Our History

Following the NCS System launch in 1979, NCS quickly became the preferred colour reference for architects, designers and for the industry globally. The iconic NCS Atlas has existed since the very official launch. On the journey to the present day, many other products have evolved, such as the top seller NCS 1950 Index, alongside other innovative solutions, such as the cloud-based colour management platform CAPQ. Contently adapting the NCS offer while research into colour perception and colour communication keeps evolving.


1611: Dating all the way back to the seventeenth century, the first known colour space, the Forsius globe, was published in “Physica” by Aron Sigfrid Forsius. Today, the Forsius globe is considered to be the precursor of the NCS Colour Space.

1874: Ewald Hering’s theory about the “natural order system” of colour perception is the foundation of NCS.

1930: In the 30’s research into colour is begun by Tryggve Johansson, based on Hering’s findings.

1945: Numerous activities are begun, which eventually result in the founding of the company, later to become known as the Scandinavian Colour Institute.

1952: Hesselgren’s colour atlas (developed by professor of architecture Sven Hesselgren) is launched. This was based on Johansson’s ideas and expanded on by Hesselgren.

1960: In the 60s, Dr. A. Hård, Dr. L. Sivik and Dr. G. Tonnquist initiated research in order to finally achieve this perfect visual colour communication system. During the 1960s and 1970s, the Swedish Colour Centre Foundation implements more than 100 man years of scientific research and development. Architects, designers, psychologists, physicists, chemists, and colour researchers work together to create the NCS – Natural Colour System.®©  Underlying the Natural Colour System are almost 20 years of research work headed by Hård, Sivik and Tonnquist.

1978: To achieve a commercial realisation of the NCS system, the company is named the Scandinavian Colour Institute AB (now NCS Colour AB).  Målaremästarna (The Association for Swedish Painting Contractors) takes on the ownership.

1979: The NCS System was launched as a Swedish national colour standard (SIS). The NCS System was illustrated in the NCS Atlas with a standard selection of 1 412 colours. As research continued, the choice of standardised colours has been revised and has increased.

1984: An additional 118 colour were added to the NCS System.

1985: DIN Deutsches Institut für Normung e.V. (the German Institute for Standardization) shows its support of the NCS System in an official press release in December 1985:
“It is unbelievable that today in 1985/86, there is still no established metric-convention for colour. The understanding of colour is yet, to a large extent, subject to coincidence. To relieve the decision-making process and to set an example for an understanding without national selfishness, the DIN Deutsches Institut für Normung e.V., has decided to support the Swedish colour system Natural Colour System and abandon its established DIN-colour system.” 

1994: NCS – Natural Colour System®© is adopted as the Spanish national colour standard and receives ISO 9002 certification for manufacturing of NCS Colour Samples.

1995: One decade later, the second edition of the standardised NCS Colours was launched with a total of 1 750 colours. The second edition also focused on environmentally approved pigments in accordance with EU-regulations. However, it primarily launched a new world-leading colour accuracy and consistency that is still unique today.

1997: The scientists behind the NCS system, Anders Hård, Lars Sivik and Gunnar Tonnquist was given the AIC Judd Award for their exceptional work which culminated in the NCS, the Natural Colour System and its atlas. The research was characterized by the phenomenological analysis of the experience of color in the spirit of Hering.

1998: ISO 9001 Certification for the production of NCS Colour Samples.

2004: 200 new colours are added – there are now 1,950 in total. The NCS system is adopted as South Africa’s national colour standard. NCS has now become a global industry standard.

2006: NCS Colour as a company has grown rapidly and its export share is 84%. In order to meet increasing international demand and expansion, NCS Colour AB gains new owners to take on the challenge.

2009: A new digital product launches – the NCS Navigator, a web application.

2011: Colourisation, precision, and stability in a colour is increasingly decisive for the global industry and its opportunities to satisfy customer demands. NCS Colour Management is a key solution for quality-conscious manufacturers and designers across the world.

2013: A new digital product is launched globally – the NCS Selector for Adobe, a program software addition.

2014: NCS Core® is introduced as a unique cloud-based solution for Colour Management in the manufacturing industry.

2015: The wireless colour reader NCS Colourpin is launched. Operated through a smartphone app and connected to a cloud-based system, the NCS Colourpin enables for an instant match of any scanned surface to millions of colour references.

2016: With more than 35 years of experience from the development of leading colour systems, the NCS Group launches the CAPQ brand with its modern Colour Management solutions for the development and quality assurance of colour within the manufacturing industry.

2019: Today the NCS Standard Collection comprises 1 950 NCS Standard Colours. With the NCS System as its core, NCS Colour continues to develop innovative colour solutions and evolve within colour management, launching both physical and digital solutions. The NCS System is currently the national colour standard in Norway, Spain, South Africa and Sweden. Used as a cross-industrial colour language and has an international presence in over 80 countries.