How it’s made

JUNE, 2020
Author: NCS Colour

Blue Colour Sampling - NCS Atlas 2050

Discover how NCS colour samples are made.

Professionals require accuracy; engineers use accurate measurement technology, physicians require state-of-the-art medical equipment and musicians use the instrument with the clearest sound. The same is true for colour professionals. Colour is a decisive feature whether a design or product will be determined as successful or not. In order to make the correct colour decisions we need to understand colour and specifically the colours we are working with. It may be sufficient for a consumer to ask for a “light blue” shade or the colour “Lavender”, but when working professionally with colour we need to be more precise. Therefore, we need a language for communicating colour, as well as accurate reference tools to describe them.


A system for defining colour

The Natural Colour System®© was designed to fill the need to describe even the slightest change in nuance that a human eye can perceive. Decades of research resulted in a system where each colour is defined by an unambiguous colour notation system; a system describing the visual characteristics of the colour.

Now, the Natural Colour System®© is used around the world for colour communication. Since it is scientifically based on how we perceive colours visually, it allows us to describe colours accurately, on any surface. This has made NCS a global standard for the definition, quality assurance and communication of colour.

With this systematic approach to describe colour, the need for accurate physical representations of colours arose.


Coated paint on paper

NCS colour products are produced using coated paint on paper. In contrast to printed samples and similar production methods, coated products can be produced with an accuracy where the variance between products tangent what is perceivable by the human eye (~0,4 ΔE00).

Brown, Pink, Yellow Samples on Paper

There are three main reasons for why we are using coated colour products:

• Due to technical reasons, printed colour cards often have a greater variance between different productions of the same colour than coated colour cards generally have.

• Coated colour cards are solid, while printed colour cards uses small dots of transparent ink. For example, the colour pink is printed as red dots on white paper, which is perceived as pink, but in fact, it is a pattern.

• Coated colour cards can be adapted for different light sources, this is not possible with printed ones.

The same goes for coat in comparison to plastic or coat in comparison to textile. Coated colour products have the most solid properties and therefore they are splendid as a master reference. However, in industrial productions a colour sample in the same material as the final product is mostly used.


The production process

The first step of the production of NCS Colour products is called the Mix. This is when the paint is produced, using EU-approved pigments. The colour is controlled in multiple light sources against the NCS Primary standard to be within the smallest tolerances in the industry

Production of NCS Colour products - The Mix

Image property and copyright: Color Project European.

The second step of the production is the Coat. Now, the paint is applied on paper and properties of the product such as film thickness, gloss level and opacity of the paint is being quality controlled. To ensure a high and solid quality from batch to batch, the colour is controlled at several instances.

Production Process - Coating

In the final production step, the complete product is assessed, including finish, artwork and assembly.

Measuring and Testing Tolerance Level of Colours

The target for colour matching is a tolerance below 0.3 ΔE00 to ensure the best result.


“Every produced batch of a colour card or master sample from NCS is traceable back to the original NCS Primary Standard. This is how we know that our colours are the same, not just from one product to the next but when you order the same colour in 50 years.”

Fredrik Lundgren, NCS Colour


You can trust what you see

All productions of NCS Colour Products are rigorously checked, controlled and certified by the NCS Reference Lab to ensure that the final products have the perfect colour appearance. The target for the colour matching is a tolerance below 0.3 ΔE00 to ensure the best result.

NCS Colour Scan - Scanning Colour Surface

“We are proud to be able to say that we can offer you the best quality on the market that ensures your quality, colour communication and your customer trust and confidence.”

Anders Nilsson, NCS Quality Centre Manager


NCS quality level

Diagram of NCS Quality Level

The key to achieve the level of accuracy demonstrated by NCS is the accuracy of the colour standards; the master colour references that represent the target for production. We are using digital standards and communicate with suppliers using a cloud-based colour quality platform called CAPQ. The CAPQ platform is developed by NCS in collaboration with the automotive industry with the aim to enable accurate communication of colours in all supply chains.


More about NCS Colour

We have developed products and services as well as educational activities to support professionals with their colour work. Below are some examples:

COURSE: NCS in Design
Learn the professional methodology and strategy on how to communicate and work with colour.

A large album with detachable colour samples showing you all NCS 1950 standard colours for easier colour choice, design and communication.

DESIGN TOOL: NCS Colour Samples:
Reference samples in three different sizes, A9, A6 and A4. Perfect for creating mood boards or building colour concepts.

A helpful tool that identifies colour on any surface, such as textile. Colourpin gives you the NCS Notation with translations to RAL, CMYK, RGB and L*a*b.

CAPQ is a cloud-based platform for digital colour management and collaboration around colour development and quality control.

For more information regarding our products and services, please contact us at



Color Project European (CPE)
NCS Colour