What Does Ral Mean?


If you’ve ever chosen a new vehicle or office colour, you’ve more than likely used something similar to the RAL system, but what does RAL mean?

In short, it’s a colour matching system to help you find that perfect shade of off-white for your latest paint project. Think along the lines of the colour charts you see in home improvement shops or the pantones used in printing.

The Beginnings of RAL

RAL stems back to 1927 when the German RAL group created their first ever colour collection to standardise colours. The original colour chart had 40 colours, meaning manufacturers and customers could get the exact tint they wanted without needing to swap physical colour samples.

But what does RAL mean and how is it related to colours? RAL is an acronym for Reichs-Ausschuss für Lieferbedingungen, which roughly translates to the National Commission for Delivery Terms and Quality Assurance.

Their work paved the way for colour matching as we know it, and nearly 100 years later, the original 40 colours are still in use. But a few more have joined along the way, with over 2,500 verified colours now in use.

How Does the RAL System Work?

As the RAL system grew, so did the categories of colours. These are the four main RAL colour charts:

  • RAL Classic - The original collection, consisting of 213 colours, all with 4-digit numbers and additional names to identify them.
  • RAL Design - These colours were a later addition from 1993. It comprises over 1600 colours for architects, designers, and advertisers needing a broader range of tones. They’re all different from any of the classics and have a 7-digit identification code relating to the hue, lightness, and chroma/intensity of each tone.
  • RAL Effect - The third chart uses waterborne paint systems and doesn’t use any heavy metals. There are 420 solid colours that balance with 70 metallics.
  • RAL Plastics - The colour standard specifically for plastics. It comprises of 300 colours based on popular hues from the Classic and Design ranges.

When asking, “what does RAL mean?” RAL often refers to the classic colour chart unless stated otherwise.

It’s worth noting all official RAL fan decks now have a hologram to help prevent forgery. Imitation colours can look different in certain lighting conditions, but you know exactly what you’re getting with RAL.

Choosing the Best RAL Shade for You

Whether you’re in the market for concrete floor paint, vehicle chassis paint, or marine paint, we’ve got the right shade for you. Take some time to browse our RAL Colour Chart to see the wide selection on offer.

Of course, you’ll never get a totally accurate colour through a computer or phone screen due to the differing screen settings. Please do contact us if you need any extra help choosing your paint.