How to Decrease the Colors in a Picture With a Paint Program

by Contributor

In order to reduce file size (important when using graphics on the Web) or make editing changes, you must reduce the number of colors on some pictures. You can accomplish this with a few clicks of your mouse. The steps are similar in most paint programs.

Step 1

Open your image editing program. Locate the picture and select Open or double-click to open it.

Step 2

Look for the Colors or Mode menu command and click it to pull down a menu.

Step 3

Select the color choice for the picture. Use the radio buttons and commands to change the color options.

Step 4

Click OK and preview the picture. If the result is unsatisfactory, open the Edit menu and choose Undo.

Open the File menu and choose Save or Save As to save the new picture.


  • Most photographs have a color depth of 16 million colors and can be decreased to 256,000 (256K) colors without significant quality reduction. Going below 256K colors, however, can make the image appear jagged, grainy or discolored.
  • The number of colors is determined by the "pixel depth," which is the amount of color for each pixel. The higher the pixel depth, the more detail in the photograph.
  • Non-photographic images are generally 256K or lower because they do not require as much detail.
  • If the color choice is grayed out, the photograph is at the maximum allowable color depth (16 million colors).
  • Use Save As to save the file under a different name, such as reducedimage.jpg, so that you retain the original file.


  • Obtain permission before using any unlicensed or copyrighted clip art.
  • Be careful not to use images from another Web page without permission from the owner of the site.

Items you will need

  • Internet Access
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Paint Shop Pro

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