December 2012 | Mining University

256 Color Palette for Maptek Vulcan 8.2

I finally got a chance to play with the new 256 tile color palette in Maptek Vulcan 8.2. This is the color palette we've all been waiting for, for so long. I remember promising Vulcan users an improved color palette since I started working at Maptek back in 2005. 

Now that I see the results in action I have mixed feelings about how this was implemented. From the methods necessary to implement the expanded color palette to the ways the colors are used I see good and bad points along the way.

Upgrading to the 256 color palette

Making the move to the new color palette was more confusing than I would have hoped. In the release notes, Maptek lists the new color palette under the menu section File > Colour Table. In fact, you don’t have to use this menu at all to implement the new color palette.

Following the logic in the release notes I thought that I could just go to the File > Colour Table menu and turn on the new color palette. In reality the File > Colour Table menu is just a list of sub-menus, you have to go another level to get to any actual menu options. The logical sub-menu seemed to be File > Colour Table > Upgrade.

I tried this a number of times and even restarted Vulcan with no change to the available color palette before giving up and calling Maptek. Tech Services filled me in on the real way to upgrade the color palette.

How to turn on the 256 color palette

I don’t know how the team at Maptek expected everyone to know this, they certainly didn't say it in the release notes, but you have to check a box in the preferences panel in order to upgrade to the new color palette.

  1. Go to the menu: Tools > Preferences
  2. Select the Workbench branch
  3. Check the box: Enable extended colour palette (256)
  4. Restart Vulcan

That’s it. You now have access to 256 color tiles. Click on the color tile in the Status toolbar and take a look.

Maptek Vulcan extended color palette
Maptek Vulcan extended color palette

The first thing we notice about the new color palette is that the original 32 colors are preserved at the beginning of the list. I’m not very excited about this, it cuts into the remainder of the color palette, mostly a number of the shades of red get left out. This method does prevent existing items (including plot templates) from changing with the implementation of the new color palette.

I’m also disappointed in the fact that you can still change all of the colors. This means that what was a green line in my session of Vulcan might be a blue line in your session of Vulcan. There is still no standard color set. I say ‘boo’ to this. We all think that we want everything to be customizable but at some point something has to be standardized or we won’t have a common frame of reference from which to discuss things.

CAD Color Palette

All complaining aside, one of the most exciting changes to the color palette is the ability to use the CAD (similar to the AutoCAD) color palette. If we click on the ‘Edit Colours’ button and then the ‘Auto’ tab we can see a number of pre-defined color palettes. Most of these are pretty weird. Who uses ‘Grey Scale’ or ‘Pastel’ color palettes to do design work at a mine? The color palette we are interested in is the ‘CAD’ color palette. Click the ‘CAD’ radio button and click ‘Apply.’

This is perfect. I've been waiting for this color palette since I started working with Vulcan in college.  I know that the folks at Maptek don’t like to hear ‘Make it like AutoCAD’ but they finally copied the color palette and I couldn't be happier.

Maptek Vulcan cad color palette
Maptek Vulcan cad color palette

True 24-bit Color

The most impressive change to the color palette is the move to true 24-bit color. In the Edit Colors option users may set custom colors using the red-green-blue settings between 0 and 255. Vulcan 8.2 actually uses these color settings. Previous versions did not actually use 256 red-green-blue settings (they used 16 settings). 12 bit color (what you would get with 16 red-green-blue settings) only gives about 4,000 color options. 

Four thousand colors seems like a lot, but it's few enough to be visibly different from specified colors. I first ran into this problem when I was creating a logo for one of the clients at Maptek. The client had very specific colors to be used in the logo. Using the 12-bit color created a logo that was visibly different than what was expected. I'm so glad that the new color palette has expanded into true 24-bit color.