Colour Systems explained – Know your RAL from your RGB

What are the different colour chart types and What does it all mean?

If you decorating and matching paint to your walls, or matching your double glazing to your skirting boards(!?) or your paint to to your Picasso, the chances are you will be handling different types of colour chart. You may even be handed a mood board by your designer that specifies colours.

It’s really handy to have a common language that can be used to describe these things. Here New Look Decorators‘ colour specialist. Er. Webmaster. goes through the main ones and provides a bit of useful stuff.

  1. RAL: RAL is a colour matching system used primarily in Europe. It stands for “Reichs-Ausschuß für Lieferbedingungen” (German for “Imperial Commission for Delivery Terms”). RAL provides a standardized set of colour codes and names for a wide range of colours. Each colour in the RAL system is assigned a unique four-digit code, such as RAL 5002 (Ultramarine Blue). RAL colours are widely used in industries such as architecture, automotive, and industrial coatings.
  2. CMYK: CMYK is a colour model used for printing purposes, where colours are created by mixing cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y), and black (K) inks. CMYK is a subtractive colour model, meaning that the more ink is added, the darker the colour becomes. It is primarily used in print media, such as magazines, brochures, and packaging. CMYK values are represented as percentages of each ink colour, such as C: 30%, M: 60%, Y: 10%, K: 0%.
  3. Pantone: Pantone is a proprietary colour matching system widely used in the printing and design industries. It provides a standardized set of colours, each identified by a unique alphanumeric code. Pantone colours are created using a specific set of base inks, and they are consistent across different printing processes and materials. The Pantone Matching System (PMS) is particularly popular and widely used for spot colour printing, where specific colours need to be reproduced accurately. Pantone colours are not limited to printing but can also be used as references for other applications, including paint colours.
  4. RGB: RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue and is an additive colour model used for electronic displays, such as computer screens and televisions. In the RGB model, colours are created by combining different intensities of red, green, and blue light. RGB values are typically represented as three sets of numbers ranging from 0 to 255, indicating the intensity of each colour channel. For example, RGB(255, 0, 0) represents pure red, while RGB(0, 255, 0) represents pure green.

It’s worth noting that while RAL, CMYK, Pantone, and RGB are commonly used colour systems, there are others as well, such as HSL (Hue, Saturation, Lightness) and HEX codes (hexadecimal colour codes used for web design).

Each colour system serves a specific purpose and is used in different industries or applications. RAL provides a standardized set of colours for various coatings and materials. CMYK is used in print media to achieve accurate colour reproduction. Pantone is widely used for spot colour printing and colour specification in design. RGB is used for electronic displays. It’s important to understand the specific colour system requirements based on the intended use to ensure accurate and consistent colour representation.

Call Paul on Mobile: 07886 902716 if you want to discuss any of these things. The van is always stocked high with colour charts, so just ask if you need any.

When Colours go wrong…

OK, so it’d be a lie to say we haven’t once or twice returned from the trade counter to a customer’s house only to find we’d got the wrong shade of paint! Don’t panic we didn’t put it on! But we’re not the only decorator who has done it – check out these stylish bloopers from the history books:

The Golden Gate Bridge

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was originally supposed to be painted in a gray colour, known as International Orange. However, during the primer application, the lead-based red-orange primer looked so good that the consulting architect, Irving Morrow, decided to keep it as the final colour. The decision was a fortunate mistake, as the vibrant colour became one of the bridge’s most distinctive features.

The Green Room at the White House

The Green Room, one of the state parlors in the White House, got its name from its historically green colour scheme. However, during the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s, the room was undergoing renovations. The new designer, B. Altman and Company, accidentally chose a wallpaper with a floral pattern that featured yellow flowers instead of green. The mistake went unnoticed until the room was completed, and the name “Green Room” stuck, even though it was no longer green. We presume the outside was supposed to be white!

The Pink Flamingos

The iconic plastic lawn flamingos, which gained popularity in the mid-20th century, were accidentally produced in the wrong colour. In 1957, a company called Union Products intended to produce flamingos in a light blue colour to mimic the colour of real flamingos. However, due to a mix-up at the factory, the first batch was produced in pink. The pink flamingos quickly became a hit and have since become an enduring symbol of kitschy Americana.

The British Rail Blue Disaster

In the 1960s and 1970s, the British Railways attempted to update its image by introducing a new corporate colour scheme known as “Rail Blue.” However, due to a colour miscommunication between the designers and the paint suppliers, the shade of blue that was used turned out to be significantly darker than intended. The resulting dark blue colour earned the nickname “Rail Blue Disaster” and was widely criticized. Eventually, British Railways reverted to a lighter shade of blue.