Monochrome refers to a single color or shades of a single color displayed in a digital or printed medium. In technology, it often describes a display or image that consists of only one color, typically black, white or shades of gray. This term is commonly associated with early computer monitors, photography, and print media.

Key Takeaways

  1. Monochrome refers to a display or imaging technology that uses only one color or shades of a single color, typically black, white or gray, to create an image or representation of content.
  2. In the context of computer displays or printing, monochrome is often used for cost-effectiveness, energy efficiency, simplicity, or to reduce resource usage, as it doesn’t require as much data or power compared to full-color displays or prints.
  3. While monochrome is mostly associated with older or basic technologies, it still has its applications in modern use, such as in e-ink displays, monochrome photography, or certain specific-use devices where color information is not vital.


The technology term “monochrome” is important because it has played a crucial role in the development and evolution of display and imaging technology. Monochrome, which literally means “single color,” refers to displaying images or videos in a single color or shades of a single color, usually black and white, or grayscale.

Before the advent of color displays, monochrome displays were the primary choice for various applications, such as computer monitors, televisions, and photographic film. The simplicity of monochrome technology allowed early developers to create systems that consumed less power, required limited processing capabilities, and kept manufacturing costs low.

Although color displays have become ubiquitous, monochrome technology continues to be relevant in specific areas, like e-ink displays, high-resolution imaging, and security systems, due to its power efficiency and sharpness. Monochrome also holds artistic and nostalgic value, as it is often used intentionally to evoke emotions or create a sense of time.


Monochrome technology serves as a significant purpose in various areas, ranging from display systems, photography, and printing methods. It is utilized for its simplicity and cost-efficiency, providing users with a straightforward and functional approach to conveying visual information. Monochrome displays, for instance, are widely applied in devices that require minimal distraction or power consumption, including e-readers, calculators, and certain medical equipment.

Moreover, these displays have a higher contrast ratio, which allows for better readability under direct sunlight. In the field of photography, monochrome images highlight contrast, texture, and pattern without the distraction of color, contributing to a timeless and often emotional impact on the viewer. This technique continues to hold artistic relevance and is embraced by many photographers to emphasize their subject matter in a powerful way.

Another significant application of monochrome technology is in the printing industry, where it furnishes efficient and cost-effective solutions for organizations that primarily generate text-based documents. The use of monochrome printers considerably reduces expenses and maintenance requirements compared to their color counterparts, as they typically require only one ink or toner cartridge. This results in a reduced cost per page, faster print speeds, and enhanced productivity.

Additionally, monochrome technology plays a crucial role in certain functional areas, such as barcode printing and engineering drawings, making it a valuable tool despite the widespread transition to color-based technologies across various fields. Ultimately, the purpose and utility of monochrome technology are highlighted by its simplicity, cost efficiency, and the unique artistic and functional value that it offers to users.

Examples of Monochrome

Monochrome Photography: In the field of photography, monochrome refers to images that are captured or developed in shades of a single color, usually black and white. Classic black and white photographs are examples of monochrome photography, where different shades of gray create the depth and contrast in each image.

Monochrome Computer Monitors: In the early days of computers, display monitors often had only one color, typically green or amber, displayed on a black background. These monitors, known as monochrome monitors, were popular for their low cost and simplicity. Monochrome monitors were commonly used in early personal computers, such as the IBM 5151 and Apple II series.

Monochrome Laser Printers: Monochrome laser printers only print in black and white, unlike color laser printers that utilize multiple colors. These printers are designed to produce high-quality, clear text and simple graphics without the need for additional color cartridges. Monochrome laser printers are popular among businesses and individual users for their cost-effectiveness, fast printing speed, and easy maintenance in comparison to color printers.

Frequently Asked Questions about Monochrome

What is Monochrome technology?

Monochrome technology refers to single-color display systems and printing solutions, which use only one color to represent information. This color could be black, white, or any other single color. Monochrome technology is often used when simplicity, cost efficiency, and high contrast are needed, such as in early computer monitors, e-readers, and some compact printers.

What are the primary advantages of Monochrome displays?

The primary advantages of Monochrome displays include the following: easier reading in bright light and direct sunlight due to the high contrast ratio, lower power consumption, and cost-effectiveness. These displays also offer a faster refresh rate, better for displaying text, and require less processing power as compared to color displays.

What are some common applications of Monochrome technology?

Monochrome technology is used in various applications such as E-ink e-readers, early computer monitors, barcode scanners, medical imaging equipment, calculators, digital signage, and thermal printers. It is also used in the manufacturing industry for quality control and part inspections.

How did the Monochrome technology evolve over time?

Monochrome technology evolved from the early days of computing when the use of a single color was necessary due to the limitations of display technology and processing power. As technology progressed, color displays became more common, and the use of monochrome displays declined. However, the rise of energy-efficient devices such as e-readers led to a renewed interest in monochrome technology.

Is Monochrome technology still relevant today?

Yes, Monochrome technology is still relevant in certain applications where cost-effectiveness, energy efficiency, or high contrast is needed. Examples include E-ink e-readers, medical imaging devices, barcode scanners, and thermal printers. Monochrome technology continues to provide a practical and efficient solution for specific use cases in various industries.

Related Technology Terms

  • Grayscale
  • Black and White
  • Single-color
  • Binary Image
  • Gray Level

Sources for More Information

  • Techopedia – A comprehensive resource for technology terms and definitions.
  • How-To Geek – A popular technology site that provides explanations of technology concepts.
  • PCWorld – An online magazine covering technology news, product reviews, and tutorials on a wide range of subjects.
  • Lifewire – A reliable source for information about consumer technology, including guides and tutorials on various topics.

About The Authors

The DevX Technology Glossary is reviewed by technology experts and writers from our community. Terms and definitions continue to go under updates to stay relevant and up-to-date. These experts help us maintain the almost 10,000+ technology terms on DevX. Our reviewers have a strong technical background in software development, engineering, and startup businesses. They are experts with real-world experience working in the tech industry and academia.

See our full expert review panel.

These experts include:


About Our Editorial Process

At DevX, we’re dedicated to tech entrepreneurship. Our team closely follows industry shifts, new products, AI breakthroughs, technology trends, and funding announcements. Articles undergo thorough editing to ensure accuracy and clarity, reflecting DevX’s style and supporting entrepreneurs in the tech sphere.

See our full editorial policy.

More Technology Terms

Technology Glossary

Table of Contents