In computing, a grayscale or greyscale digital image is an image in which the value of each pixel is a single sample. Displayed images of this sort are typically composed of shades of gray, varying from black at the weakest intensity to white at the strongest, though in principle the samples could be displayed as shades of any color, or even coded with various colors for different intensities. Grayscale images are distinct from black-and-white images, which in the context of computer imaging are images with only two colors, black and white; grayscale images have many shades of gray in between. In most contexts other than digital imaging, however, the term "black and white" is used in place of "grayscale"; for example, photography in shades of gray is typically called "black-and-white photography". The term monochromatic in some digital imaging contexts is synonymous with grayscale, and in some contexts synonymous with black-and-white.

Grayscale images are often the result of measuring the intensity of light at each pixel in a single band of the electromagnetic spectrum (e.g. visible light).

Grayscale images intended for visual display are typically stored with and 8 bits per sample, which allows 256 intensities (i.e., shades of gray) to be recorded, typically on a non-linear scale. The accuracy provided by this format is barely sufficient to avoid visible banding artifacts, but very convenient for programming. Technical uses (e.g. in medical imaging or remote sensing applications) often require more levels, to make full use of the sensor accuracy (typically 10 or 12 bits per sample) and to guard against roundoff errors in computations. Sixteen bits per sample (65536 levels) appears to be a popular choice for such uses.

A photograph of a Neighborhood Watch sign in color A photograph of a Neighborhood Watch sign in grayscale A photograph of a Neighborhood Watch sign in black and white
The same picture in three different color modes. The picture on the left is the original photograph, in full color. The picture in the center is in grayscale; all the colors contained in it are black, white, or any shade of gray. The picture on the right is in black and white, or monochrome; the only colors used in the picture are black and white, with no intermediary grays.

External links

Converting a Digital Color Photo Into Black and White ( includes a background on color filter use in traditional film photography, how black and white conversion works, and a comparison of digital conversion techniques

See also

fr:Niveau de gris


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools