For Open Standards and Open Content

Jan-Peter Homann and the board of freieFarbe e.V.

Digital color communication between different applications, operating systems and production solutions touches in several areas the field of commercial versus open licences. This article gives an introduction to this topic and describes how the team of (freieFarbe e.V.) handles these issues.

For Open Standards and Open Content

If we have a look on color from design to the final product, we see an ecosystem of commercial solutions and production solutions from different vendors. To exchange smooth and easy color data inside this eco system, two things are necessary:

  • Open standards to describe color independently from the final output or production solution
  • applications and solutions supporting these standards.

Projects maintained and published by the team of (freieFarbe e.V.) are based on open standards for colour.


Open Standards

Open standards are maintained by global standardization bodies. Some relevant standardization bodies in the area of colour are:

CIE – Commission Internationale de l’Eclairage

CIE “The International Commission on Illumination – also known as the CIE from its French title, the Commission Internationale de l´Eclairage – is devoted to worldwide cooperation and the exchange of information on all matters relating to the science and art of light and lighting, colour and vision, photobiology and image technology”. (Source: CIE)

In 1976, CIE published the CIE 1976 L*a*b/L*C*h* color system to describe color on reflecting objects independently from the type of object. The CIE 1976 L*a*b color system can be used to measure colour, specify and communicate color e.g. in the area of painted surfaces or printed objects.

ISO – International Organization for Standardization

ISO “is an independent, non-governmental international organization with a membership of 163 national standards bodies. Through its members, it brings together experts to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus-based, market relevant International Standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges.” (source: ISO)

If color is connected to industrial production and e.g. painted surfaces, it is probably standardized by ISO. ISO cooperates with CIE by publishing e.g. joined standards and by referencing each other standards. From a broad view on color, paint and ink, and industrial production, there are dozens or even hundreds of ISO standards which are connected to color.

Some relevant standards for (freie Farbe e.V) are e.g:

  • ISO 11664-4:2008 Colorimetry — Part 4: CIE 1976 L*a*b* Colour space
  • ISO 17972 Graphic technology — Colour data exchange format
    (family of ISO standards for digital color exchange in the graphic arts)
  • ISO 15076 — Image technology colour management
    (Joint standard with ICC for color management in the graphic arts and print industry)

ICC – International Color Consortium

ICC “The International Color Consortium was established in 1993 for the purpose of creating, promoting and encouraging the standardization and evolution of an open, vendor-neutral, cross-platform color management system architecture and components. The outcome of this co-operation was the development of the ICC profile specification. ” (Source: ICC)

For color critical work in Windows, Mac and LINUX applications including connected printing systems as also the area of professional digital photography, commercial and packaging printing: colormanagement with ICC profiles is the defacto standard and also standardized through ISO 15076.

IEC – International Electrotechnical Commission

IEC “Founded in 1906, the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) is the world’s leading organization for the preparation and publication of International Standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies. These are known collectively as “electrotechnology”. (Source: IEC)

Based on work from Microsoft and HP, IEC published the standard IEC 61966-2-1:1999 – Multimedia systems and equipment – Colour measurement and management.

This family of standards is describing e.g. the sRGB colorspace of an standardized computer display. sRGB is the defacto color standard in web and mobile media, consumer digital photography and office applications. sRGB IEC 61966-2-1:1999 is also the colour reference for all W3C standards for web and mobile media.

Through the sRGB ICC profile, color data from these sectors can be interchanged with the graphic arts world.

Open Content

If e.g. photos, artworks, texts, music and other content is published in the digital sphere, the creator(s) should specify, if and who is possible to share or modify this content. If e.g. photos, artworks, texts, music and other content is published in the digital sphere, the creator(s) should specify, if and who is possible to share or modify this content.

Open Source

Because of this, our tools are published under Creative Commons Licence Attribution 4.0, which allows to modify, share and integrate the tools in commercial solutions. If our tools are integrated in commecial solutions, the licence and the team (freieFarbe e.V) have to be referenced.

The team (freieFarbe e.V) welcomes and supports all open source projects related to digital color. Our goal is to make digital color flow both through commercial design and production solutions as also through open source applications. So we are more focused on Open Standard than on Open Source. Further informations on Open Source projects connected to color can be found e.g. here