HLC Colour Atlas

HLC Colour Atlas and new HLC Colour Atlas XL

We developed the HLC* Colour Atlas and see it as a new basis for all stages of professional colour communication – from design to the final product. The printed atlas is the central tool. The ring binder contains 2040 CIELAB-HLC colours (over 13.000 in the XL Version), which are systematically arranged by hue/base colour, lightness/brightness and chroma/saturation.

Ring binder Page with hues H90 and H100 Media wedge for quality control


The HLC Colour Atlas is produced by Proof GmbH on an Epson SC-P9000V Spectro printer with high effort for quality optimisation. This printing system is mainly used for prepress, fine art printing and art reproduction proofing. Thanks to the additional colours orange, green and violet, highly saturated colours can also be produced. To further increase colour accuracy, interactive CMYK optimisations are carried out on the software side. In this way we achieve a mean DeltaE2000 of 0.8, most colour fields even a DeltaE2000 of smaller than 0.3. The achieved colour accuracy was not yet feasible a few years ago, it is close to that of the far more expensive varnish printing.

You can buy the HLC Colour Atlas in the Online-Shop of Proof GmbH. The price is 149 Euros or 399 Euros for the XL version plus VAT and shipping.

Free software package

The following files can be downloaded from the download page:

  • PDF version: HLC Colour Atlas for soft proofs on screen, for printing, for fast gamut comparison (CIELAB, sRGB, CMYK according to FOGRA39/51/52).
  • Measurement report of the printed HLC Colour Atlas with target/real values comparison and DeltaE calculations (Excel).
  • ASE colour libraries for the Adobe CS and CC programs, with which you can use the colours shown in the atlas directly by mouse click in the applications
  • sRGB and CMYK colour value tables in Excel format
  • Spectral data 380-760 nm at 10 nm intervals: the CXF3 format is compatible with industrial colour formulation systems in various industries, such as printing inks, coatings, plastics or textiles.

We want to spread the idea of free colour: you are welcome to pass on the data – commercial purposes are also permitted (Creative Commons licence CC-BY-ND 4.0).

Basis: CIELAB colour model (HLC)

HLC Colour Wheel in 10° hue angle increments

The atlas is an exemplary implementation of the CIELAB colour space, which was introduced by the Commission Internationale de l’Eclairage in 1976 and has since established itself worldwide in colour management, colour measurement and colour formulation. The model has great advantages:

  • not only certain gamuts, but all visible colours are clearly defined
  • free predictability (e.g. any gradation, counter colours, intermediate colours)
  • perceptually structured by HLC: intuitive according to hue/brightness/saturation, easy to understand
  • unhindered distribution, since mathematically defined, not protectable and license-free

Open Standards, Creative Commons Licence, non-profit organisation

The project is completely based on open standards – for colour definitions it is the CIELAB colour model, for the production of physical samples it is proof printing systems according to ISO 12647-7 and for the exchange of spectral data it is the CxF file format. All data is published under CreativeCommons license. This means: All users can freely use the developed colour data and samples and further develop them.

With the non-profit freieFarbe e.V., the focus is not on economic considerations, but on promoting open and free colour communication, which we consider urgently necessary. That is why we see ourselves as a suitable supporting body of the project.

The experience also flows into our DIN SPEC 16699 research project “Open Colour Communication”, which describes colour communication based on free and open standards.

Thank you for contributing

The HLC Colour Atlas project is the result of intensive cooperation between the experts within freieFarbe e.V. Additionally, external partners generously support the project.

freieFarbe Members

Jan-Peter Homann oversees the project with his expert knowledge and he also represents the approach in a research project for the German Standards Institute (DIN). Holger Everding initiated the creation of a Lab-based colour reference toolset by producing Lab and HLC fan decks covering the 4C offset printing gamut. Peter Jäger contributes to the project with design and public relations work. Eric Soder supports it in terms of design as well as conceptional and technical assistance. Matthias Betz contributes English texts, produces prototypes and final products, and he undertakes the distribution as well.

ColorLogic GmbH

… is “an independent company focused on the development of world-class color management technologies and products”. ColorLogic supports the project with software that is used for the automated spectral measurement and quality optimisation of thousands of individual colours, the creation of quality protocols, and file format conversions.

GMG GmbH & Co. KG

“GMG is a leading developer and provider of high-quality color management software solutions.” (Website) GMG sponsors proofing media and software for constant and colour-consistent printing and for quality control and documentation in the production process.

Epson Germany GmbH

The leading global player in the field of printing systems sponsors the printing ink required for the project.


Gregory Pittman wrote scripts for the automated creation of colour swatch tables. Along with Christoph Schäfer, he also edited English texts.

*Note: In colour science, the notation “LCH” or “LCh” is commonly used. The order “H-L-C” expresses the usual procedure for colour matching according to “hue – lightness – chroma” and is otherwise identical in content.