A Complete Guide on BMP Image Files

Written by John Harris, Updated on October 06, 2023

BMP stands for bitmap or bump file, is the native image format for storing raster and bitmapped image graphics specially designed to be compatible with DOS and Windows-based computers.bmp images are basically collections of bits (or pixels) that come together to form a final image. BMP images are also called paint or raster images. Bitmap files are usually uncompressed and cannot be changed to reduce file size. Hence, they are much larger than the other compressed image file formats like JPEG or PNG, etc.

Sometimes, it is also referred to as a DIB, which stands for device-independent bitmap that enables Windows to display the bitmap image on any display device. It means that the pixel color specified by the bitmap is in a form independent of the method used for representing the color on the display. The default filename extension of a Windows DIB file is .BMP.

A bitmap image is a grid-like format made of rows and columns where a specific cell is given a value that fills it in or leaves it blank, thus creating an image out of the data. It can be saved in color options: 1-, 4-, 8-, and 24-bit colors and provides 2, 16, 256, and 16,000,000 colors, respectively. BMP images can save line art, photographs, and digital paintings accurately.

BMP files are usually used while:

  • Printing and graphic designing
  • Storing high-quality images
  • Creating and sharing screenshots
  • Storing icons and other computer graphics
  • Archiving digital images

File Extensions: .bmp or .dib

BMP File Structure:

A .bmp file contains the following data structures:



RGBQUAD aColors[];

BYTE aBitmapBits[];

The description of all these data structures is explained below:

  • The bitmap file header contains information regarding a DIB file's type, size, and layout. And is defined as a BITMAPFILEHEADER structure.
  • The bitmap-information header, defined as a BITMAPINFOHEADER structure, specifies the bitmap's dimensions, compression type, and color format.
  • The color table, an array of RGBQUAD structures, contains as many elements as colors in the bitmap.
  • Immediately following the color table, the bitmap bits consist of an array of BYTE values representing consecutive rows, or "scan lines" of the bitmap. Each scan line consists of consecutive bytes that represent the pixels present in the scan line. The number of bytes representing a scan line depends on the color format and the width in pixels of the bitmap.

Advantages of BMP Files:

  • The images stored in the BMP format can be used for symbolic, iconic, and graphical representation and to form font logos and Web images.
  • BMP image files support more than 16 million colors.
  • BMP files store each pixel of the image independently, thus maintaining the accuracy and quality of the stored image.
  • BMP files can store complex, real-world, intricate images combined with photographic equipment and video elements.
  • BMP files are compatible and supported by almost all major image editing software.

Limitations of BMP:

BMP files are not used for transferring images on the Internet or other slow or capacity-limited media since they are large and not typically compressed like JPG or PNG files. For example, an 800x600 image occupies nearly 1.5 megabytes.

Another disadvantage of bitmap images is that they require higher resolutions and anti-aliasing for a smooth appearance.

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