List of video game console palettes

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This is a list of the full color palettes for notable video game console hardware.

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.

RGB 24bits palette sample image.jpg RGB 24bits palette color test chart.png

Atari[edit]

Atari 2600[edit]

The Atari 2600 used different YPbPr color palettes dependent on the television signal format used.[1]

NTSC[edit]

With the NTSC format, a 128-color palette was available, built based on eight luminance values and 50 combinations of Pb and Pr chroma signals (plus Pb = Pr = 0 for a pure grayscale):

Atari2600 NTSC palette sample image.png Atari2600 NTSC palette color test chart.png Atari2600 NTSC palette.png
luminance/hue 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14

PAL[edit]

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:

Atari2600 PAL palette sample image.png Atari2600 PAL palette color test chart.png Atari2600 PAL palette.png
hue / luminance 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14

SECAM[edit]

The SECAM palette was reduced to a simple 3-bit RGB, containing only 8 colors (black, blue, red, magenta, green, cyan, yellow and white):

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14

Nintendo[edit]

NES[edit]

The Picture Processing Unit (PPU) was used in the Nintendo Entertainment System and had a YPbPr 64-color palette , 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.

In addition to this, it had 3 color emphasis bits which can be used to tint the entire palette any combination of red, green and blue. This extends the total available colors to 432, but inconveniently divided into 8 variations of the base 54. Because it affects the whole palette at once it may be considered more of a filter effect applied to the image, rather than an increased palette range.

NES palette sample image.png NES palette color test chart.png NES palette.png
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, converting a photograph often results in attribute clash. Conversions with and without dithering follow, using the hex palette 0F160608 0F162720 0F090010 0F0A1910:

No dithering With dithering
Parrot NES no dithering.png Parrot NES with dithering.png

Super NES (SNES)[edit]

The Picture Processing Unit (PPU) used in the Super NES has a 15-bit RGB (32,768 color) palette, with up to 256 simultaneous colors at once.

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 color blending. Because these blended colors 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 colors onscreen at any one time can be much higher.

The exact number depends on the number of layers, and the combination of colors 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 colors, but in practice this is rarely the case for reasons such as memory use. Most games use 256-color mode, with 15-color palettes assigned to 8x8 pixel areas of the background.

Theoretical 32768-color Practical 256-color
RGB 15bits palette sample image.png Parrot 256 of 32768.png

Game Boy[edit]

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 greenscale graphic display, as it is shown in the simulated image (at Game Boy display resolution), below. The Game Boy Pocket uses a monochrome 4-shades palette using actual gray.

Original Game Boy Pocket
Screen color test Gameboy.png Screen color test Gameboy Pocket.png

Game Boy Color[edit]

The Game Boy Color systems use a 15-bit RGB (32,768 colors) palette.

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.

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.

Simulated
Screen color test GameboyColor 32colors.png

When an older monochrome original Game Boy game cartridge (Type 1) is plugged-in, if certain combinations of the controls are held during startup (or if the game is recognized from a hard-coded list in the device's ROM), the games are colorized with one of the factory 12 false color palettes. In this mode, games can have from 4 to 10 colors, due 4 are for the background plane palette and there are two more hardware sprite planes palettes, with 3 colors 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 colors are simulated):

Combo Up Down Left Right
Gbcpalette-up-highcon.png
Brown
Gbcpalette-dw-highcon.png
Pastel mix
Gbcpalette-lf-highcon.png
Blue
Gbcpalette-rg-highcon.png
Green
A Gbcpalette-up+a-highcon.png
Red
Gbcpalette-dw+a-highcon.png
Orange
Gbcpalette-lf+a-highcon.png
Dark blue
Gbcpalette-rg+a-highcon.png
Dark green
B Gbcpalette-up+b-highcon.png
Dark brown
Gbcpalette-dw+b-highcon.png
Yellow
Gbcpalette-lf+b-highcon.png
Gray
Gbcpalette-rg+b-highcon.png
Reverse

Game Boy Advance[edit]

The Game Boy Advance/SP/Micro systems also uses a 15-bit RGB palette, and along with the original and Color modes, they have also a specific Highcolor 32,768 colors mode. The LCD displays of the Micro and some models of the SP are backlit, giving brighter images.

Compatible mode 32,768-color
Screen color test GameboyAdvance 32colors.png Screen color test GameboyAdvance 32Kcolors.png

Sega[edit]

Master System[edit]

The Master System had a 6-bit RGB palette (64 colors), with 32 colors on-screen at once. It is possible to display all 64 colors at once using raster effects (line interrupts).

There are only 512 different 8x8 tile patterns to cover the screen though, when 768 would be required for a complete 256x192 screen. This means that at least 1/3 of the tiles will have to be repeated. To help maximize tile reuse, they can be flipped either vertically or horizontally. The 64 sprites of 8x16 pixels can also be used to help to cover the screen (max 8 per scanline).

Because of the constraints mentioned above, there are no current simulated screen images available for the Sega Master System.

Screen color test SEGAMasterSystem.png

Game Gear[edit]

The Game Gear had a 12-bit RGB palette (4096 colors), with 32 colors on-screen at once.

Screen color test Amiga 32colors.png

Mega Drive/Genesis[edit]

The Mega Drive/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).

RGB 24bits palette sample image 9bpp MD.png

NEC[edit]

TurboGrafx-16[edit]

The TurboGrafx-16 used a 9-bit RGB palette, like the 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).

RGB 24bits palette sample image 9bpp PCE.png

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Atari 2600 "TIA color chart". Archived February 12, 2011, at WebCite