of high resolution, high bit depth 2D cards and are concentrating their efforts in the 3D realm.


Standard 15, 16, 24 and 32 bit 4 MB 2D graphics cards (capable of 24 bit screen images at 1024x769 screen sizes at least) can be bought for less than A$50 ! Anyone purchasing or upgrading their computer system over the past 2-3 years (a LONG time in terms of the computing world) will undoubtedly have the ability to display at least 15 bit graphics. Any graphics card with the ability to display 15 bit graphics or greater will also be able to display ANY 8 bit (or less) palette type. Only those older cards restricted to 8 bits or less will need to use specific predefined palettes such as System, Netscape or IE. In addition, most web pages now contain 24 bit JPEG images. So those people still using such old display cards will see MANY images incorrectly when surfing the WWW and so will most probably be either use to it or unconcerned about viewing poor quality images.

Thus, my argument, as a designer of graphics for use on the WWW, is this: Why force my images into a (frequently) unsatisfactory set of colours simply to appease a (now) very small subset of viewers, while forcing the majority of viewers into seeing very low quality images. The reasoning for using lowest-common denominator imaging factors is becoming less important and relevant by the day. This is not to say that one should not use GIFs. GIFs are terrific. But why force all your images into the Netscape palette or, for that matter, any fixed palette? These days I almost always use the Optimized palette, except when a satisfactory result can be obtained (without the use of dithering) with the Netscape or Adaptive palettes.

The Optimized palette in Corel PhotoPaint is truly a dream come true for web developers. It gives unparalleled control and quality to your images and (as far as I know) is unmatched anywhere else (even against the latest versions of Adobe and Macromedia web-specific products) in the graphics industry.