Lesson 2 of 3
In Progress

Foundation of the NCS

Colour is a visual phenomenon

French colour scientist Michel-Eugène Chevreul once said that colour only exists if there is an observer. So true!

The scientist behind the NCS system concluded that very same thing. In order to develop a universal colour system or language, one that can be used by everyone, it needs to be based on what we see. In other words, colour is a visual phenomenon. But how do we see colours?

You need three things to see colour

We see colour when light is shining on an object that is seen by an observer. First, we need incoming light. When light hits an object, the observer can see the colour as a nerve impulse is sent to our brain. 

So, you need three things to see colour:

1. Light

2. An object

3. An observer

You can see up to ten million different colours

And we see colour in a very similar way. Because we see all colours in the same way, we tend to describe colours in the same way. This was the first very important realisation before developing the NCS. This means that when you see a shade of red, we all see the same red colour and will all describe it as the colour red. The interpretation of a colour may be different, depending on our personal relation to the colour. But the perception is the same.

Six elementary colours

To be able to describe all ten million colours, we need reference points. 

Scientists have proven that most human beings are born with an understanding of six main colours. These are the elementary colours of black, white, yellow, red, blue and green. Which is why a lot of children’s toys are those colours. Young children understand these colours.

Why is green an elementary colour?

Many people ask this question, and the answer is quite simple. We are not talking about the mixing of colours, which is what a lot of people base that question on. All colours can be mixed in different ways. But there is only one way to perceive a colour. A pure green is not yellowish or bluish. It is green. All elementary colours can be defined in the same way. An orange colour, however, will always be both reddish and yellowish.

Elementary colours in the NCS system

With these 6 elementary colours the scientists built the NCS System that makes it possible to describe all 10 million colours that we see.