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I am confused about the colors of Atari 2600


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The system only has a handful of color slots for the objects it can draw: 1 for the background, 1 for the playfield and the ball, 1 for player 0 and missile 0 and finally 1 for player 1 and missile 1. However, these colors can be changed at any time, even in the middle of a scanline, meaning that in some cases, if the screen's design allows it, you can have more than 4 colors per scanline.


In Stella you can activate the "debug colors" mode so it will render all the objects with fixed colors, allowing you to see where each of the TIA's objects are used. You can also step through the game code instruction by instruction as the image is rendered, so you can easily see when exactly the color registers are used.

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You can change the color registers at any time during the scanline.  You can use Stella's Fixed Debug Color mode to get an idea of what's going on.  To toggle it use COMMAND-PERIOD on a Mac, or ALT-PERIOD on Linux or Windows (if you're running an older versions of Stella use COMMA instead of PERIOD).


An example would be Congo Bongo. In the area I drew the red box in:




The brown ground, the green cliffside, and the far yellow cliffside are all drawn using the playfield, which is drawn in purple when using debug color mode.





These are the colors of everything - note there are 3 PF registers, which are used twice on each scanline.  Each PF register has a slightly different shade of purple.




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