Color palette expansion

In palettized PNG images, color information is not contained directly in the image’s pixels. Instead, each pixel contains an index value into a palette of colors. This technique reduces the file size of PNG images, but means extra work must be done to display the PNG.

To render the PNG image, each palette index must be converted to an RGBA value by looking up that index in the palette. The following diagram shows how the palette maps different index values to RGB values.

Color palette expansion

Unoptimized implementation

The original implementation of the palette expansion algorithm can be found in png_do_expand_palette(). The code iterates over every pixel, looking up each palette index (*sp) and adding the corresponding RGBA values to the output stream.

for (i = 0; i < row_width; i++)
    if ((int)(*sp) >= num_trans)
        *dp-- = 0xff;
        *dp-- = trans_alpha[*sp];
    *dp-- = palette[*sp].blue;
    *dp-- = palette[*sp].green;
    *dp-- = palette[*sp].red;

Neon-optimized implementation

The optimized code uses Neon instructions to parallelize the data transfer and restructuring. The original code individually copied across each of the RGBA values from the index. The optimized code uses Neon intrinsics to construct a four-lane vector containing the R, G, B, and A values. This vector is then stored into memory. The optimized code using Neon intrinsics is as follows:

for(i = 0; i + 3 < row_width; i += 4) {
      uint32x4_t cur;
      png_bytep sp = *ssp - i, dp = *ddp - (i << 2);
      cur = vld1q_dup_u32 (riffled_palette + *(sp - 3));
      cur = vld1q_lane_u32(riffled_palette + *(sp - 2), cur, 1);
      cur = vld1q_lane_u32(riffled_palette + *(sp - 1), cur, 2);
      cur = vld1q_lane_u32(riffled_palette + *(sp), cur, 3);
      vst1q_u32((void *)dp, cur);

Here is some more information about the intrinsics that are used:

Intrinsic Description
vld1q_dup_u32 Load all lanes of a vector with the same value from memory.
vld1q_lane_u32 Load a single lane of a vector with a value from memory.
vst1q_u32 Store a vector into memory.


By using vectors to speed up the data transfer, performance gains in the range 10% to 30% have been observed.

This optimization started shipping in Chromium M66 and libpng version 1.6.36.

Learn more

The following resources provide additional information about the png_do_expand_palette() optimization:

Previous Next