HTML Basics:
Images in HTML

Title: Jan's Illustrated Computer Literacy 101
españolIcon: Change web
Did you want IE9+, Chrome, Firefox; Notepad? Icon: Change web

A web page with images is almost always more attractive that one with just words. People just love pictures!

Web pages use images in a number of ways:

  • backgrounds
  • illustrations
  • bullets
  • buttons
  • image maps & links

However, there is a trade-off. The more images on the page and the larger the images are, the longer it will take the browser to show the whole page.

There is a limit to how long people will wait. 30 seconds is an eternity when you are staring at a blank page!!

As a web page author, you must carefully consider the number of images to include, how large they should be, and what image file format to use.

Where you are:
JegsWorks > Lessons > Web

Before you start...

Project 1: Browser BasicsTo subtopics

Project 2: HTML Basics
    HTML CodeTo subtopics
    About HTML
    What You Need
    Code by hand To subtopics
    FrontPage/FPXTo subtopics
    Images in HTML Arrow - Subtopic open
    Icon: FrontPage FrontPageTo subtopics OR Icon: FrontPage Express (FPX)FPXTo subtopics
    FormattingTo subtopics
    TablesTo subtopics
    ConvertTo subtopics
    ExercisesTo subtopics


Image Formats

There are two file formats in general use for images on web pages: GIF and JPEG. All browsers can display these two  formats. Both compress the file, making the file smaller and thus faster to download. 

GIF  = Graphics Image Format.
Uses extension gif. Good for drawings and clipart.
Transparent GIF - has one color set to "transparent".  The page background will show wherever that color is in the image.
Animated GIF -   A sequence of gif images in one file that creates the illusion of motion
        Examples of transparent, animated gifs :
                     animated eyes   animated construction worker
       The border around the yellow diamond animation shows its actual size. The transparent part of the image lets the gray page background show through.
Interlaced GIF - displays incrementally using several passes, each of which adds detail, from top to bottom.

JPEG  = Joint Photo Expert Group.
Uses extension jpg. Good for photographs.

Progressive JPEG - image loads gradually on the page, going from blurry to sharp rather than displaying from top to bottom.

Other web image formats:

BMP: Old, bulky bitmap format.

Not recommended for web use, though browsers can display these images.

PNG = Portable Network Graphic

Uses the extension png. A relatively new compressed image format.  It was created to avoid licensing problems involved with the GIF format.

SVG = Scalable Vector Graphics. This is the cutting edge of web graphics!

The standard for this new vector format for web images was released Sept. 4, 2001 by W3C. This format has serious advantages for interactive images. Vector graphics can be resized without losing any sharpness. It's great for drawings but photos cannot be rendered well at all by vectors. For now you must install a SVG viewer plug-in (Adobe, IBM) for your browser to be able to show SVG images.


Most images on the web are in color. If you are an artist, you may be disappointed with how your work displays on other computers. The colors will not be quite the same, at best.

Factors affecting color:

  • Operating system (Windows, Mac, etc.)
  • Browser
  • Monitor
  • Settings on the monitor
       (Brightness, contrast, gamma correction)
  • Video card

Your wonderful graphics, text colors, and background colors will not look exactly the same on different computers. They may not look much like what you intended at all!

Many hand-held or palm-size computers show only gray scale (256 shades from black to white). Other computers show just 256 colors. Sometimes it is just that the owner does not know that the color depth can be changed!

When a browser has to display an image that has more colors than the system can display, it has two choices.

  • Use the nearest available color.

  • Dither the colors, using dots of the colors that it does have to try to fool the eye into seeing the correct color.


(This won't quite work if your monitor is using less than True Color.)

Compare the photos below. 256 colors (on the right) just isn't enough to do the job for a photo!

A photo in 32 bit color (True Color) has smooth colors.

TrueColor = 32 bit color

A photo in only 256 colors is blotchy.

256 colors

The Color dialogs below show how individual colors fare in TrueColor and at only 256 colors. Notice especially the Color/Solid box under the rainbow box. In 256 colors the selected color must be dithered, as the Color/Solid box shows. Not too pretty!

Color dialog in 32 bit color (True Color) shows fine changes in colors.

TrueColor = 32 bit color

Color dialog in only 256 colors shows many dithered colors.

256 colors

Windows and Mac both have settings for 256 colors. To complicate things, they are not the same 256 colors. The colors that Windows and Mac do share are sometimes called the browser safe colors. Drawings and clipart that use just those colors will look very much the same on different computers. (Artists may not agree, but the rest of us would not notice much difference.)

Photos, however, simply will not display correctly in only 256 colors. They often look like some kind of modern art instead of a photo of reality.

What Do You Need?

To insert an existing image into a web page:

  • A text or HTML editor
  • An image in gif or jpg format
  • The path to the image

To create or change an image, or to change the file format of the image:

  •  A graphics program which works with gif and jpg images
  •  A graphics conversion program

If you work with web pages a lot, you will want to get a graphics program so you can make changes in your images or even create your own.  No matter how many images you have to choose from, none ever seem to be exactly what you had in mind!

A good graphics program will be able to open and save in many image formats, has tools that save you time, and can create advanced effects.

Popular Graphics Programs:

  • Adobe Photoshop - for graphics professionals. VERY expensive and very complex.

  • PaintShopPro by Jasc - high-end shareware program. Does most of what Photoshop does, for a fraction of the cost. [It's what I use for most images on this site.]

TipThe version of MS Paint that comes with Windows 95/98 can save an image only as a bmp file. BMP files are entirely too large for use on the web.
      The version of MS Paint that comes with WinXP can save images in several formats, including gif and jpg.

Converting Images:

If all you need to do is change the file format, you can use a graphics conversion program. There are many shareware and freeware programs for this. Some of these programs even let you make certain changes like adding text or changing colors. You will not be able to make as many changes as you can with a regular graphics program.

Image file types that FrontPage can importIcon: FrontPage Icon: FPX FrontPage and FrontPage Express can insert images in a number of file formats. They will convert the images to either gif or jpg format.  Images with only 256 colors will be converted to gif format. The rest will be converted to jpg format.
Icon: FrontPage In FrontPage, if the image is not in the current web, when you save the page, you will be prompted to save the image to the web.

List of graphics formats that FPX can insertIcon: FPX While FrontPage Express does not list png in its drop list of file types, it actually can open this type of image.

Basic IMG Tag

The HTML tag for an image is not paired with a closing tag. It has several attributes that are required and others that are optional. The tag below shows the attributes that should always appear:

<img src="baseball.gif" width=150 height=157 alt="My son playing baseball">

This tag illustrates several of the punctuation rules for all tags.

Punctuation in tags:

  • Only one space between the attributes .
  • No space after the beginning < or before the final > or on either side of  = .
  • Quotes around values.

    In HTML quotes are not required around numbers or values that are chosen from a limited list of values (like the choices for alignment). But, in XHTML quotes are required around all the values. Start a good habit now!

 Warning Leaving out punctuation, like a " or < or >, can make part or all of your page disappear from the browser!

Required Parts of an IMG Tag:

src = path to the source file for the image. This can be a full path, a relative path, or just the filename.

Full path, like

Relative path, like "images/island.gif", which shows how to get to the file from where the HTML file is.

Filename only, like "island.gif".  Image must be in the same folder as the HTML page

width,  height Should always be the actual size of the image, in pixels.

If you are typing the tag yourself, you will need to use a graphics program to find out the true dimensions of the image. FrontPage and FPX will automatically add the width and height when you insert the image.

Why use actual size?

  • Icon for image that has not been loaded yetJumping pages: When the width and height are not included in the tag, the text on the page can really jump around as the page loads. This is because the browser will use only  a small square for each image until after all the text is displayed. As the browser calculates the actual size of each image, it must move the text to make room.

  • Distorted/Fuzzy: If you set dimensions that are different from the real ones, the browser will try to show the image at that size. The image may be distorted.

  • Wasted time: Making the viewer wait a long time to download a large image file only to have the HTML resize it to a small size is silly and rude! Resize the image with a graphics program so that the image is the size that you actually want.


= a description of what the image is for

Ways ALT text is helpful:

  • Broken image area shows the ALT text "Home"Images not displayed: The ALT text will display in the empty rectangle that the browser shows for an image,  until the image is loaded, like the image at the right from IE. Some people actually view web pages with the images turned off! If your ALT text is clear, such people will know if they really want to load a particular image or just enjoy your page's text.

  • Tool tip: Recent browsers show the ALT text in a popup Tip when the mouse pointer hovers over the image.

  • Accessibility software: The ALT text is also used by programs that read pages aloud or display in Braille for the blind. To benefit these programs, when an image is just a decoration, include the ALT tag but put nothing between the double quotes, like alt="".

Your ALT text can be very annoying or very helpful. It's your choice.