What is a RAL Colour?

An image showing a RAL Colour swatch booklet with over 200 colours

What is a RAL Colour?

RAL has been the global language of colour since as far back as the 1920s. The German-led initiative - an abbreviation of Reichs-Ausschuss fur Lieferbedingungen - started life as a general quality assurance directive, but soon became synonymous with creating a standardised naming and numbering convention for colours.

The RAL system has evolved into many different schemes and palettes for different areas of industry, but the most notable is the RAL CLASSIC range of colours - currently weighing in at 215 different shades. If you've ever set foot in a showroom for new furniture or paint, you'll probably have been handed a colour wheel or swatch with RAL colours. They are an essential part of private industry and the public sector too.

The Need for Standards

Precise and defined colours have played a pivotal part in the manufacturing industry for over 100 years. Their names are understood around the world and can be clearly communicated across different languages and media. Not only does it negate the risk of misunderstanding, it makes colour-matching and selection less of a grey area (or a RAL 7035 Light Grey area to be precise).

RAL in the Home Improvement Industry

What does RAL have to do with bathrooms and heating products? Take a custom-made radiator, for instance. One of the most popular applications for RAL colours on our website is for creating bespoke, colour-matched radiators and towel rails. The RAL colour system ensures that you can receive a radiator in the same hue as other products in your home, if that is the look you are trying to achieve.

More importantly, it ensures that the needs of the customer are effectively communicated to the manufacturer. You may be in the market for a "black" radiator - but that is an extremely ambiguous colour. Anyone in the fields of graphic design will attest to this; there are thousands of potential colour variations. The RAL system simplifies this process by allowing a choice of subtle variants such as Jet Black (RAL 9005), Graphite Black (RAL 9011), and Traffic Black (RAL 9017) being 3 of the most popular examples.

Confidence in RAL Colours

With shopping habits shifting away from traditional bricks-and-mortar stores, it is more important than ever to accurately represent the products being sold via Internet channels. There are many slight discrepancies that can occur when photographing a product or producing a CGI image of it. The desire for ultra-fast loading times on websites means a lot of product photography is reduced in quality and scale before being displayed to the customer; the result being that the colour you see on screen vs on a colour swatch is not an exact replica.

This is where the RAL colour scheme comes to the rescue. Our product descriptions and technical specs mention the RAL colour used on a certain product, where it has been communicated to us by the manufacturer. And for custom-made products that allow a choice of colours, we'll provide you with a list of available RAL colours so that you know exactly what to expect when you place your order.

Other Standards & Services

Whilst the RAL scheme offers over 200 colours in their core range, and over 1000 in their extended colour palettes, there has always been a trend towards uniqueness, especially from brands at the top-end of the market in their respective sectors. If you've chosen new wall paint in the last 20 years, you'll probably have been overwhelmed with the amount of choice available, and the unique colour names which don't help when trying to find a lower price!

We don't provide the painting service for products we offer - that part is handled by the manufacturer, or occasionally outsourced to a firm local to them. Therefore you may find certain products on our website offer alternatives to RAL colours. Some of our vanity units come painted in Farrow & Ball colours, for instance.

To simplify the process on more mass-market products, some manufacturers offer a smaller selection of popular RAL colours, to ensure a quick turnaround and an easier selection process for customers. It's a fair system too - in a country where most bathrooms are the same single shade of white, you don't need a choice of hundreds of shades for your cabinet or furniture.

In Summary

The RAL scheme provides a simple and informative standard to shades of colours across all parties involved when buying a custom-painted product, from the process of a customer selecting a shade right through to the manufacturer interpreting it and producing the finished article. It's known across the world, transcending language barriers. And most important of all, it ensures the customer receives what they expect, no matter how many third-parties are involved in the manufacturing process!

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