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T r a n s f o r m a t i o n of NCS data into CIELUV

colour space


The CIE 1976 (L*, u*, i,*) system, abbreviated CIELUV, and the Swedish Natural Colour System
(NCS) have b e e n compared. The data for the NCS was transformed to Cr~.UV; the
transformation involved taking the CIE tristimulus values of the nominal NCS notations, i.e.
the colorimetric aimpoints representing the NCS, converting these values to Cr~.UV and
plotting them in the CIELUV space. All the data has b e e n calculated using CIE standard
illuminant C and the 1931 standard observer. Although the data shows that no simple linear
relationship exists b e t w e e n the NCS and CIELUV systems, the systems may nevertheless be
considered closely related. Of the existing colour order systenm, i.e. NCS, Mummll etc., the
NCS is closest to Cn~.UV. As NCS represents the perceptual and cognitive aspects of colour
better than CIELUV, the NCS may be considered as highly appropriate for a descriptive
specification of colours for VDUs.

feywords: colour, Natural C~lour S~tem, 07~7.UV, colour VDOs

During the last decade, perceptually based colour spaces Colour order systems that have been applied to com-
have come into use for colour selection and presentation puter graphics and image processing are the Munsell
in computer graphics and digital image processing appli- System j, the OSA Uniform Color Scales', the CIE 1976
cations. Traditionally, the RGB (red green blue) space (L* u* v*)2-5 and CIE 1976 (L* a* b*)5 sysI~ems~abbre-
has been used for digitally controlled colour television viated CIELUV and CIELAB, respectively, and the
monitors. Although it is computationally easy, colours Swedish NCS system5. As found by Berk, Brownston
and colour differences defined in terms of digital RGB and Kaufman 6-7, for interactive colour selection, the best
values are not closely related to the appearance of col- colour space would be a space where colours are defined
ours. Colours defined in numerical RGB values are not according to fundamental attributes perceptually as well
related to the perceptually relevant dimensions hue, as linguistically. The CIELAB and CIELUV correlates
chroma (chromaticness, saturation), and lightness of lightness (L*) and chroma (C*,~, C*,,) are close to
(blackness, brightness). natural variables of perceived colour. Hue angle (h~,
h,,), however, is not as close to natural language colour
As the appearance of colours on a display is a major characterization as the NCS hue notation. As NCS well
function of variations in perceptual dimensions, knowl- represents perceptual and cognitive aspects of colour,
edge about these is of extreme importance for a success- it may be considered highly appropriate for the specifi-
ful and effective use of colour for VDUs. Considering cation of colour appearance. It is now being used for
the fundamentals of colour perception, there is thus a notation of colours and interactive and/or automatic
need to translate RGB values into a colour space where selection of colours for VDUs s.
colours are defined in terms of perceptual attributes and
where colours expressed in terms of these attributes are The NCS, as developed by H~rd, Sivik, and Tonnquist ~-~2,
uniformly spaced. is a purely perceptive colour system in which colours
are easily described by graphical illustrations as well
National Defence Research Institute, Man and Informa- as by letter-digit notations. As a practical illustration
tion Systems, FOA 53, Box 1165, S-581 11 Link6ping, of the system, the SIS/NCS Colour Atlas 9 has been avail-
Sweden able since 1979 as a Swedish standard. From 1984, it

DISPLAYS,OCTOBER1987 0141--9382/87/040183--10$03.00© 1987Butterworth& Co (Publishers)Ltd 183

has also been a Norwegian standard for colour notation. notations, representing every tenth unit of hue, black-
The Swedish NCS system is based on Hering's opponent- ness, and chromaticness were transformed into CIELUV
colour theory 13-~4, and on research and development by space. These NCS notations were chosen because, with
Johansson tS and Hesselgren 16. the exception of the extrapolated colours with chroma-
ticness equal to 100**, they closely represent the colours
The three basic variables of the NCS are hue (~), black- illustrated in the NCS Colour Atlas 9. The aimpoints for
ness (s), and chromaticness (c). In the NCS colour space, the samples in the NCS Colour Atlas are available from
the six elementary colours, yellow (Y), red (R), blue the Swedish Standard SS 01 91 0322.
(B), green (G), white (W), and black (S) constitute cogni-
tive, natural reference points. Any colour perception has The transformation into CIELUV space was made using
a resemblance to two, three, or four of these elementary the CIE standard illuminant C and the modified formula
colours, and the degree and composition of these rela- for low values of luminance (Y). The transformation into
tionships represent the colour we thereby identify ~°,17. CIELUV space was made using the following formulae23:
The sum of the chromatic attributes defines the chroma-
ticness of the perceived colour, and their ratio defines L* = ll6(Y/Y~) 1/3- 16 Y / Y , > 0.008856
its hue. In the NCS hue circle, the unique hues, yellow, u* = 13 L* (u' - u',)
blue, red and green are arranged at 90 degree intervals. v* = 13 L* (v' - v'.)
The hues are notated in relation to the two related
unique hues. 4X 9Y
with u' = v' =
X+ 15Y+3Z X+ 15Y+ 3Z
The purpose of this study was to compare the NCS
and the CIELUV systems in more detail than has been , 4X n 9~
done before ~s-19.In earlier studies, the NCS and the CIE- u"=x.+ 15Y.+ 3Z. v'.=X.+15Y~+ 3Z.
LAB systems have been compared 1~-2°.
The tristimulus values X,, Y., Z. are the tristimulus
values for CIE standard illuminant C24:
METHOD X. = 98.07 I".= lO0.O0 Z. = 118.23
The Swedish Standard SS 01 91 0121 covers NCS
notations representing every fifth unit of hue, blackness, The CIELUV metric correlate of lightness is L*. Per-
and chromaticness. To each of these nominal NCS ceived chroma (C*.,), and hue (h~,) were calculated for
notations the standard relates the CIE tristimulus values each NCS notation according to the following defini-
evaluated in accordance with the CIE 1931 standard tions:
colorimetric system for the standard illuminant C. Thus,
these represent the colorimetric aimpoints of the NCS. CIELUV 1976 u, v chroma: C*~v = (u .2 + v*2)'/2
It should be emphasized that, while CIE values are used
to define colours in other colour order systems, they hue angle: h~, = arctan (v*/u*)
do not define the colours in the NCS System, the NCS
variables being perceptually defined. The relationship where huv lies between 0* and 90* if u* and v* are both
between NCS colour notations and the instrumental CIE positive, between 90* and 180" if v* is positive and u*
values was obtained in psychometric experiments and is negative, between 180* and 270* if v* and u* are both
applies only to the defined condition for visual assess- negative, and between 270* and 360* if v* is negative
ment and instrumental measurement ". The purpose of and u* is positive.
the NCS Colour Atlas 9 is merely to illustrate the NCS,
thus facilitating its practical application.
In this report, the tristimulus values of the nominal NCS
The NCS data is plotted in the CIELUV (u', v') diagram
*Conditions for visual measurement (extract from SS O1 and on the CIELUV metric chroma diagram (u*, v*)
91 OF~). The colour sample, about 40 x 50 mm, against for values of NCS blackness of 00, 20, 40 and 60, in
a white background in a light-grey surrounding, is illumi- Figures 1 and 2. The data points for each of the NCS
nated by diffused 'standard daylight' at an angle about colour triangles Y, Y10R . . . . . G90Y are plotted in the
45* to the surface of the sample with an illuminance of CIELUV chroma-lightness diagram in Figure 3.
about 1 000 lux. It is viewed perpendicularly to its surface
at a distance of about 0.5 m by a person with normal In the NCS system, each hue triangle is equilateral. Verti-
colour vision. Tests have shown that commonly occurring cal lines connect colours with equal chromaticness.
deviations from these conditions do not alter the assess- Oblique lines connect colours with equal blackness. As
ment by more than about 2 units in elementary attributes. shown in Figure 2, when transformed to CIELUV, lines
t Conditions for instrumental measurement (extract from
SS 01 91 0121). The sample is measured in a spectrophot- ~ The tristimulus values given in Swedish Standard SS
ometer with diffuse illumination and a viewing angle of O1 91 O1for the maximal colours (chromaticness = 100)
8* to the normal and with the specular component in- of the NCS hues Y3OR, Y4OR, Y6OR, R7OB, RSOB, B4OG,
cluded. The white standard shall be calibrated against B5OG, and B90G have been incorrectly reproduced in the
a perfectly reflecting diffuser (absolute standard). The standard. The corrected values in this paper have been
evaluation is made in accordance with the CIE 1931 stand- kindly provided by Gunnar Tonnquist in a personal com-
ard coiorimetric system for the standard illuminant C. munication.


550 Y
0,6 600
_ 0



I I I U'
0,2 0,4 0,6
a 400 c


550 600
v' 0 650 600

500 500 - I 5 R

0A 0,4

0,2 0,2

0 l I u' 0 u'
o / 0,2 0,4 0,6 o / 0,2 0,4 0,6
b 450 d 450

Figure 1. NCS data plotted in the CIE 1976 (u', v') diagram for NCS blackness of 00, 20, 40 and 60; the slightly
curved radial lines are loci of constant NCS hue; the concentric contours are loci of constant NCS chromaticness
from 10 up to a maximum of 100

become slightly curved and the hue triangles do not re- as well as with chromaticness. In order to find the most
main equilateral. Thus, there is no simple linear relation representative CIELUV hue angle for a certain NCS
between the two systems, although the two systems seem hue, the mean CIELUV hue angle was calculated for
closely related. For a comparison between the two sys- each NCS hue triangle, i.e. iso-hue triangle, by
tems, the dimensions NCS hue/CIELUV hue angle, NCS calculating the mean hu, of the datapoints of each hue
hlackness/CIELUV lightness, and NCS chromaticness/ triangle. The means and SDs of huv are given in Table
CIELUV chroma were analysed separately. l, in which the values of huv, L*, and C*~, are also
given for the extrapolated colours of chromaticness
NCS hue/CIELUV hue angle equal to 100.

As can be seen from Figure 2, for each NCS hue (~) The transformation of NCS hue to the mean CIELUV
there is a shift in CIELUV hue angle (h~,) with blackness hue angle is shown in Figure 4.



vW y v-W
15g. 15g.

lllg. lee.
i Y

5g. 5g.

g. g.


-Sil. -5g.

- lgil. - lgg.

- 150. - ISg. ! I U~

-15il. -lgil. -59. ~l. 5g. lgil. 152. -15il. -lgil. -5il. il. 5il. lilg. 15g.

a C


V~ V~
15g. 15g.

lilg. lgg.

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B. B.

-sg. -50.

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- 15[J. I I I I I I U~" - 15[[. ! I I I I I U *t

-150. - lgil. -5g. B. 511. lgg. 159. -150. - lee. -5g. il. 5g. lllJl. 15g.

b d
Figure 2. NCS data plotted in the CIE 1976 (u*, v*) diagram for NCS blackness of 00, 20, 40 and 60; the slightly
curved radial lines are loci of constant NCS hue; the concentric contours are loci of constant N C S chromaticness
from 10 up to maximum 100

NCS blackness/CIELUV lightness hues Y, R, B, and G, and the purely grey colours. The
lightness curves for the other NCS hues are all similar
As shown in Figure 3, lines of constant NCS blackness to those shown in Figure 5. They all fall between the
(s) are not horizontal in the CIELUV chroma-lightness curves for Y and R.
diagram. The slopes of the lines vary with NCS hue.
For all hues, there is a systematic decrease in CIELUV
lightness (L*) with increasing NCS chromaticness. The NCS c/uomaticness/CIELUV chroma
mean and SD of lightness (L*) were calculated for each
level of blackness (s). This was done for each hue and In Figure 3, lines of constant NCS chromaticness are
for grey colours. not vertical. In order to find a relation between chroma-
ticness and chroma, the mean and SD of CIELUV
The SDs of lightness varied between 2 and 19 units chroma (C*,v) were calculated for each level of chroma-
and they were generally higher for the lower levels of ticness and for each NCS hue. The SDs of chroma varied
blackness than for the higher levels. In Figure 5, mean between 2 and 16 units. In Figure 6, chroma is plotted
lightness is plotted against blackness for the four unique against chromaticness for the four unitary hues Y, R,

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188 D I S P L A Y S , O C T O B E R 1987
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D I S P L A Y S , O C T O B E R 1987 189
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190 D I S P L A Y S , O C T O B E R 1987
Table 1. The means and SDs of CIELUV hue angle (h.,)
for the colours in each NCS hue triangle, and the CIELUV
hue angle (h,,), lightness (L*) and chroma (C*.,) of
the extrapolated NCS colours with chromaticness of 100


hue h.~ C*,, L*
(O) Mean SD

Y 70.10 4.26 70.75 127.23 90.18

Y10R 62.89 4.81 60.39 130.30 87.49
Y20R 56.31 5.49 49.88 131.27 80.18
Y30R 49.57 6.22 41.06 135.54 73.87
Y40R 43.98 6.40 34.61 140.54 68.75
Y50R 39.22 6.41 29.53 145.12 64.16
Y60R 34.67 6.46 24.14 156.08 60.34
Y70R 29.98 6.44 19.72 164.25 55.89
Y80R 25.38 6.26 15.75 174.91 51.50
Y90R 20.61 5.61 12.52 182.54 46.97
R 14.09 3.72 9.21 176.48 42.46
R10B 5.64 1.13 4.45 161.91 40.41
R20B 355.39 1.39 356.88 147.22 38.73
, R30B 341.57 2.15 342.81 131.90 36.56
R40B 319.70 3.57 321.26 124.90 35.98 Figure 4. Transformation of NCS hue (~) to CIELUV
R50B 299.10 3.54 302.62 132.29 35.98 hue angle (ha,)
R60B 276.28 2.60 282.01 143.70 36.37
R70B 263.21 3.18 269.01 150.14 37.84
RSOB 253.70 4.02 261.04 144.34 40.41 100
R90B 245.55 4.71 253.48 136.07 43.51
B 235.90 5.18 244.71 127.97 47.37
B10G 225.81 5.54 235.25 118.50 50.22
B20G 218.10 5.26 227.94 114.66 52.40 75
B30G 211.21 4.35 219.01 111.75 54.55
B40G 204.45 3.27 210.18 110.35 56.09
B50G 197.68 2.43 200.88 109.61 56.68
B60G 191.05 2.42 193.21 110.60 57.08
B70G 184.82 2.31 186.81 112.28 57.08
BSOG 176.92 3.03 179.17 116.93 57.08
B90G 167.76 3.08 169.08 127.07 57.75
G 153.62 3.24 154.83 146.55 59.43 25
G10Y 140.25 3.71 139.68 150.95 61.22
G20Y 129.41 3.69 128.79 130.45 64.32
G30Y 117.30 2.57 118.43 117.11 67.65
G40Y 105.67 1.49 107.58 111.65 72.23
G50Y 98.57 0.92 100.41 113.15 76.98 I I I IS
G60Y 92.80 1.53 95.23 117.12 81.84 0 25 50 15 100
G70Y 88.16 1.80 90.30 119.78 85.25
G80Y 82.75 2.52 85.20 121.79 87.49 Figure 5. Mean CIELUV lightness (L*) plotted against
G90Y 76.43 3.57 78.62 123.94 89.39 ArCS blackness (s) for the purely grey colours(') and
for the NCS hues Y ([~ ), R (©), B ( + ), and G (A)

B, and G. The curves for the other NCS hues all show
hue angle, lightness, and chroma were calculated for
trends similar to those in Figure 6.
the different NCS hues, levels of blackness and chroma-
ticness respectively. The NCS unique hues R, Y, G, and
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS B have CIELUV hue angles of about 14", 70", 154" and
236" respectively.
The CIE colorimetric aimpoints representing the NCS
colour space were converted to the CIELUV space. The Although the data does not show any simple linear
NCS data were plotted in a CIELUV metric chroma relations between the basic dimensions of the two spaces,
diagram (u*, v*). The datapoints for every tenth NCS the two systems seem closely related in their spacing
hue triangle Y, Y10R . . . . G90Y were plotted in a of colours. In an earlier study, the NCS and CIELAB2°
CIELUV chroma-lightness diagram. Mean CIELUV systems were compared. The spacing of individual NCS


7 Berk, T, Browaston, L and Kaufman, A 'A new col-
C4~ our naming system for graphics languages' IEEE
UV Comput. Graph. and Applic. Vol 2 (1982) pp 37--44
8 Hard, A and Sivik, L 'NCS - - Natural Colour
System: Swedish standard for colour notation'
I~5. Colour Res. and Applic. Vol 6 (1981) pp 129-138
9 Swedish Standard SS O1 91 02 colour atlas (SIS)
IIil. Swedish Standards Institution, Sweden (1979)
10 Swedish Standard SS O1 91 O0 colour notation system
(SIS) Swedish Standards Institution, Sweden (1979)
11 Tonnquist, G 'A comparison between symmetrical
and equi-spaced hue circles' Die Farbe Vol 15 (1966)
5m. pp 376-388
12 Tonmluist, G 'The principles of colour systems' Die
Farbe Vol 19 (1970) pp 31-37
13 Hering, E 'Zur Lehre vom Lichtsinne VI. Grund-
zuge einer Theorie des Farbensinnes' Sitzungsber.
I. I I I I I I Akad. Wiss. Wien, Mathem. - - Natur-wiss., CL.
I. 25. Sg. TS. IBB. 125. 15g. Vol 70 No 3 (1875)

Figure 6. Mean CIELUV chroma ( C*~v) plotted against 14 Hering, E Outlines of a theory of the light sense.
NCS chromaticness (c) for the NCS colour triangles Y translated by Hurvich, L M and Jameson, D
( D ) , R ( © ) , B ( + ) , andG (A) Harvard University Press, USA (1964) (originally
published 1920).
colours when plotted in either a (u*, v*) diagram or 15 Johansson, T 'Characteristic properties of colour
a chroma-lightness diagram are more regular and and colour combinations' Revue d'Optique Theori-
uniform compared to corresponding plots in CIELAB. que et Instrumentale Vol 28 (1949) pp 241-246

The CIELUV system is usually considered to be more 16 Hesselgren, S Hesselgren's colour atlas Color
appropriate for the descriptive specification of the ap- Center, Sweden, (1968)
pearance of VDU colours than the CIELAB system, 17 Tonnquist, G 'Description of colours in video dis-
and this suggests that the NCS may also be useful for plays' Displays Vol 7 No 4 (1986) pp 161-165
the specification of VDU colours.
18 Tonnqulst, G 'Comparison between CIE and NCS
colour spaces' F6rsvarets Forskningsanstalt, FOA
report C 30032-E1 Sweden (1975)

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