Mega Palette

Artists working on assets that need to blend seamlessly or have a consistent color scheme often select a set of common colors for their palette.  When aiming for a classic banded or dithered look sometimes its better to select from a more limited color space than 24bit RGB.

In my opinion, the sweet spot of color spaces is 3 bits per Red, Green, and Blue color channel, resulting in 512 colors (9 bits).  This reduced color space cuts the million-color forest down to a more manageable size without limiting individual color selection too drastically.

6bit RGB (512colors) + Bright & Dark shifts.

The larger spacing between individual color values can produce banding and require dithering to smooth out some color transitions.  Graphic editing programs typically support up to 256 colors, only half of what’s needed to organize and manage a 9bit RGB palette; A fact that can make color mapping 24bit images into the palette cumbersome.

Despite the challenges this palette is still a somewhat popular one.  9bit RGB was used on the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive game system, so it’s also associated with a “retro” look.

A quick search online didn’t produce many useful images of the palette.  There were plenty of the mathematical orderings of the colors, similar to the rectangular arrangements at the bottom of the image, but I found no examples with the palette sorted by Hue or Saturation.  So, I wrote a quick program to do just that.

The colors at the top are ordered by hue right to left.  Saturation decreases going down, and value decreases going up the columns from the center.  All the pure grays wound up sorted in the Red range (hue zero).  The MD had a bright and dark rendering mode as well and I didn’t find any examples of those palettes, so I’ve included them too.

We thought sharing the colors might be useful to other pixel artists looking to use the same palette.   Feel free to use the image to select your colors.   Since it was generated mathematically by a machine, the image bears no copyright, it’s public domain.


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2 responses to Mega Palette

  1. Alan

    Thanks, I was looking for a Mega Drive palette for days … thanks for sharing.

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