HLC Colour Atlas v. 1.0 released

"Christoph Schäfer" christoph-schaefer at gmx.de
Tue Feb 6 02:23:08 UTC 2018

Hi all,

After a year of hard work freieFarbe/freeColour is pleased to announce the completion of its first major project, the "HLC Colour Atlas", which is a truly open colour system based on mathematics and unrestricted by copyrights or trademarks. It has been created by colour professionals from Germany and Switzerland.

The atlas comprises the following elements:

- a printed reference (A4, ring binder) of 2040 colours, based on the intuitive HLC colour model (Hue, Lightness, Chroma), with increments of 10 between each hue. It also includes colours that can't be reproduced in regular CMYK workflows (spot colours). Unlike commercial products, its colour precision is extremely high, with a DeltaE00 of 0.5, i.e. colour differences between two copies of the atlas can only be measured but not perceived, even by a trained eye. Each atlas is being produced with a Fogra-certified high-end proof printer on Fogra-certified paper by a Fogra-certified company. Each copy is also being shipped with a production record (ISO 12647-7:2016);

- a printed introduction and usage instructions in German and English;

- colour palettes with LAB values for Adobe software (ASE format) and in Swatchbooker's SBZ format, as well as sRGB versions for LibreOffice (SOC), GIMP (GPL) and Scribus 1.4.x (XML). Please note that Scribus 1.5.x already includes the SBZ file, and an sRGB version is being shipped with LibreOffice since version 5.4.x, as well as the current officially stable Scribus 1.4.6.

- A PDF master file of the atlas with layers for different output targets (e.g. sRGB, ISOCoatedV2);

- XSLX files with colour conversion tables and QC report;

- a CxF v.3 file which includes the colour data in spectral values.

All files are available for download here: https://www.freiefarbe.de/thema-farbe/software/

The latter is important, because we want to enable others to create their own reliable references without having to ask for permission or paying licence fees. Thus, an ink manufacturer can simply load the CxF file into its formulation software and create the correct mix for his particular inks. Manufacturers of other colourants (e.g. paint, textile colours or plastics) can do the same, provided their software is supporting CxF, which is an open standard. This is also the reason for us not to publish any mixing recipes, because all necessary data to reliably recreate a colour are in the CxF file, so the recipes can be created and customised by software.

Whilst the digital files are available for free download under a CC licence, the printed reference needs to be paid for, because production and certification are quite labour-intensive (introductory offer: EUR 99.-- until 31 March 2018, later: EUR 149.-- plus VAT and shipment costs; see: https://shop.proof.de/index.php?language=en).

freieFarbe/freeColour are convinced that the "HLC Colour Atlas" is not only a true and open alternative to Pantone, HKS etc., but we also think that the very high quality standard of our printed reference will be hard to match. 

Our next step is to fill in the necessary paperwork to make this open colour system a DIN SPEC with the German industrial standards organisation DIN (April/May 2018). From there it will hopefully be moved on to ISO to make it an international standard (time frame unknown).

Special credits go to Matthias Betz, Holger Everding, Jan-Peter Homann and Eric A. Soder, who did all the heavy lifting, as well as Gregory Pittman, who wrote a Scribus script that reduced the creation of the print PDF for the Atlas to a matter of seconds. freieFarbe/freeColour is also grateful to ColorLogic GmbH, Epson Deutschland GmbH and GMG GmbH & Co KG for generous technical support. The high quality of the atlas is owed to the producer, Proof GmbH.


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