A world of colour systems

Defining colours is a combination of art and science. Here are just two of the many approaches in use today.

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THIS CONTENT IS ALSO AVAILABLE IN INSPIRE ISSUE 47 FROM 2014

RAL
Used predominantly in Europe, the RAL Classic System began as a 40-colour set for varnishes, powder coating and paint. From there it has grown to a colour-matching system comprising 1,625 shades and a variety of effects. Increasingly, its digital offering is expanding as it offers software for architects, decorators and design­ers to integrate these colours with graphics and CAD programs. The RAL numbering system is based on nine colour subsets with sequential numeric codes, starting with the yellows (RAL1000 Green Beige), running through the rest of the rainbow and ending with blacks/whites (RAL9023 Pearl Dark Grey).

NCS
Natural Colour System codes match how the human eye, rather than a computer, perceives hue and nuance (blackness and colour saturation). First outlined by 19th-century German physiologist Ewald Hering, it identified six basic opposing colours the eye recog­nizes – white/black, red/green and yellow/blue – and defines all other colours as composites of those. For example, the NSC notation for the blue of the Swedish flag is NCS 4055-R95B: 40 percent darkness, 55 percent saturation, 5 percent red and 95 percent blue. NCS is the reference norm in 19 countries, including Sweden, Norway and Spain.

TEXT: SAM EICHBLATT

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