A photograph rendered with a monochrome palette of a limited number of shades

Monochrome[1] describes paintings, drawings, design, or photographs in one color or shades of one color.[2] A monochromatic object or image has colors in shades of limited colors or hues.[clarification needed] Images using only shades of grey (with or without black and/or white) are called grayscale or black-and-white. However, scientifically speaking, "Monochromatic light" refers to light of a narrow frequency.



For an image, the term monochrome is usually taken to mean the same as black and white or, more likely, grayscale, but may also be used to refer to other combinations containing only tones of a single color, such as green-and-white or green-and-black. It may also refer to sepia displaying tones from light tan to dark brown or cyanotype (“blueprint”) images, and early photographic methods such as daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes, each of which may be used to produce a monochromatic image.

In computing, monochrome has two meanings:

  • it may mean having only one color which is either on or off,
  • allowing shades of that color, although this is more correctly known as grayscale.

A monochrome computer display is able to display only a single color, often green, amber, red or white, and often also shades of that color.

In film photography, monochrome is typically the use of black-and-white film. Originally, all photography was done in monochrome until the invention of color film plates in the early 20th century.

Monochrome anaglyph image stereogram rendered in red and cyan
3d glasses red cyan.svg 3D red cyan glasses are recommended to view this image correctly.

In digital photography, monochrome is the capture of only shades of black by the sensor, or by post-processing a color image to present only the perceived brightness by combining the values of multiple channels (usually red, blue, and green). The weighting of individual channels may be selected to achieve a desired artistic effect – if only the red channel is selected by the weighting then the effect will be similar to that of using a red filter on panchromatic film. If the red channel is eliminated and the green and blue combined then the effect will be similar to that of Orthochromatic film or the use of a cyan filter on panchromatic film. The selection of weighting thus allows a wide range of artistic expression in the final monochromatic image.

For production of an anaglyph image the original color stereogram source may first be reduced to monochrome in order to simplify the rendering of the image. This is sometimes required in cases where a color image would render in a confusing manner given the colors and patterns present in the source image and the selection filters used (typically red and its complement, cyan). [3]


In physics, monochromatic refers to electromagnetic radiation of a single frequency. In the physical sense, no source of electromagnetic radiation is purely monochromatic, since that would require a wave of infinite duration as a consequence of the Fourier transform's localization property (cf. spectral coherence). Even very controlled sources such as lasers operate in a range of frequencies (known as the spectral linewidth). In practice, filtered light, diffraction grating separated light and laser light are all routinely referred to as monochromatic. Often light sources can be compared and one be labeled as “more monochromatic” (in a similar usage as monodispersity). And a device which isolates light sources of a narrow bandwidth are called monochromators, even though the bandwidth is often explicitly specified, and thus a collection of frequencies is understood.

See also


  1. ^ From the Ancient Greek: μονόχρωμος – monochromos “having one color”.
  2. ^ "monochrome", Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 2009,, retrieved 2009-10-16 
  3. ^

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • monochrome — [ mɔnokrom ] adj. • 1634; gr. monokhrômos ♦ Qui est d une seule couleur (dont les valeurs peuvent varier). Les peintures en camaïeu, la photo en noir et blanc sont monochromes. Imprimante laser monochrome. N. f. MONOCHROMIE , 1868 . ⊗ CONTR.… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Monochrome — Mon o*chrome, n. [Gr. ? of one color; mo nos single + ? color: cf. F. monochrome.] A painting or drawing in a single color; a picture made with a single color. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • monochrome —   [dt. »einfarbig«], monochrom …   Universal-Lexikon

  • monochrome — (n.) 1660s, painting or drawing done in different tints of a single color, from Gk. monochromos of a single color, from monos single, alone (see MONO (Cf. mono )) + khroma (gen. khromatos) color, complexion, skin (see CHROMA (Cf. chroma)). As an… …   Etymology dictionary

  • monochrome — ► NOUN ▪ representation or reproduction in black and white or in varying tones of one colour. ► ADJECTIVE ▪ consisting of or displaying images in black and white or in varying tones of one colour. ORIGIN from Greek monokhr matos of a single… …   English terms dictionary

  • monochrome — [män′ə krōm΄] n. [ML monochroma < Gr monochrōmos, of one color: see MONO & CHROME] 1. a painting, drawing, design, or photograph in one color or shades of one color 2. the art or process of making these adj. of or done in one color or shades… …   English World dictionary

  • monochrome — [[t]mɒ̱nəkroʊm[/t]] 1) ADJ: usu ADJ n A monochrome film, photograph, or television shows black, white, and shades of grey, but no other colours. ...color and monochrome monitors. ...scratchy monochrome movies. Syn: black and white 2) ADJ: usu ADJ …   English dictionary

  • Monochrome — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Sur les autres projets Wikimedia : « Monochrome », sur le Wiktionnaire (dictionnaire universel) Le terme monochrome signifie au sens… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • monochrome — mon|o|chrome [ˈmɔnəkrəum US ˈma:nəkroum] adj [Date: 1600 1700; : Medieval Latin; Origin: monochroma, from Greek, from mono ( MONO ) + chroma color ] 1.) in shades of only one colour, especially shades of grey ▪ We looked out over the grey,… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • monochrome — adjective 1 in shades of only one colour, especially shades of grey: The landscape was dull, misty, and monochrome. 2 using or appearing in only black, white, and grey: a monochrome television 3 a monochrome computer monitor uses one colour as a… …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

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