Free color – more important than ever

Free color – more important than ever

Question: Why are there actually hundreds of color systems and collections, where each one of us only has a color perception?

The current situation in the world of color is comparable to the fact that there is no standardized meter measure, but hundreds of lengths of the various suppliers. The variety of systems is by no means helpful because it requires constant color system comparisons at work.

Larger providers like to label their collections as “global color communication” and at the same time protect it against imitation and comparison. Some brand owners even claim ownership of individual colors.

Today’s world of color could be better (= more practical for us users and much freer), because on every desk there is a computer that not only allows free color but also brings it home!

Freedom from copyright

Several manufacturers have the business model of color collections. There are no formulas behind these color systems, they are not calculable and may not be so as not to jeopardize the business model. Calculated color systems, e.g. RGB or CIELAB, on the other hand, are not protected and can therefore spread freely.

Unfreedom from trademark law

There are 95 registered color marks in Germany. Examples: Beiersdorf-Blau (Pantone 280), Milka-Lila, Telekom-Magenta (RAL 4010). These colors may not be used by any competitor for competing products. See alsoWikipedia.

What does this mean in practice?

As a professional color user, you are constantly faced with color system comparisons: which is the right adhesive film for a company color, how can I put it on the Internet, on the facade or in the four-color printing, etc. Likewise, you are facing harmony questions: what suits my starting color , How do I make sense? The most popular manufacturers’ collections almost always remain with their respective collections. This is no wonder, you should not use any other colors.

What do we suggest?

It would be better if one were to be directed everywhere according to completely calculable and license-free color models, which are long ago in each computer.

In the computer color is infinitely calculable and comparable. Nearly every software allows free color input and calculation, and the so-called “color management” is fixed in all major operating systems. Calculated (purely mathematically determined) colors are copyright and license-free.

From our point of view, a rethinking is needed: away from the manufacturers’ collections – to calculated colors.

Which free color model is the most useful?

Although CMYK is common in prepress, it is too narrowly limited by the available color range to be a useful general model. SRGB is included in every computer program, so it can be used immediately, but it also has a limited color space and is a little technical perception. CIELAB is the standard in color measurement, and thanks to its perceptible definition, device independence and no gamut restriction the better model. However, CIELAB is still lacking in popularity.

A market gap!

For RGB and CIELAB there are no color samples, which meet professional requirements. Formulations for printing, varnish, facade, plastic and textile paints are also not available. There is RGB and CIELAB in computer, but in “real life” only in insufficient form.

Fixing this would make the color application easier and cheaper. We want to help fill this huge worldwide market gap – do you participate?


Holger Everding, Color software maker