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All about the new RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus

The structure of the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus is based on the internationally applied L*a*b* colour system laid down by the CIE (Commission Internationale d'Eclairage) in 1976. The a* axis represents the green–red component (negative values for green and positive values for red; the b* axis represents the blue–yellow component (negative values for blue and positive values for yellow); and L* axis represents the lightness value (0 = darkest black and 100 = brightest white). The true neutral grey value is at a = b = 0. The CIELab colour distance formula is described in detail in DIN 6174.

In the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus, the first three digits represent the hue (H), the next pair of digits represent the lightness (L) and the last pair of digits represent the chroma (C). For example, the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM colour 270 30 20 is a dark blue with the hue H = 270, lightness L = 30 and chroma C = 20.

Special attention should be paid when using non-grey shades as they have the hue H = 0. However, in the colour designation, the first three digits of the colour must be 000 and should not be omitted, otherwise they can easily be confused with RAL CLASSIC colours. For example, the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM colour 000 50 00 is a grey colour shade (hue H = 0 and chroma C = 0) that should not be described as 5000 like a RAL CLASSIC colour. In contrast to the grey of the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus, the colour RAL 5000 is a highly saturated blue colour shade.

The new RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus is the innovative development of the tried and tested RAL DESIGN SYSTEM. It contains more colours, more products and more services for our core target groups from the craft, colour design, design, architecture and industrial sectors.

The fundamental extension of the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM in 2018 also involved the development of auxiliary designations for these colours. These serve to support the mathematical determination of the colour position and provide the user of the colour with stimulus and inspiration. In addition, a colour DNA was developed for each colour in cooperation with the colour researcher Prof. Axel Venn.

However, the primary and decisive factor for the determination of a colour and its suitability in practical application remains the position of the colour (hue) in the CIELab colour space, which is clearly defined by the number of the colour.

The new RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus offers a wide variety of different innovations that make working with RAL Products even simpler, easier and faster. In addition, it offers additional possibilities for easy and perfect colour design with new products.

The RDS+ includes the following innovations:

  • 1,825 colours with 200 new, pastel shades
  • The perfect combination of clearly defined colours and creative inspiration
  • New products
  • International => multilingual (DE, EN, CN, FR, RU)
  • More products in the RDS+ In addition to the tried and tested colour fan decks, colour boxes and atlantes, there are now also inspiring design books and plastic samples for the most popular colours
  • The perfect design tool for every design concept
  • Increased user-friendliness for all products
  • Every colour with a new auxiliary designation
  • New, fresh product design (transport of the RAL COLOURS values: innovation and reliability)
  • The service plus: There is extensive information available for every colour and an innovative colour DNA for all 1,825 colour shades

The selection of new colours offers the users a greater selection, above all in the light, pastel shades. In addition, new colour dosing possibilities were used in the industrial production of colours to offer colour shades that could previously not or only be produced with very high expenditure (off-whites) when the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM was introduced 25 years ago.

In addition, the new colour shades have closed smaller gaps in the existing system, providing the users of the new RDS + with even more options to use basic, simple colour concepts based on the structure of the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus

When developing the concept for the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus, the CIELab colour circle was divided into segments of 10 degrees. As the human eye can perceive more shades in the yellow-red area, an additional three intermediate segments were built in here. A total of 39 colour shades (hues) therefore form the basis for the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus. These colour shades show a medium to high brightness and a high saturation, which make them the ideal "representatives" of this colour. They are the "loudest", most intense colour shades for the respective hue.

For innovative, creative and still clear, reliable colour design. The combination of clearly defined colours, creative design tools and an infinite number of suggestions (keyword: design and trend information) makes the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus the perfect colour design selection for all who deal with this topic professionally.

The new RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus is suitable for anyone who deals with the topic of colour design professionally. Regardless whether craftsman, architect, designer, scientist or manufacturing company, the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus always offers the right solution.

The new RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus provides an excellent opportunity for the clear and unambiguous communication of colour in a colour design process, among all involved and through all production stages. The RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus offers the certainty that all involved achieve the desired result at the end of the design process. There are a variety of products available, ranging from the well-known RAL D2 colour fan deck for colour comparisons and customer discussions, to individual colour samples in different sizes for the development of one’s own colour collections or the development of mood boards.

COLOUR DNA is a new concept developed by RAL that describes the basic properties of a colour and its suitability for specific areas. In order to do so, RAL cooperated with the colour researcher Prof. Axel Venn, to describe the historical development and basic properties of the 39 hues of the RDS+. These properties are published on a monthly basis by RAL COLOURS and can be downloaded free of charge.

The second step involved classifying the respective lightness and saturation gradations of the hue according to 10 different criteria. These 10 criteria were then again divided into five sub-criteria, each of which has five possible characteristics, from “Very weak” to “Very strong”.

This provides the user with a differentiated and multi-faceted picture of a colour that allows them to rely on a very extensive and diverse range of tools during fundamental considerations on colour design.

The general idea at RAL COLOURS is that the use of colours always depends on the environmental surroundings, specific situation and requirements of the client. It is therefore not possible to have a generally valid formula in the sense of a mathematical equation for the use of a colour or colour tone.

In addition, it is conventional wisdom that colours combine certain basic characteristics that are widely recognised and undisputed. It is therefore our aim to provide impulses with the RAL COLOUR DNA and to inspire the users to relate more closely to the colours and their properties.

Despite all the technical possibilities that exist today to see a colour on a screen, there are so many influencing factors that it is always highly recommended to have a physical sample of the product at hand for a true representation of the colour. There are an almost infinite number of conceivable constellations depending on the specific computer and monitor profile, the printer settings and the use of RGB or CMYK values, that could prevent or complicate the faithful reproduction of a colour.  

All RAL colour fan decks have an original paint coating that conveys a realistic impression of the colour. All RAL COLOURS products undergo a sophisticated metrological and visual inspection process before being released and thus reflect a perfectly defined colour.

Yes, RAL DIGITAL is a software that integrates all RAL COLOURS – RAL CLASSIC, RAL DESIGN and RAL EFFECT – for graphic design and CAD programs. The software contains information on RGB, CMYK and HLC, as well as Lab and HEX values, and offers many design functions. RAL DIGITAL 5.0. also makes it easy to find the perfect colour shade or create harmonious colour combinations based on a wide variety of criteria and specifications.

The new RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus represents the ideal product, with a wide range of different products for all areas of application. Regardless whether a quick colour comparison using the RAL D2 colour fan deck or the development of a sophisticated colour tone with the help of a RAL D6 box, the products of the new RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus meets all the requirements of our customers, no matter how diverse, thanks to the infinite possibilities. In addition, RAL P2 provides the 200 most popular colours as plastic samples. The design books offer our customers yet another option to be inspired, draw impulses and develop new ideas for modern colour design and clear colour communication.

The new RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus continues to consistently focus on the CIELab colour space with the introduction of the new colours. The colours of the RAL CLASSIC colour collection, on the other hand, are randomly distributed in the colour space, as they have been developed over the course of years to meet very specific requirements and not developed to correspond to a particular system. As a result, the colours of the RAL CLASSIC and RAL EFFECT colour collections are not part of the new RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus.

The RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus is a colour system that contains 1,825 colours and is based on the international CIELab System. The RAL CLASSIC colour palette, on the other hand, represents a historically evolved colour collection that was developed primarily based on the needs of the industry and has undergone many changes over the last 90 years.

In RAL CLASSIC, the first of the four-digit colour numbers indicates the basic colour shade that a colour belongs to and the subsequent three digits of the colour number were randomly set over the course of decades. The colour numbers of the RDS+ consist of seven digits and provide detailed information on the position of the colour in the colour space by indicating the hue, lightness and saturation of the colour.

The RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus is a colour system that contains 1,825 colours and is based on the international CIELab System, while RAL EFFECT is another RAL colour palette. This colour collection contains 70 metallic colours that harmonise with the remaining 420 solid colours. Unlike RAL CLASSIC or the new RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus, RAL EFFECT colours do not have any auxiliary designations. The RAL EFFECT colour collection also contains the 100 most popular RAL CLASSIC colours. The colours can be downloaded here .

There is also the possibility to acquire the 200 most popular colours of the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus as plastic samples. The name of the product is RAL P2 and contains 160 opaque colours and 40 transparent colours.


The multifunctional plates, which are made of polypropylene, make it easier to represent the RAL colours in the plastic segment and thus significantly extend the areas of application for the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus. Regardless whether household appliances, toys, any kind of packaging, alone or combined with other materials, plastics are today found in all areas of daily life. Colour design in conjunction with plastics has in the meantime therefore become just as common as colour concepts in architecture or art. It is therefore only logical that RAL COLOURS has also developed the most important colours as plastic samples.


The versatility of the material, colours and many areas of application are illustrated by the three levels of plate thickness and three different surface textures. Colorimetric details and further information can be found on the protective sleeves that the plates are packaged in.

The RAL BOOKS series was first introduced in 2005. The revision of the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM and a clearer structure of the individual product lines has seen each book assigned to a product line. As the books, THE COLOUR DICTIONARY, COLOURS FOR HOTELS, RAL COLOUR FEELING 2016+ and the latest book published by RAL, COLOURS FOR BODY, MIND & SOUL, are all based on the RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus, it made sense to assign these books to the new RAL DESIGN SYSTEM plus product line. In addition to the practical work with the various design tools, RAL COLOURS also offers its customers an infinite wealth of inspiration within each product line.