NCS Color: Natural Color System

NCS color picker

NCS Color or the Natural Color System is based on exactly what the word implies – natural colors. The colors are exactly how the eyes naturally see red, yellow, blue, green, white and black. This color system is commonly used in painting, decorating and designing, and with the new color specification under this system, there are now over a thousand colors available.

The NCS color system began in Sweden, a method created to describe colors as perceived by sight. Since 1979, it has been the country’s color standard, the same standard also followed by three other nations, namely: Spain, Norway and South Africa. NCS colors are familiar to those who are in the interior design or graphic industry, being the basic color descriptions used in decorating and painting schemes.

It took fifteen years to develop NCS. Its aim was to create a color system that can visually create colors. Today, the system is involved in the development and making sure colors are accurate where architecture, interior design and paint production are concerned. In the design industry, colors in the NCS system are represented by letters and numbers to show the degree of the values in it.

Swedish flag in yellow and blue colors

Take for example the Swedish flag with its shades of blue and yellow. Under the NCS system, the hues are represented this way:

Blue – NCS 4055-R95B

  • darkness – 40%
  • saturation – 55%
  • blue – 95%
  • red – 5%

Yellow – NCS 0580-Y10R

  • darkness – 5%
  • saturation – 80%
  • yellow – 90%
  • red – 10%

Other than Sweden, Spain, Norway and South Africa, NCS color is signified in 19 more countries. The color trend forecast publisher International Color Authority also uses the system as one of its interior design and textile market standards.

Basic Facts about NCS Color

Kitchen drawings and design on a table. NCS catalog for color selection

  • It was the Scandinavian Color Institute that first published this color model proposed by Ewald Hering, a German physiologist.
  • The system uses printed reference cards to match colors instead of mixing colors.
  • It describes colors naturally and may not be applied to other color formats like RGB which processes colors differently.
  • Other colors besides the 6 elementary colors (white, black, yellow, red, blue and green) are a merging of colors under the NCS. For instance, the fusion of red and yellow produces the color orange – the normal color notation in this color format. With RGB however, mixing red and green appears as yellow on monitors, not reddish green.
  • Percentage, saturation and chromaticity are the values that characterize the NCS colors to show depth of darkness and the percentage amount of two colors combined, where the remaining percentage makes up for the whiteness (should there be any) in the created hue.

Copying or reproducing the original color samples of the system is prohibited but the samples may be availed from any duly authorized NCS distributor or directly from the Scandinavian Color Institute. This is to ensure that the safety standards and health practices relative to the use of the color system is strictly observed, especially now that it is gaining wider popularity and use in many parts of the world involved in design and architecture.