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Pixel

The term "pixel" is actually short for "Picture Element." These small little dots are what make up the images on computer displays, whether they are flat-screen (LCD) or tube (CRT) monitors. The screen is divided up into a matrix of thousands or even millions of pixels. Typically, you cannot see the individual pixels, because they are so small. This is a good thing, because most people prefer to look at smooth, clear images rather than blocky, "pixelated" ones. However, if you set your monitor to a low resolution, such as 640x480 and look closely at your screen, you will may be able to see the individual pixels. As you may have guessed, a resolution of 640x480 is comprised of a matrix of 640 by 480 pixels, or 307,200 in all. That's a lot of little dots.

Each pixel can only be one color at a time. However, since they are so small, pixels often blend together to form various shades and blends of colors. The number of colors each pixel can be is determined by the number of bits used to represent it. For example, 8-bit color allows for 2 to the 8th, or 256 colors to be displayed. At this color depth, you may be able to see "graininess," or spotted colors when one color blends to another. However, at 16, 24, and 32-bit color depths, the color blending is smooth and, unless you have some kind of extra-sensory vision capability, you should not see any graininess.

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Category: Technical Terms