might have heard of the browser-safe palette, Netscape palette,
216 palette, Web palette, and/or 6x6x6 color cube. All these terms
refer to the same set of colors, which this page will describe in
A lot of people credit me with the browser-safe palette, but it's
a misplaced honor (if you can call it that!). I do have the distinction
of being the first author to identify and publish the colors - but
I can't take credit for creating them.
The browser-safe palette was developed by programmers with no design
sense, I assure you. That's because a designer would have never
picked these colors. Mostly, the palette contains far less light
and dark colors than I wish it did, and is heavy on highly saturated
colors and low on muted, tinted or toned colors.
The only reason to use the browser-safe palette is if you have a
concern that your Web design work will be viewed from a 256 color
(8-bit) computer system. When I published the browser-safe color
chart in my first book, Designing Web Graphics, waaaayyy back in
1996, the MAJORITY of computer users had 8-bit video cards. Today,
the minority have them, so the justification for using the browser-safe
palette has diminished greatly if you are developing your site for
users who have current computer systems.
There may be resurgence in the need for the browser-safe palette
when designing for alternative online publishing devices, such as
cell phones and PDAs. Those systems are still in 1-bit (black and
white) or 8-bit color. Right now, very few people are designing
their web sites to work on those systems, so the need for the browser-safe
color palette is definitely downgraded to a mere shadow of its former
So Then, Is the Browser-Safe Palette
Though this might seem blasphemous to older readers my books, or
loyal website visitors, I believe it's safe to design without the
palette. I believe this because so few computer users view the web
in 256 colors anymore.
Keep in mind however, that many companies that hire designers and
developers still feel it's a badge of Web design honor to work with
these colors, so you might want to know how to use them if you have
to. At this point, the palette is built into Photoshop, Paint Shop
Pro, Illustrator, Freehand, Fireworks, Dreamweaver, GoLive, and
just about any professional Web design/development tool, so using
it is fairly easy.
Conversely, there's no harm in using the browser-safe palette either.
It simply limits your choices to 216 colors. Most people don't have
a lot of color picking confidence, and working with limited color
choices is easier. At this point, there's no right or wrong when
it comes to which colors you pick, but more important to know how
to combine colors in pleasing and effective ways.
Who would have thought that computers would mature as quickly as
they have? In those early days of the web, only the professional
designer had a system that supported thousands or millions of colors.
Today, any consumer with a Gateway or iMac is going to see all the
colors you can throw their way. It's progress folks! Those of us
who had to learn to design for the Web in the old days developed
a skill that is fast becoming obsolete. So much for moving forward
-- it's great liberation in my opinion!
Is the Browser-Safe Palette?
those of you unfamiliar with my books,
they go into great detail about subjects which may be new to you,
such as dithering, CLUTs, palettes, and 8-bit color. The palettes
below are offered on the CD-ROM that comes with the book, and are
available free here on the Web. Note: You do NOT have to
buy, or promise to buy, my books
to use these palettes. They are offered here freely with no strings
Browser-Safe Palette, as I so named it, is the actual palette that
Mosaic, Netscape, and Internet Explorer use within their browsers.
The palettes used by these browsers are slightly different on Macs
and PCs. This palette is based on math, not beauty. I didn't and
wouldn't have picked the colors in this palette, but Netscape, Mosaic,
and Internet Explorer did, so....
Browser-Safe Palette only contains 216 colors out of a possible
256. That is because the remaining 40 colors vary on Macs and PCs.
By eliminating the 40 variable colors, this palette is optimized
for cross-platform use.
Browser-Safe Palette should not be used to remap color photographs.
It is better to use an adaptive palette (with no dithering, if possible),
and let the end-browser do any additional dithering. I have a test
page which proves this point.
Browser-Safe Palette is useful for flat-color illustrations, logos
with flat-color, and areas in any image that have a lot of a single
color. When a browser dithers flat colors it looks far more objectionable
than when it dithers photographs. Look at this test
page, which demonstrates this very point.
this palette was generated by math, not visual insightfulness, I
hired my dear friend Joy Silverman who spent 60 hours of her life
rearranging it so it might make sense to visual designers. There
are two versions here: one organized by hue and one organized by
value. You may copy either from these pages and distribute them
freely to whomever might want to make better looking Web pages from
These two palettes have identical colors, they are simply organized
organization by hue puts these colors in order by color]
organization by value puts these colors in order of light, middle
values and darks]
thanks to Bruce Heavin
who spent hours with me at my house, going back and forth from my
Mac to my PC, trying to figure this out — and succeeding!
you would like the CLUT or these palettes, visit my files
site and download them. Note: This CLUT is only useful for flat-color
style illustrations, logos, and large areas of flat color. Use it
to load into the Photoshop Swatches Palette for this purpose. Do
not use it to remap color photos or photographic-style images.
- Lynda Weinman