The number of colours your computer can display makes a big difference to Web viewing. In a site like this with black and white photographs, the critical factor is the number of different shades of grey that are available.

Unless your computer is in 24-bit mode, the examples below won't all display correctly (for obvious reasons).

On a 24 or 32-bit ("true colour") display, 256 shades of grey are available. Some photographers think this is insufficient, but it's acceptable for most purposes. If your display is 24 or 32-bit, you should see a smooth gradient below.

On a 16-bit ("high colour") display, 32 shades of grey are normally available. This is less useful but probably bearable.

On a 256-colour display, only 6 shades of grey are available. This would look really terrible, but in an attempt to salvage something, most browsers will "dither" the result - using alternate dots of different colours. The result shades quite nicely, but looks "speckly". Details of the picture are lost.

The good news is that most computers sold in the last three years are capable of 16-bit colour at all sensible resolutions, and 24-bit colour at the most useful resolutions. If your computer is currently set to 256 colours, you simply need to change that. There's probably no need to spend money on new equipment.

Unfortunately we can't provide instructions for Mac users. However, if you are using a PC with Windows 95, 98, or NT, changing the number of colours is simple - just follow these instructions.

  • Click the Start button. Choose "Settings" and then "Control Panel".
  • Double-click the "Display" icon in Control Panel.
  • Choose the "Settings" tab.
  • Click on the drop-down list under "Colors". Choose the colour setting you want (we recommend 24-bit if available).
  • The colour setting may affect your screen area, so check that on the same screen.
  • Click "OK". If Windows asks you whether you want to restart, tell it you don't. (Note: Windows 95 users may have no choice but to restart.)
  • Your screen should now be in the improved colour mode. To see the improvement, you will have to close all browser windows (not just this one) and restart the browser. (You may wish to bookmark this page.)

If your computer can only display 256 colours, and you're using Netscape 4.x (so that the hypertext links aren't displayed) then as a temporary work-around you could turn off style-sheet support by clicking Edit, Preferences, Advanced, and making sure the box "Enable style sheets" is unchecked. This will enable you to see the hypertext links.

Return to advice page