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What is a bitmap graphic?

Introduction to bitmap graphics

A bitmap graphic, also known as a raster graphic, is a digital image consisting of a matrix of pixels. Each pixel in this matrix has a specific color and position, which creates the overall image. Bitmap graphics are commonly used in digital photography, web graphics and desktop publishing. Common bitmap formats include BMP, JPEG, GIF, PNG and TIFF.

History and development

The development of bitmap graphics goes back to the early days of computer graphics. As early as the 1960s, raster graphics were used to display simple images on computer screens. As computer technology developed and computing power increased, bitmap graphics became more detailed and complex. Nowadays, they are an integral part of digital image processing and visualization.

What is a bitmap graphic?

Functionality and structure

In its simplest form, a bitmap graphic is a rectangular arrangement of pixels. Each pixel has a color that is described by a certain number of bits. The color depth (number of bits per pixel) determines the number of available colors:

  • 1-bitBlack and white images with two possible colors.
  • 8-bit256 colors, often used in GIF images.
  • 24-bit16.7 million colors, common in JPEG and PNG images.

The size of a bitmap graphic is determined by the number of pixels in the width and height. For example, an image with a resolution of 800×600 pixels has a total of 480,000 pixels. The higher the resolution and color depth, the larger the file size of the bitmap.

Advantages and disadvantages of bitmap graphics


  1. Richness of detailBitmap graphics can display very detailed and realistic images because each pixel is individually defined.
  2. CompatibilityThey are supported by most image editing programs and platforms.
  3. Simplicity of processingBitmap graphics can be easily edited by changing individual pixels.


  1. File sizeHigh-resolution bitmap images can be very large, which requires storage space and bandwidth.
  2. ScalabilityBitmap graphics lose quality when they are enlarged, as the pixels become visible (pixelation).
  3. PerformanceProcessing large bitmap images can be resource-intensive and affect the performance of systems.

Applications and examples

Bitmap graphics are used in a variety of applications:

  1. Digital photographyJPEG and PNG are the most commonly used formats for photos and web graphics.
  2. Web designGIFs are often used for simple animations and transparent images.
  3. Desktop PublishingTIFF and BMP formats are used in print media and high-quality publications.

An example of the use of bitmap graphics is digital photography. A photo taken with a digital camera is usually a JPEG image. It consists of millions of pixels that represent the different colors and details of the photographed object.

Comparison with vector graphics

A significant difference between bitmap and vector graphics lies in their structure and scalability. While bitmap graphics consist of pixels that have fixed positions and colors, vector graphics are described by mathematical formulas. This means that vector graphics can be scaled without loss of quality, making them ideal for logos, diagrams and technical drawings.


Bitmap graphics are a fundamental component of the digital image world. They allow for the display of detailed and realistic images, but also have their limitations in terms of scalability and file size. Despite these challenges, they remain a preferred choice for many applications, from digital photography to web design, due to their simplicity and compatibility.

Further information

For more in-depth information on bitmap graphics and their possible applications, we recommend reading specialist books on digital image processing as well as online resources such as tutorials and forums. Programs such as Adobe Photoshop and GIMP offer extensive tools and functions for editing and optimizing bitmap graphics.

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