List of video game console palettes
- For a full listing of computer's color palettes, see List of color palettes
For various software arrangements and sorts of colors, see the List of software palettes article.
For each unique palette, an image color test chart and sample image (Truecolor original follows) rendered with that palette (without dithering) are given. The test chart shows the full 8-bits, 256 levels of the red, green and blue (RGB) primary colors and cyan, magenta and yellow complementary colors, along with a full 8-bits, 256 levels grayscale. Gradients of RGB intermediate colors (orange, lime green, sea green, sky blue, violet and fucsia), and a full hue's spectrum are also present. Color charts are not gamma corrected.
These elements permit study of the color depth and distribution of the full colors of any given palette, and the sample image indicates how the full color selection of such palettes would represent real life images. These images are not necessarily representative of how the image would be displayed on the original graphics hardware, as the hardware may have additional limitations regarding the maximum display resolution, pixel aspect ratio and color placement.
For specific models of videogame consoles, simulations of how the sample image would render in different graphic modes are provided, if available. These simulations are always up to the maximum vertical resolution of the given graphic mode or up to 200 scan lines, if vertical resolution is greater. So any of them could be properly padded, transcoded and dumped into the original hardware and/or software emulators without any other changes.
The sample images only try to show how a certain system is able to handle to an image in terms of color without improvements nor additional clever tricks of design like anti-aliasing or dithering. Doubtlessly a human artist is able to improve enormously the look of the simulated images to approximate them to the original one, but that is not the goal of this article.
Note: please do not change the compression scheme of every image by a lossy compression scheme (i.e. JPEG) in order to improve their file size, nor change the thumbnail size of the images, nor gamma-correct them. They are didactical material AS IS, and they have been already optimized for this purpose.
hue / luminance 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
The hardware supports 4 colors per scanline: a background, an arbitrary 40-pixel wide bitmapped playfield, and colors for the two players. Using just the first two, an NTSC console could draw the above.
With the PAL format, a 104-color palette was available. 128-color entries were still selectable, but due to changes in color encoding schemes, 32 color entries results in the same eight shades of gray:
hue / luminance 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 0,1,14,15 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Using just the playfield and background controls, a PAL console could draw the above.
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14
The Picture Processing Unit (PPU) was used in the Nintendo Entertainment System and had a YPbPr 64-color palette (plus color emphasis bits, not counted), of which nine are duplicates and one is out of NTSC's gamut, giving a total of 54 useful colors. The palette is built based on four luminance values and twelve combinations of Pb and Pr chroma signals (plus two series of Pb = Pr = 0 for eight pure grays). Two of the shades of gray are identical, one has negative brightness, and one is within 2% of another, so sometimes the palette has been reported to have 53 to 55 colors.
Hex Value 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F 00h 10h 20h 30h
The NES could select 4 palettes each containing one of these colors (however, color 0 of each palette has to be the same, so technically, 13 different colors are available at a time) to be applied to the background. A background palette is applied to a 16x16 pixel area, however through a special video mode of the MMC5 mapper it is possible for every 8x8 pixel tile to have its individual palette. As for sprites, 4 different palettes can be used at a time (with color 0 being transparent in each) and every 8x8 or 8x16 pixels can have their own palette, allowing for a total of 12 different colors to use for sprites at any given time.
Because of the constraints mentioned above, there are no current simulated screen images available for the NES.
However, while the hardware palette can only contain 256 entries, in most display modes the graphics are arranged into between 2 and 4 layers, and these layers can be combined using additive or subtractive colour blending. Because these blended colours are calculated by the hardware itself, and do not have to be represented by any of the existing palette entries, the actual number of visible colours onscreen at any one time can be much higher.
The exact number depends on the number of layers, and the combination of colours used by these layers, as well as what blending mode and graphical effects are in use. In theory it can show the entire 32,768 colours, but in practice this is rarely the case.
Original Game Boy
The original Game Boy uses a monochrome 4-shades palette. Due to the fact that the non-backlighted LCD display background is greenish, this results in a green-scale graphic display, as it is shown in the simulated image (at Game Boy display resolution), below.
Game Boy Color
When an older monochrome original Game Boy game cartridge (Type 1) is plugged-in, if certain combinations of the controls are held during startup, the games are colourised with one of the factory 12 false colour palettes. In this mode, games can have from 4 to 10 colours, due 4 are for the background plane palette and there are two more hardware sprite planes palettes, with 3 colours plus transparent each.
The following shows these startup palettes (background plus both sprite planes) and the combination of controls used (the names are taken from the Game Boy user's manual; the colours are simulated):
UP+B (Dark brown)
DOWN (Pastel mix)
LEFT+A (Dark blue)
RIGHT+A (Dark green)
The specific Game Boy Color (Type 3) game cartridges presents up to 56 colors without the use of special programming techniques from the full 32,768. From these, 32 are for a background palette, plus 8 hardware sprite palettes, with 3 colors plus transparent each. Typically, the sprite palettes shares some colors (black, white or others), so the total colors displayed are less than 56.
Here is the sample image shown in the non-backlighted color LCD display of the Game Boy Color (the colors are simulated):
Though there is a 56 color limit, this in of itself is a palette storage limit and not an actual hardware limitation. As such, the programmer can swap out the palettes on a per-scanline or even on a mid-scanline basis ("mode 3 mid-scanline rendering"). Because of this ability to swap out the palettes each scanline, over ten thousand colors can actually appear on screen per frame when programmed on a per-scanline basis.
Game Boy Advance/SP/Micro
The color LCD displays of the SP and Micro are backlit, giving brighter images.
Here are sample images shown in the backlit color LCD display of the Game Boy Advance/SP/Micro in both Game Boy Color compatible mode and Game Boy Advance 32K color mode:
The Sega Mega Drive/Sega Genesis used a 9-bit RGB palette (512 colors, 1536 including shadow and highlight mode) with up to 61 colors on-screen at once without raster effects (4 palette lines of 16 colors each, palette indices $x0 are definable but considered as transparent, and can only be used as the background color).
The PC-Engine/TurboGrafx 16 used a 9-bit RGB palette, like the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, consisting of 512 colors with 482 colors on-screen at once (16 background palettes of 16 colors each, with at least 1 common color among all background palettes, and 16 sprite palettes of 15 colors each, plus transparent which was visible as the overscan area).
- Palette (computing)
- Indexed color
- Color Lookup Table
- Color depth
- Computer display
- List of home computers by video hardware