In computer graphics, color quantization or color image quantization is quantization applied to color spaces; it is a process that reduces the number of distinct colors used in an image, usually with the intention that the new image should be as visually similar as possible to the original image. Computer algorithms to perform color quantization on bitmaps have been studied since the 1970s. Color quantization is critical for displaying images with many colors on devices that can only display a limited number of colors, usually due to memory limitations, and enables efficient compression of certain types of images.
The name "color quantization" is primarily used in computer graphics research literature; in applications, terms such as optimized palette generation, optimal palette generation, or decreasing color depth are used. Some of these are misleading, as the palettes generated by standard algorithms are not necessarily the best possible.