How to Determine LCD Color Depth


Liquid Crystal Display, or LCD, televisions or monitors are able to display more than 16.7 million colors. The amount of colors that an LCD can display is called the color depth; the higher the color depth, the more realistic-looking and vivid your LCD television or monitor screen will appear. Easily determine the color depth on your LCD television or monitor.

Things You'll Need

  • Owner's manual for your LCD television or computer monitor
  • Access the section entitled "Color Depth" or "Display" in your monitor's owner's manual.

  • Look for the number of bits. This number may be anything from 8-bit to 32-bit or more, depending upon the make and model of your LCD screen.

  • Convert the bit number into a new color display number using either a mathematical equation such as the one on Sketch Pad (see resources) or consulting a color depth chart (see Resources). For example, if you have 8-bit, your color depth is 256 colors. A 16-bit screen can display 65,536 colors, and a 24-bit screen can show 16.7 million colors. A 32-bit or 64-bit LCD display is technically capable of displaying many more colors than that -- in the case of the 64-bit LCD display, over 18 quintillion colors -- but the 32-bit and higher LCDs do not actually display the color depth they are capable of since the human eye is unable to process that number of colors. Most LCDs 32 bits and higher have 24-bit color depth (displaying up to 16.7 million colors), and use the additional bits for alpha transparency (combining foreground and background images) or Z-buffering (depth enhancement).

Tips & Warnings

  • To determine the LCD color depth for a computer display for which you don't have the owner's manual, access the "Test Color Depth" page at The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Environmental Compliance Staff website (see Resources). When you access the page, your color depth will be displayed in bits.

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