What is Color Banding?

ProShot Media Product Photography Blog

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Do you ever notice how images or videos on your laptop, phone, or TV look pixelated with weird lines separating what should be a smooth color gradient? This phenomenon is commonly known as “color banding.” Color banding occurs when there are subtle changes in an image, but the available colors cannot accurately represent them.

If you’re a creative working with digital media, then understanding color banding is necessary for optimizing your creations for certain platforms. In this post, we’ll dive into what color banding means and ways to reduce its appearance in your artwork.

An image of a city skyline with buildings a sunset colored sky featuring significant color banding

Color banding

 
 

Color banding occurs when the available colors on a device cannot accurately represent subtle color changes. When a color cannot be accurately displayed, It will be approximated to the closest available shade, causing nearby colors to merge togetherand leading to a ‘banded’ or pixelated effect. Color banding can be especially noticeable when there are gradients or shading in the image. Instead of a smooth transition from light to dark, color banding will make those gradients appear segmented.

Color banding is caused by…

 
 

Color banding typically occurs when an image is displayed at a lower color depth than it originally had. This generally happens for one of two reasons: either the display that the image is on can’t show all the required colors (most modern monitors can show up to 24 bits of color; some images can contain up to 32), or the compression applied to the image in question reduces its color depth enough to cause some colors to be improperly displayed.

Color banding looks like

 
 

Color banding appears as abrupt transitions between colors where a smooth gradient should be. It is most apparent when large areas of a single color or two very different colors are placed next to each other. Color banding can look like stripes or blocks of color rather than the intended gradual blending from one hue to another.

Check for the Color Banding

 
 

To check for color banding in your images, you can look for areas of abrupt transitions or gradients. If the colors appear ‘banded’ or pixelated, color banding has taken place. You can also use tools such as Photoshop to help identify potential areas of concern.

A screenshot of an image with color banding effect being export in Adobe Lightroom

Reducing Color Banding

 
 

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid and reduce banding in your images. Try lowering the level of compression  or adding dithering to make up for the reduced color depth. Using less subtle and brighter gradients in your image can also reduce color banding. Noise reduction in software like Lightroom or Photoshop can help counteract the pixelation that may arise from banding. . Finally, limiting the intensity of color correction done in editing can prevent color banding by reducing the strain on an image’s color space.

Uses of color banding

 
 

Color banding is not always a bad thing and can be a creative or logistical asset in some cases. Here are some possible uses:

1. Graphic design

Color banding can create specific effects or visuals in graphic design projects. This could include creating textured backgrounds, abstract shapes, and other graphic elements.

2. Video editing

You can use color banding as a creative tool when working with video footage. By introducing areas of abrupt transitions between colors, you can add a unique and interesting look to your footage.

3. Web design

When designing for the web, color banding can be used to create striking visuals that are optimized for digital devices and platforms.

Color banding test

 

To test your monitor for color banding, take a look at the image below. If you’re able to see smooth gradients in the rainbow stripes and it doesn’t look pixelated, then your monitor should be displaying properly.

Frequently Asked Questions

 
 

What is Color Banding?

Color banding is when an abrupt color change cannot be represented accurately. This results in certain colors appearing “banded” or pixelated rather than smoothly transitioning from one hue to the next.

What causes Color Banding?

Color banding in color appears with sudden changes in the available colors that can’t accurately represent them. This causes an effect similar to pixelation, where the abrupt color change is easily visible and may look unsightly.

What is the color band for 5% tolerance?

The color band for a 5% tolerance is typically yellow. This indicates that the component has a 5% allowed variance in its resistance value, with any values outside this range considered non-compliant and failing to meet the desired specifications.

How do you fix color banding?

Color banding can be fixed by increasing the color bit depth of the image or by using dithering techniques such as noise reduction and gradient-based algorithms.

Does the clear blue sky have banding?

Clear blue skies typically do not have color banding because the shade of blue is largely uniform. However, at certain times of day when the light is uneven and creates a gradient in the sky, color banding can appear depending on the camera/software used to create the image and the monitor that displays it.

How do you fix color banding in the raw file?

One of the most effective is reducing noise or contrast with image-editing software such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. For images with low color depth, you can also use dithering, adding noise to an image to smooth out abrupt changes and make them appear more natural.

Conclusion

 
 

Color banding is an issue that can affect digital images, leading to a pixelated or ‘banded’ appearance. Understanding what color banding is and how it can help you to identify areas of concern in your images and take steps to reduce the visibility of this effect. With the right techniques and tools, you can ensure that your images look great on any device.

 

ProShot Media Product Photography Services

More Like This

The Importance of Product Photography in E-commerce

Table of Contents Table of Contents In the realm of e-commerce, where consumers rely solely on digital platforms to make purchasing decisions, the role of product photography cannot be overstated. Product photography involves capturing high-quality images of products to showcase

Read More »

Best Camera for Product Photography

Table of Contents Table of Contents Choosing the right camera can be crucial for product photography. Generally speaking, DSLR cameras are the right choice. Camera Types When it comes to product photography, there are three main types of cameras to

Read More »

What Makes a Great Product Photographer

Table of Contents Table of Contents Product photography serves as a cornerstone in the marketing realm, providing businesses with the visual assets they need to showcase their products effectively. Behind every stunning product image lies the skillful expertise of a

Read More »

How To Become A Product Photographer

Table of Contents Table of Contents Product photography is a specialized field within the broader realm of photography that focuses on capturing images of products for promotional or commercial purposes. Product photographers play a crucial role in helping businesses showcase

Read More »
Scroll to Top