It is widely known that sprites are a nice way to combine several images into one to make the web browser load your web page quicker. But how far can it be taken without negative side effects?
In the picture above there is one big image 300+ KB that contains all the images for an entire site theme. As you can see the browser correctly starts loading this image early. But it also continues starting load additional images. In the end the big sprite is the last to finish, the visual impact is a broken site that loads several images and at the end finally adds all the visually important bits and pieces of the theme.
Clearly a case when the concept was taken too far.
For site themes that have a lot of shadows and large theme graphics it is wise to split this load into multiple sprites. To avoid big visual impact consider moving all small and colourful minor graphics to one small sprite that can load quickly because waiting for these items is much more anoying than waiting for a background image of some type.
Remember to set far future cache headers on the sprites and your site will be lightning fast once the user has got the sprite once.