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Japanese Garden > Transparency Limitations

Transparency Limitations

While many more graphic file types are available, these are the three basic Web-friendly image formats. JPEG offers no transparency at all, GIF’s 1-bit transparency is limited, and PNG’s 8-bit alpha transparency isn’t supported by the most popular Web browser. The problem isn’t a new one or even unique to CSS. For the past decade a simple fact of Web design has been that using transparency effects on the Web meant rendering images ahead of time and saving them into your desired non-transparent file format.

In Japanese Garden, Kawachi’s layout places text within seemingly transparent white columns, which overlay a leafy green background image (FIGURE 10). GIF doesn’t allow this type of translucency, but GIF is used anyway. Instead of trying to force transparency at the browser level, Kawachi made use of Adobe Photoshop’s layer capabilities to save the white overlay directly into the GIF files. The ones used for background images behind the text columns don’t actually make use of transparency at all—they’re solid images. The final files appear to have a white overlay, but it’s a visual illusion made possible by clever image manipulation.


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