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Downconverting an image

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How do you down convert colors in an image to a specific set of colors without saving it?

For example, I have an image in 24 bit color and I need to be in 8-bit color to save space. But I want to be able to control those 256 colors and I might have to make edits after the image is converted making saving previewing and editing a hassle to do over and over and over again every 30 seconds.

These images will be used in video games as sprites and in menu Icons. Mainly the menu Icons have different color tables over different platforms and when it dithers it makes the icons look like crud.

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