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What is bit depth?

profundidad de bits

Hello again, here we go with another spectacular, well-rounded article on bit depth that we hope you like.

What is color depth or bit depth?

If you’ve worked closely with photographers or graphic designers, you’ve probably heard phrases like: “This image is 24-bit,” “Red channel needs to be changed,” or “Image has 16 million colors.”

They all have one thing in common: they are related to the concept of color depth. In this post, we will see what color depth is and how it differs from resolution

How many colors can a pixel have?

Everyone knows that digital files and devices store numbers, specifically numbers in a binary system, that is, zeros and ones, nothing more.

Therefore, the color that we want to display in a particular pixel is represented by a number. And how many colors can we show? It depends on the amount of information associated with each pixel.

1 bit: 0 1. The simplest example would be the following: Use 1 bit for the color information. One bit can be 0 or 1. So we can only represent 2 tones. Generally, 0 is used for white and 1 for black.

2 bits: 00 10 01 11, with two bits we can represent 4 different sounds.
3 bits: 0000010100110101011111, that is, 8 different colors
4 bits: 16 colors
8 bits: 256 colors.

This is the typical color depth for grayscale images: pixels can be one of 256 shades of grayscale.

24-bit: 16.7 million colors

A color imaging device is 24-bit deep, with 8 bits dedicated to storing information for each of the 3 primary colors: 8 bits for red, 8 for green, and 8 for blue.

In other words, a standard color image can store 256 shades of red, 256 of green, and 256 of blue: 256 x 256 x 256 = 16,777,216 colors. Images that allow this tonal range (24-bit or 8-bit per channel) are called true color images or, more commonly, its English equivalent “true color.”

Resolution versus color depth or bit depth

In previous articles we have seen that resolution refers to the number of pixels per unit of measurement: the higher the resolution, the more pixels per unit “fit.”

When we study the resolution, for us all the pixels are the same, they are the same “squares”.

On the other hand, when we talk about bit depth, we notice that each pixel carries color information, which of course differs from one pixel to another: color depth is the amount of information that can be stored in each pixel to represent the value. tone (and other color characteristics, such as transparency).

Print Color Depth Imaging

Nowadays, the RAW format used in professional cameras allows to work with more than 8 bits per channel, with the help of which there is an impressive concept of variety of tonalities, but it has some disadvantages such as the considerable increase in file size and size. archive.

In fact, if the image has to be printed, before sending it to the printer it will be necessary to reduce the color depth to 8 bits per channel to obtain a more manageable file.

Delivering images with a higher bit depth will simply slow down the shooting process.

We invite you to learn more information, starting with color theory and much more.

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