I am studying Fundamentals of Multimedia by Ze-Nian Li and Mark S Drew. They use the term "sprite" but I don't understand the meaning. Can someone explain to me what sprites are and how they are used?

  • 2
    I'm not familiar with the book, but I'm wondering if you're asking about sprites for computer graphics and video games? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sprite_(computer_graphics)
    – Michael
    Jun 4, 2012 at 16:10
  • 1
    If you vote a question down, leave a comment explaining why. This helps people ask better questions, and it's just plain courteous.
    – Joe
    Jun 5, 2012 at 0:15

4 Answers 4


If in the book they are talking about image sprites for the web they are images that contain multiple images, like for instance a series of icons to be used in a navigation bar. You would have one http request for the "sprite" and use CSS to display the icon needed. You can have sprites that contain all of the images for a given page if you wanted. The main reason for using them is to lower the amount of files to be downloaded for the website or webpage.

See CSS-tricks article

Hope this helped:)

  • 1
    the book was published in 2003, so it's not likely referring to CSS background image sprites (though that is a valid definition of the term in modern usaage)
    – DA01
    Jun 5, 2012 at 20:49

Technically and historically, a sprite is an animation (not an individual frame of one). I have never seen an actual authority cite the origin of the term, but it has to do with scanline priority queues and graphic display hardware.

A sprite sheet is a well-structured single image (usually a series of animation frames laid out in a grid of n Rows and n Columns, but often a grid with one row and many columns) which allows a program to store all the animation data in contiguous memory and to easily animate it by incrementing the pointer by a well-defined amount.

A paper and pencil analogue to this is a roll of paper tape with drawings on it, pulled behind a frame which is set up so that only one drawing is visible through the frame at any given time. If you pull the tape rapidly enough, you see an animation.

Sounds a lot like a movie reel.

  • It's NOT an animation. In fact, I believe it can't even be an animation. Think of old video games, like mario. There would be a sprite for standing still, two for running, one for jumping... etc etc. Toghther they can be made/simulated into an animation.
    – paddotk
    Jun 11, 2012 at 12:37
  • Look into it more. It can certainly refer to an animation of 1 frame, but sprites and sprite support were developed to handle movable items.
    – horatio
    Jun 12, 2012 at 14:05
  • sprite is just a term, they weren't 'developed'.
    – paddotk
    Jun 12, 2012 at 14:08
  • A sprite is a term coined by a Texas Instruments chip developer. It refers to the hardware superposition of video elements. Look it up.
    – horatio
    Jun 12, 2012 at 15:52

From Wikipedia:


In computer graphics, a sprite is a two-dimensional image or animation that is integrated into a larger scene. Initially used to describe graphical objects handled separate from the memory bitmap of a video display, the term has since been applied more loosely to refer to various manner of graphical overlays.

  • In this case, I think this general answer is the correct one
    – e100
    Jun 6, 2012 at 9:50

A sprite is a two-dimensional image or animation that is integrated into a larger scene. A sprite is basically an animation. The main reason for using sprite is to lower the amount of files to be downloaded for the website or webpage.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.