Color cycling

A computer graphic technique used to simulate animation on an image.

Color cycling is a computer graphic technique used to simulate animation. Using color cycling, the colors of a static image are changed in a cycle order to give the impression of it being animated. This technique was mainly used in early computer games, as storing one image and changing its palette required less memory and processor power than storing the animation as several frames.

Examples of use

  • The Windows 9x boot screen used color cycling to provide animation.
  • The 3D maze screensaver included with earlier versions of Windows used color cycling to animate the four fractal textures available.
  • The Amiga Boing Ball cycled the ball's checkerboard pattern between red and white to create the illusion of the ball rotating. The same technique was used by Sonic the Hedgehog 3 on the Sega Genesis in its bonus stages featuring a rolling checkerboard sphere.
  • SimCity 2000 made extensive use of this technique: every building with animation had its animation provided by color cycling. This was used to provide effects such as blinking lights, cars moving on roads, and even four frames of animation displaying on a tiny movie screen in a drive-in theater.
  • Many adventure games used color cycling to simulate moving water, lava, and similar effects.
  • Mickey Mania, on the Sega Genesis, used color cycling to simulate ground movement in a pseudo-3D section.
Color cycling
also known as
  • Palette shifting
Adapted from content published on
  • Image By <The Grafx2 project team> - James Young, GPL — from
Last modified on May 27, 2021, 8:27 am is a service provided by Codecide, a company located in Chicago, IL USA.