NCS and RAL are two different systems for describing colors, most often used in interior design, architecture and print.


The NCS system (Natural Color System) is an international color system, based on how humans interpret colors visually. It was first introduced in Sweden in 1979, and is now the standard used in other countries as well, for example Norway, Spain and South Africa.

NCS describes each color by its hue, blackness and chromaticness. Each color can then be described by combining these properties into a color code. For example, a specific red color would have the color code "NCS 5040-Y80R".

  • 50 is the blackness, on a scale from 0-100
  • 40 is the chromaticness, on a scale from 0-100
  • Y80R means that the color has a hue that is 20% Yellow and 80% Red

Using this specification, millions of colors can be described. However, to make it easier to standardize colors using NCS, a subset of 1950 colors is often used.


RAL is a completely different system than NCS, since it doesn't describe the individual properties of the color. Rather, it is an indexed palette of commonly used colors, where each color has been assigned an identification number. There are a few different "collections" of RAL colors, with the most commonly used one called "RAL Classic". Others include "RAL Design", "RAL Effects" and "RAL Plastics".

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