FAQ

General questions

How many RAL COLOURS are there?

There are a total of 2,530 RAL colours – 215 shades are included in the RAL CLASSIC colour collection, 1,825 shades in the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus and a selection of 490 shades are available in the RAL EFFECT colour collection.

Can I also buy paints and coatings at RAL?

RAL does not sell any coating materials and also does not produce them. RAL deals exclusively with the definition and standardisation of shades and produces binding colour templates for them. You can find colour charts, colour templates as well as individual colour samples and design boxes at RAL. You can buy coating materials in a desired RAL shade either in building supply and DIY stores or in specialist paint shops.

Why are there various colour charts and design boxes?

Colour charts help you to select colours as a guide and aid. Even if they give a good impression, they are not binding. The RAL 840-HR and RAL 841-GL registers for RAL CLASSIC and RAL E1 for RAL EFFECT are binding colour templates. We can satisfy a wide range of our customers’ requests regarding flexibility, presentation of shades and cost-effectiveness with the wide range of colour design tools we offer.

What differentiates colour charts which were produced in the varnish procedure from colour charts printed in 4C?

In principle, printed colour charts are cheaper to produce, but have fundamental deficiencies regarding the appearance of RAL shades. Colour samples produced using the varnish procedure cover a much more comprehensive colour space than is possible using the 4C printing process. This means that colour samples produced using the established 4C printing technology do not reproduce all the RAL shades in their true colour. For this reason, all the original RAL colour samples are produced exclusively with varnish systems, which are also used for industrial applications.

Are RAL colours also available in a digital form?

Yes. RAL DIGITAL 5.1 is a software, in which all the RAL colour ranges for graphics and CAD programs are integrated. The software contains information about RGB, CMYK, HLC as well as Lab and HEX values and offers many design functionalities. You can find out more information about the many options available with RAL DIGITAL 5.1 here.

Why are the RAL colour numbers of different lengths?

RAL CLASSIC

The four-digit colour numbers belong to the 215 RAL CLASSIC colours, four-digit numbers with a hyphen to the 490 RAL EFFECT colours and the 1,825 colours in the RAL DESIGN System plus each have seven-digit colour numbers.

The four-digit numbering in the RAL CLASSIC colour collection goes back to the original entries at the Reichausschuss für Lieferbedingungen (Imperial Committee for Deliveries, RAL) and have been used for almost 100 years throughout the world.

RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus

Seven-digit colour numbers in the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus provide direct information about the visual appearance of the corresponding shade. The first three figures identify the position of the shade on the colour circle, the next two figures describe the lightness of a shade (0 = black / 100 = white). The two last figures of a shade in the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus describe the level of colourfulness (0 = grey / 100 = pure colourfulness).

RAL EFFECT

The four-digit colour numbers in the RAL EFFECT collection are based on the principle of consistent colour family grading. Every colour family has been given a three-digit basic number. The latter is supplemented with a number after the hyphen for the full tones, plus a special identifier for the associated metallic shades.

Are the shades in a product line of RAL colours also included in other product lines?

The three product lines RAL CLASSIC, RAL EFFECT and RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus are independent of each other. The RAL EFFECT colour collection is an exception as it includes 100 shades from the RAL CLASSIC colour collection. The RAL DIGITAL 5.1 software offers the option of finding the closest colour to a certain RAL colour in a different colour collection (RAL or external).

Can companies arrange for their corporate colours to be standardised?

In order to have colours standardised at RAL, companies can submit a colour sample and RAL will produce true-colour proof register cards on this basis. The same strict quality requirements apply to the production of these register cards as to the production of the colour register cards in the RAL colour ranges.

The new corporate colour is available only to the relevant company and is not passed on to any other companies by RAL. RAL cannot provide industrial property rights for these colours and this is the responsibility of the company which awarded RAL the contract.

Where can I find information about historical RAL colours?

You can find information about historical RAL colours by telephoning 01805 – 74 80 66 (14 cent/min. on a German land line).

Questions about RAL CLASSIC

How is the RAL CLASSIC colour collection structured?

RAL CLASSIC is a collection which has grown historically and currently includes 215 shades. Two of these are micaceous iron colours, five are daylight luminous colours and 15 are pearlescent colours. In order to be included in the colour collection, a colour must not only be of specific interest to the company, it is also not permitted to be based on fashionable influences and must serve a superior public interest. Examples of this are the applications of RAL colours in the field of traffic signage or public authority vehicles (fire brigade, police, etc.).

How do the designations of the RAL CLASSIC colours come about?

The RAL CLASSIC colours have a four-digit number combined with the "RAL" brand (e.g. RAL 1028). The first figure is systematic (1: yellow, 2: orange, 3: red, 4: purple, 5: blue, 6: green, 7: grey, 8: brown and 9: white and black shades), the remaining three figures are selected consecutively. The name of a shade (e.g Melon yellow for RAL 1028) is a descriptive colour name. Both should be used for clear identification to reduce the risk of confusion.

Why are there gaps in the numbering of the colours?

The RAL CLASSIC colour collection has continued to develop further over many decades. This also means that shades whose public meaning has changed over time are now no longer included in the range. Also shades, which can no longer be produced using the latest technology, are no longer included in the collection. However, as these colour numbers continue to have been awarded and in order to avoid misunderstandings, the corresponding colour numbers were not given to new colours.

Does the RAL CLASSIC range also include the camouflage colours of the German Federal Armed Forces?

As the camouflage colours of the German Federal Armed Forces have a very specific area of application, although they are included in the RAL CLASSIC shades, they are not included when presenting the other RAL CLASSIC shades. The camouflage numbers can be identified by their four-digit colour number and the descriptive colour name as part of the RAL CLASSIC colour collection, and at the same time their special status is identified by the F9 supplement.

Current camouflage colours:

  • RAL 1039-F9 Sand beige
  • RAL 1040-F9 Loam beige
  • RAL 6031-F9 Bronze green
  • RAL 6040-F9-Light olive
  • RAL 7050-F9 Camouflage grey
  • RAL 8027-F9 Leather brown
  • RAL 8031-F9 Sand brown
  • RAL 9021-F9 Tar black

as well as RAL 6031 HR Bronze green for the non-camouflage technical field. You can find further information about RAL F9 camouflage colours here.

Why are plastic colour samples also included in the RAL CLASSIC colour collection?

In addition to presenting RAL shades on a varnish basis, the increasing importance of plastic-based materials over the last few decades has made it necessary to develop RAL shades on alternative materials. The multifunctional boards made of polypropylene which are currently available considerably simplify the reproduction of RAL colours in the field of plastics. The RAL P1 product includes the 100 most popular RAL CLASSIC colours. Three different board thicknesses as well as three different surface structures highlight the versatility of the material and the colour as well as the variety of applications. Colourmetric details and further information can be found on the protective casing, in which the boards are packed individually.

In conjunction with the RAL P2 product from the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus, there are a total of 300 RAL shades available on plastic colour samples.

How are new shades incorporated in the RAL CLASSIC colour collection?

The following guidelines must be satisfied for a shade to be included in the colour collection:

  • The colour must be of vital public interest and must not be subject to short-term fashion influences.
  • The colour must have a certain minimum variation from colours which are already in existence.
  • The shade must be able to be reproduced with the usual commercially available pigment systems.
  • The shade must be able to be produced so that it is weather resistant.

If all the requirements have been satisfied and if RAL decides to include it in the register, the procedure is as follows:

  • RAL receives a binding, fully varnished sample of the colour to be included.
  • RAL arranges the production of colour cards, which are monitored solely by RAL.

Or

  • RAL receives a sample which is not fully varnished, e.g. fabric, printed colour or plastic sample of the colour which is to be included.
  • Test coatings of the samples which have been reproduced are submitted for approval to the applicant. After approval has been obtained by the applicant, production of the colour cards and their monitoring are the responsibility of RAL.

The colour cards can be obtained by anyone via RAL and use of the colour is not limited to the original application.

We would be delighted to provide you with more information on an individual basis about all the details & costs arising.

Questions about RAL EFFECT

What is RAL EFFECT?

RAL EFFECT is another product range from RAL. The colour collection includes 70 metallic colours, which harmonise with the 420 plain shades. The plain colours are based on water-soluble varnishes, while the metallic colours are based on acrylic varnishes. Many paint producers have the RAL EFFECT colours in their mixing machines and can offer the latter. The 100 most popular shades from the RAL CLASSIC colour collection are included in the RAL EFFECT colour collection.

The four-digit numbers in the RAL EFFECT collection are based on the principle of consistent colour family listing. Every colour family has been given a three-digit basic number. This is supplemented with a consecutive figure after the hyphen for the full shades,while the metallic shades in the range show the end identifier - M.

What is the difference between four-digit RAL colour numbers and four-digit colour numbers with a hyphen before the last figure?

RAL colour numbers with four figures and a hyphen originate from the RAL EFFECT collection, while four-digit colours without a hyphen belong to the RAL CLASSIC collection.

In which areas is RAL EFFECT used?

The RAL EFFECT colour collection can be used everywhere where you are working with metallic effects. This is the case for example in the printing industry when packaging or products are intended to have a metallic effect. However, the most frequent area of application is in industrial powder coating, for example when coating furniture, dividing wall systems or window frames and doors.

Questions about RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus

Does the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus satisfy a standard or agreement?

The structure of the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus follows the L*a*b* colour system, which is used internationally and was stipulated by the CIE (International Commission on Illumination) in 1976. The “L” stands for: Lightness, namely the lightness of a colour in the colour space. 0 describes a pure black, an L-value of 100 corresponds to a pure white. The value “a” describes the position of a colour on the red-green axis, with negative values meaning a deviation from zero towards green, while positive values mean deviations in the direction of red. The b-value represents the position of a shade on the yellow-blue axis (negative values for blue, positive values for yellow). The grey point or neutral point in the CIE Lab-model is located at a = b = 0. The CIE LAB formalism is described in detail in DIN EN ISO 11664-4, you can find further information about the structure of the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus here.

How are the colour numbers in the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus composed?

In principle, the structure of the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus follows the CIE Lab colour space, according to which all the shades are sorted according to hue, lightness and chroma and arranged in a logical mathematical way.

Building on this, the first set of three letters in the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus corresponds to the hue H, the first pair to the lightness L and the second pair to the chroma C. This means that for example the shade RAL 270 30 20 is a dark blue with the hue H = 270, the lightness L = 30 and the chroma C = 20.

When using achromatic grey shades, particular attention needs to be paid to ensure that the latter have the hue H = 0. Nevertheless, it is vital that the shade designation shows the first three digits of 000 because otherwise it is easy to confuse it with a shade in the RAL CLASSIC colour collection. Therefore, for example the shade 000 50 00 from the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus is a grey shade (hue H = 0 and chroma C = 0), while the shade RAL 5000 from the RAL CLASSIC colour collection is an intense blue shade.

What shades form the colour circle?

When designing the RAL DESIGN SYSTEMS plus the CIE Lab colour circle was divided into segments of 10 degrees each. As the human eye can perceive more shades in the yellow-red area, three additional intermediate steps were incorporated here. Therefore 39 hues form the basis of the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus. These shades have a medium to high lightness as well as a high chroma, which makes them ideal “representatives” of this colour. They are the “loudest”, most intense shades for the relevant hue.

What changes were made during the most recent revision in 2018?

Since the most recent revision in 2018 users have a much more comprehensive selection of light, pastel shades available and a total of 200 new shades have been added. In addition, new opportunities in the industrial production of colours were used to be able to offer shades, which were not yet able to be manufactured when the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM was launched 25 years ago or only with a great deal of time/effort (so-called off-whites).

Furthermore, the new shades have closed small gaps in the existing system so that users of the new RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus now have even more opportunities to develop and use basic, simple colour concepts on the basis of the structure of the RAL DESIGN SYTEM plus.

Are there also colour names apart from the shade number in the new RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus?

With the extensive expansion of the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus in 2018, associative colour names were also developed for these shades. They should be regarded as a support for the mathematically precise determination of the shade position and give the user of a shade ideas and inspiration.

The colour names are shown in German, English, French, Russian and Chinese.

Are the colours in the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus also available in digital form?

Yes. RAL DIGITAL 5.1 is a software, in which all the RAL colour ranges for graphics and CAD programs are integrated. The software contains the values of various colour models such as RGB, CMYK, HLC, Lab and Hex and offers a wide range of design functionalities. It is also possible to find the perfect shade quickly or compile harmonious colour combinations, based on various criteria and specifications, extremely easily with RAL DIGITAL 5.1. You can find further information about RAL DIGITAL here.

Does the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus contain shades from the other RAL colour ranges?

The RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus continued its consistent orientation based on the CIE Lab colour space when it was reviewed in 2018. However, the colours in the RAL CLASSIC colour collection are distributed unsystematically over the colour space as they were developed on the basis of very specific requirements over the years, but not to follow a certain system. Against this background, there is no shade-related overlapping between the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus and the two other RAL colour ranges.

Are there shades in the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus which are also available in other materials?

There is the option of also obtaining the 200 most popular colours in the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus as plastic colour samples. The name of the product is RAL P2 and it contains 160 full colours and 40 transparent colours.

The multifunctional boards made of polypropylene simplify the reproduction of the RAL colours in plastic and therefore considerably expand the area of application of the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus. Regardless of whether it’s for household appliances, toys, packaging of any kind, or on its own or in conjunction with other materials, plastics can now be found in every area of everyday life. Colour design in conjunction with plastics has therefore become an everyday occurrence which is similar to colour concepts in architecture or in art. As a result, it was only logical that RAL FARBEN developed the most important shades also as plastic templates.

Three different board thicknesses as well as three different surface structures highlight the versatility of the material and the colour as well as the variety of applications. Colourmetric details and further information can be found on the protective casing, in which the boards are packed individually.

Why are there so many different products for the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus?

The new RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus offers the ideal product for every area of application with a wide range of different products. Whether it’s a fast colour comparison using the RAL D2 colour charts or the development of a sophisticated colour composition with the assistance of a RAL D6 box: as varied as the requirements of our customers are, the options to cover these requirements with the products in the new RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus are just as comprehensive.

What do you need for further understanding of RAL COLOURS?

We bundled important questions and listed them here. Should you still miss a point, please write to us. We look forward to your questions.