What is RAL?
RAL is a colour matching system used in Europe that is created and administrated by the German RAL company which is a subsidiary of the German RAL Institute. We’re lucky there is an abbreviation as the RAL colour standard is the abbreviation of ‘Reichs-Ausschuß für Lieferbedingungen und Gütesicherung’, which is the furthest thing from catchy. This can be translated in roughly as the ‘National Commission for Delivery Terms and Quality Assurance’.
Over the years most people know RAL to refer to the RAL Classic system, mainly used for varnish and powder coating however there are reference panels for plastics as well. In our case, we have a RAL chart on our office wall, so that clients can see the colours available for powder coating.
When you order a RAL product you know for a fact that it is quality assured. Even today, to protect its quality and place in the market for high standards, all products are marked with a hologram to make unauthorised versions difficult to produce. Imitations may show different hue and colour when observed under various light sources.
So how did this all start?
In 1927 the snappy Reichs-Ausschuß für Lieferbedingungen und Gütesicherung invented a collection of forty colours under the name of “RAL 840”. Prior to that date manufacturers and customers had to exchange samples to describe a tint, whereas from then on they would rely on numbers. This made quality more standardised and companies could prepare batches in advance, manufacture more easily and clients would get considerably more consistency.
In the 1930s the numbers were changed to four digits and the collection was renamed to “RAL 840 R” (R for revised). Tints were constantly added to the collection until it was revised again in 1961 and changed to “RAL 840-HR”, which consists of 210 colours and is in use to this day. In the 1960s the colours were given supplemental names to avoid confusion in case of transposed digits.
As “RAL 840-HR” covered only matte paint the 1980s saw the invention of “RAL 841-GL” for glossy surfaces, limited to 193 colours. In 1993 a new colour matching system was introduced, tailored to the needs of architects, designers and advertisers. It started with 1,688 colours and was revised to 1,625 colours and now 1825 colours. The colours of RAL Classic and RAL Design do not intersect.
Overall the RAL system offers consistency and quality. It is an easy to use system for both designers and consumers and offers unparalleled colour standardisation. For a list of RAL colours click here!!
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