What is RAL

October 3 2019 What is Ral?

The RAL colour chart system are used by designers, painters, architects, marketers and anyone else who uses a range of colours. The RAL system is made up of 5 different colour charts. RAL Classic is by far the most popular and commonly known version of the RAL  colour charts available. Here will look at all five colour charts and explain what makes each one unique.


‘RAL’ is the abbreviation of ‘Reichs-Ausschuß für Lieferbedingungen und Gütesicherung’. Or in English, this is translated to the ‘National Commission for Delivery Terms and Quality Assurance’.


The RAL colour chart was invented in 1927 by the German RAL organisation. Prior to 1927, manufacturers and customers had to exchange colour samples and tints to get their colours matched. From 1927, this changed to the RAL numbers.

At the beginning there were a collection of 40 colours. In 1961, this was revised to a system of 213 colours that can still be found today. At this time, names where also attached to colours to avoid customers getting confused.

Structure of RAL

The collection of 213 RAL colours are structured clearly, as you’d expect from a german system. 188 of these are body colours, 2 are micaceous iron colours, 5 are daylight luminous colours and 15 are pearlescent colours.

These 213 RAL colours all have a 4-digit number assigned along with the letters RAL. The first digital is a system code number:

  1. Yellow                              50 colours
  2. Orange                             14 colours
  3. Red                                   34 colours
  4. Violet                                12 colours
  5. Blue                                  25 colours
  6. Green                               36 colours
  7. Grey                                  38 colours
  8. Brown                              20 colours
  9. White and Black              14 colours

The remaining 2 digits are sequential e.x. RAL 2003. When requesting a colour, it is recommended that you use both the code and colour definition to avoid confusion. To learn more, see our colour chart here.

RAL Design

In 1993, RAL introduced an update for those who required more than just the 213 colours that were on offer. This saw the creation of RAL Design, a collection of 1,625 colours. These colours follow the internationally recognised CIELab colour system. The colours in RAL Classic and RAL design do not intersect. RAL design has been tailed to the needs of architects, designers and advertisers, who need a deeper range of colours.

Where RAL Classic has a 4 digit code, RAL design is clearly identifiable due to its seven digit coding. This is formatted into a 3 2 2 format i.e. RAL 200 20 25. RAL design does not have colour names assigned to each code, meaning knowledge of the code

RAL Effect

The RAL Effect is the 3rd RAL colour chart. It comprises of 420 solid colours that harmonise with 70 metallic colours. It is based on the 100 most popular colours from the RAL Classic collection. This colour chart is based around the waterbourne paint system. There are no heavy metals included in this selection of colours. The RAL effect colours are separate from both the RAL Classic and RAL Design colour systems.

The RAL Effect has a separate coding format. It has a simple four digit coding system e.x. RAL 690-1. The last number/letter is always separated with hyphen, ensuring it won’t be confused with the RAL Classic.

RAL Plastic

RAL Plastic is a colour standard designed specifically for plastic. It is made up of 300 colours. These can be separated into two categories:

  1. RAL Plastic P1 – This the 100 most popular RAL colours from the RAL Classic range
  2. RAL Plastic P2 – This range is based on the more diverse range of colours that can be found within RAL Design.

The RAL Plastic range is based on a Polypropylene material.

RAL Plastic P1 follows a four digit and one letter coding format e.x. RAL 1004-P. The four digit code matches that found in the RAL Classic colour chart.

Similarly, the RAL Plastic P2 follows a similar format to that found with the RAL Design coding. Once again you will find the addition of a hyphen with a P and occasional T. e.x. 300 20 30-P or 210 70 35-P-5

How do I choose the RAL Chart for my business?

At McConnells Coatings, our team of experts are trained to match your colour needs. They have a range of colour swatches for you to check the match on your desired colour. Our team have the skills and expertise to save you reading through endless amounts of information for finding the perfect colour. Whether you are matching a colour for an exterior or interior wall, a concrete surface, steel beam, a shed or even some pottery, our team will guide you to your perfect paint.

You will also receive information about how to prepare your surface to ensure you get the best value from your paint purchase.

To see our range of RAL Classic colours, Click Here

To speak with discuss you paint query with our expert team, email info@mcc.ie and one of our experts will guide you.