Colour confidence with the NCS System

Short intro

The NCS System

A colour system of logic

using the ncs system

Creating harmonising colour combinations

The NCS System allows you to validate and refine your colour choices. Translate your inspiration into functioning colour palettes and gain valuable knowledge on how to rely on the NCS System in your work with colour below.


Colours with the same hue belongs to the same colour family. Colours with the same hue are found on the same place in the circle for example all nuances of R80B. These are all colours in the same triangle and in the same page in the NCS Atlas. A very common way of combining colours in an interior.

Here illustrated with 4 different nuances of the hue -Y10R:


Colour samples having the same nuance are found in the same position in the colour triangle regardless of hue, different pages in the NCS Atlas. Very useful when choosing colours for a colour assortment and in interior design.

Here illustrated with 4 different hues of the same nuance 2040:


Colour samples which have the same chromaticness are found on a straight line parallel to the greyscale from white (W) to black (S). The less chromatic the colour is, the closer it is to the vertical grey scale. Useful in interior design and pattern compositions.

Here illustrated with 4 different colours with the same chromaticness which is 40:


Colour samples which have the same blackness are found on a straight line parallel to the scale W-C, between white (W) and the maximum colour (C). The less blackish the colour is, the closer are they to this scale. Also very useful in interior design.

Here illustrated with 4 different colours with the same blackness which is 20:


Colour samples which have the same whiteness are found on a straight line parallel to the scale between black (S) and the maximum colour (C). The less whitish, the closer they are to the S-C scale. Useful in pattern compositions.

The whiteness is calculated the following way: 100% - (S+C) = 40% 

Here illustrated with 3 different colours with the same whiteness, which is 40. E.g. the whiteness in the nuance 1050: 10 + 50 is 60 and the rest up to hundred is 40, so the whiteness is 40.

NCS attributes

Colour similarities

The NCS System gives many other opportunities to experiment with colour using other colour attributes. The already shown similarities in hue, nuance, blackness, chromaticness and whiteness are NCS elementary attributes and are naturally found in the NCS Colour System. However, there are also other colour similarities that can be defined in the NCS System though they are not an elementary attribute of the NCS System like saturation similarity, lightness similarity and complementary colours.

Close related colours

Close related colours are colours that are within 10 steps in the colour circle. They don’t need to be placed in the same quadrant between two colours like R and B. They can start wherever on the circle, but you have to keep the maximum distance of ten steps. Here it is illustrated with 3 different hues: S 4055-R70B, S 1040-R60B AND S 2050-R40B, which are within 10 steps. There are also different nuances that make it more interesting.

Colours with the same lightness

A difference in lightness between two colours is probably the most important factor contributing to the visual experience of a pattern or a form. Lightness shows how two colours contrast each other. It is also vital for the design and colour schemes of exterior and interior environments, not least for weak-sighted persons (e.g. the elderly) who need lightness contrast between different surfaces to be able to orientate themselves.

Lightness is not the same as whiteness. Whiteness and blackness are quality attributes in the same way as yellowness, redness, blueness and greenness which will characterize a colour. Lightness is not a quality of a unique colour but can be determined by comparing it to greyscale or through instrumental measurement. A yellow colour has an inherent lightness and a blue colour has inherent darkness.

Since lightness is not an elementary attribute, it is not described by the NCS notation nor is it directly indicated by the NCS symbols. In the NCS Atlas, the colours which are alike in lightness are indicated with lines in each colour triangle. The NCS lightness value is indicated with a ν in the NCS Atlas between W and S on the left-hand side of the triangle. There is also a lightness scale (NCS Lightness Meter) with 18 different steps which is a good aid in assessing the lightness of different colours.