RAL paint specifications

Written by alex burke
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RAL paint specifications
RAL produces large, reusable colour samples that can save time when making paint decisions. (Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Getty Images)

RAL creates paint colour standards by defining colour shades. It does not sell paint. RAL produces register cards in the form of paint decks, large swatches and colour atlases and for each colour it defines. RAL register cards show a colour swatch along with a colour number and sometimes a colour name that you can use to create colour schemes. You then can match RAL colour numbers to colours in well-known paint brands.

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Specify RAL Classic Colour

You can specify The Classic Colour Collection using its four digit number. The first number is a system code number that identifies the colour hue (1=yellow, 2=orange, 3=red, 4=violet, 5=blue, 6=green, 7=grey, 8=brown, 9=white or black). The next three numbers in the four-digit sequence are simply sequential numbers chosen as the colour comes into the RAL system. RAL recommends specifying the Classic Collection using both the colour name and its colour number to prevent any number transposition from causing a mistake. For instance, "melon yellow, RAL 1028" prevents the wrong yellow colour from being specified if you use only the numbers.

Specify a RAL Design Colour

A number system specifies The RAL Design Colours using only a number system. The system doesn't use colour names. It organises colours around the hue, lightness and chroma (colour). RAL Design Colour numbers look different than the Classic Colour numbers. They are three sets of numbers, each separated from the proceeding set by a space. The first number identifies the hue, the second the lightness and the third the chroma. They are not related to the hue numbers of the Classic Colour specification. Use all numbers shown on RAL register cards during specification. Never drop zeros.

The RAL Design number 270 30 20 identifies a dark blue with a hue of 270, lightness of 30 and chroma of 20. The structure of the RAL Design system specification numbers follows the colour measurement system called the CIELab designed in 1976 by the Commission International d'Eclairage (CIE). Those with knowledge about the CIELab can use the colour numbers to recognise and locate the colour within the three-dimension model that the CIELab uses. Understanding the number system is not necessary to specify the RAL-defined colour but is important to the manufacturer providing the matching paint.

Specification tolerances

RAL issues register cards for each colour it defines. Because manufacturing practices and environments vary, RAL does not use colour tolerances to identify which manufacturers and applications are true RAL colours. RAL recommends consulting a colour expert to resolve colour disputes involving someone using a RAL register card. Due to the possibility of faded or altered colour, keep registration cards covered and away from light to maintain the closest match.

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