The Natural Colour System

History | How the System works | Licensed SA Companies

NCS is the understandable international colour order system for colour selection, specification, communication and the control of colour in design, architecture, research, marketing and manufacturing. It is based on how people see colour.

The logical colour notation system builds on how humans see colour; a notation represents a specific colour precept and describes the colour visually. It is not dependant on the limitations caused by pigments, light rays or nerve signals.

The Swedish government took the initiative on colour determination and classification in the 1950s and what has evolved is the NCS, which has become the international standard for colour classification. South Africa is compliant; the South African Standard (SANS 1091), which adopts NCS, was enabled in 2004. For additional information

Corporate colour consultant and colour specialist Lisa Taylor was instrumental in the adoption of The NATURAL COLOUR SYSTEM (NCS) by national authorities. Since then she has converted various other public and private sector manufacturing and colour specifying bodies to the NCS because of the accuracy of its colour notation formulas and matching principles.

The understandable international colour order system for colour selection, specification, communication and the control of colour in design, architecture, research, marketing and manufacturing. NCS is based on how people see colour.

“Since a colour system shall in the first hand describe visual sensation, it seems logical that such a system is based on how man sees colour,” says Prof Gunnar Tonnquist, Physicist

Colour is what we see, a result of visual sensation. To characterise a colour, you have to describe what you see. It is not enough to identify a colour with its pigments and mixtures or with wavelengths and physical stimuli. How the colour is mixed and the measurement data is necessary for production, but to communicate you need a system that describes how people see colours.

A perceptive colour system such as NCS begins with colour appearance according to the perceptual attributes of hue, chromaticness, whiteness and blackness, which makes it possible to use the system within different areas of colour design. An NCS notation represents a specific colour percept and says nothing about which pigments, lights rays or nerve signals have given rise to this perception.

Colour is considered to be of great importance in our milieu. Psychologists have tried to explain to what extent people react similarly to different colour stimuli and whether colours have any specific effect on human behaviour. In research NCS is often a necessity when sampling colours for psychological tests, when making general conclusions throughout the colour space and when illustrating this.

Since its launch in 1978 NCS has become a colour designing system for projects in which colour is an important element. NCS is a tool, which makes it possible to communicate, analyse, plan, choose, produce and control colours in an unambiguous way. When working on a colour design proposal, you can use NCS to analyse existing colours, for example, on carpets or text.  In the building trade, materials, such as decorative laminates, wallpapers, flooring, textiles and paint materials, are often specified in the NCS notation as standard to show their colour range. This is because NCS is the common language in colour design.

It is also easy to illustrate ideas and present proposals with NCS colour samples, even when colour planning for whole cities. NCS is used wherever colour is needed, and is the most specified colour system in Europe. It is the official standard colour system in several countries and unofficially the “de facto” system in many others.

NCS in South Africa

NCS is now the national standard for South Africa. Most manufacturers should be able to match the system, given that it is based on how the human eye perceives colour. Contact Standards South Africa (a division of the SABS) on Office Address:
1 Dr Lategan Road

Postal Address:
Private Bag X191
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 6883
Fax: + 27 (0)12 428 6928
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

With NCS we make sure everybody speaks the same language!