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Truecolor Images

A truecolor image, also known as an RGB image, is an image in which each pixel is specified by three values -- one each for the red, blue, and green components of the pixel's color. MATLAB store truecolor images as an m-by-n-by-3 data array that defines red, green, and blue color components for each individual pixel. Truecolor images do not use a colormap. The color of each pixel is determined by the combination of the red, green, and blue intensities stored in each color plane at the pixel's location. Graphics file formats store truecolor images as 24-bit images, where the red, green, and blue components are 8 bits each. This yields a potential of 16 million colors. The precision with which a real-life image can be replicated has led to the commonly used term truecolor image.

A truecolor array can be of class uint8, uint16, single, or double. In a truecolor array of class single or double, each color component is a value between 0 and 1. A pixel whose color components are (0,0,0) is displayed as black, and a pixel whose color components are (1,1,1) is displayed as white. The three color components for each pixel are stored along the third dimension of the data array. For example, the red, green, and blue color components of the pixel (10,5) are stored in RGB(10,5,1), RGB(10,5,2), and RGB(10,5,3), respectively.

The following figure depicts a truecolor image of class double.

The Color Planes of a Truecolor Image

To determine the color of the pixel at (2,3), you would look at the RGB triplet stored in (2,3,1:3). Suppose (2,3,1) contains the value 0.5176, (2,3,2) contains 0.1608, and (2,3,3) contains 0.0627. The color for the pixel at (2,3) is

To further illustrate the concept of the three separate color planes used in a truecolor image, the code sample below creates a simple image containing uninterrupted areas of red, green, and blue, and then creates one image for each of its separate color planes (red, green, and blue). The example displays each color plane image separately, and also displays the original image.

The Separated Color Planes of an RGB Image

Notice that each separated color plane in the figure contains an area of white. The white corresponds to the highest values (purest shades) of each separate color. For example, in the Red Plane image, the white represents the highest concentration of pure red values. As red becomes mixed with green or blue, gray pixels appear. The black region in the image shows pixel values that contain no red values, i.e., R == 0.

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