Who we are

We are a non-profit association of professional colour users. We want to provide hints and advice regarding consistent colour use across all areas of application, as well as demonstrate how the world of colour could be a little easier to handle. And we want to show that a computer is an ideal tool for working with colour, not the least because it can liberate colour!

Join us! On our website you'll find a blog, which allows you to add your own articles. You can also contribute comments that show interesting colour-related examples from your field of expertise, and useful hints.

And there's much more to come soon!

Most parts of this website are still in German, as FreieFarbe is still working on a complete translation of the German original (freiefarbe.de).


...is the detailed website (for the time being) in German

What we want

The founders of FreieFarbe / FreeColour are convinced that currently available proprietary and aggressively protected colour systems aren't the best solutions to handle colour.

Hence FreieFarbe's / FreeColour's dedication to promote and work on the following objectives:

In other words: We want to liberate colour from its proprietary chains! This website attempts to focus on the various good approaches to achieve this goal.

We want to encourage an open and constructive exchange on the options and opportunities which is open for everyone.

Did you know...

...that hundreds of colour collections from commercial colour vendors are competing for the customers' attention? Major vendors of colour systems are protecting their products from copying and comparisons. They are claiming intellectual property rights to "their" colours. That's the world of colour in 2015. It could be better (= more practical for us users and much freer)!

"...any cross-referencing, in whole or in part, to any PANTONE Color system, including, but not limited to, the PANTONE numbers and PANTONE Colors, by third parties, may be a violation of PANTONE, Inc.'s proprietary rights and is strictly prohibited..."

Quote from a Pantone colour fan.

"... the use of (...) the complete or partial, similar or identical production of RAL products is only allowed with the express authorisation of RAL gGmbH. This applies to all products and types of use, in both physical and digital form..."

Quote from the RAL-K7 colour fan

"Being an NCS Licence Partner means that you benefit from the rights of making references to NCS and to refer to the NCS logo and trademarks in your market communication."

Quote from the NCS website

In Germany alone, 95 trademarks for colours are currently registered. Examples: Beiersdorf-Blue (Pantone 280), Milka-Violet, Telekom-Magenta (RAL 4010). These colours can not be used by any competitor for competing products. See the (German) article in Wikipedia

We believe: External property of colour is an external claim to our emotions. As only selected colour collections can be protected by copyright, mathematical systems like e.g. RGB, CIEHLC, CIEL*a*b*, HSB offer a license free, comprehensive, infinitely variable and vendor-independent colour communication.

The Future: CIE L*a*b* and HLC

One step to liberate colours is the universal adaption of the CIE L*a*b* colour model, and this includes end users. Since CIE L*a*b* isn't very intuitive, FreieFarbe / FreeColour also promotes the use of the HLC (Hue, Lightness, Chroma) colour definition, which is easier to handle than pure L*a*b*. From a user point of view, it's similar to HSV in the RGB colour model, but much more reliable and flexible.

Each CIEL*a*b* colour can be expressed in L*a*b* or in HLC values. HLC is easily comprehensible as Hue, Lightness, and Chroma (Saturation).

Free Colour – more important than ever

Professional colour users are in constant need of colour system comparisons. What is the right adhesive foil for a company's colour? How can I transfer the colour to the internet, to the storefront or a professional printer? And the list goes on. Time and again the problem of colour system comparisons arises, as well as questions of colour harmonies (what colour harmonises with my orgininal colour, how can I gradate it reasonably?). Most well-known vendors of colour systems answer those questions almost exclusively within their collections. (No surprise here, because we are not supposed to use other colours.)

Imagine how easy to handle the world of colour could be if everyone would use a universally calculable colour model!

To achieve this, people need to rethink and change their behaviour. It's necessary to abandon closed colour collections. The computer can do the necessary work and is the tool of choice today. It makes colours infinitely calculable and comparable. Moreover, calculated colours cannot be protected by copyrights, patents or trademarks.

Which mathematical model makes the most sense? CMYK is widespread, but its gamut is too limited to serve as reasonable and common model. RGB is being used in all computers and can therefore be used immediately, but its gamut is limited as well. Moreover, it's a technical description of the colour model used by the display device and hence doesn't take into consideration the perception of the human eye. CIELAB is common in colorimetry; it's perception-oriented, device-independent and has no gamut limitation, which makes it the better model. Unfortunately, CIELAB is, at least until now, not well-known.

In addition, precise, systematic and complete colour samples for both RGB and CIELAB aren't available. The same goes for real-world conversions to print, varnish, house paint, plastic or textile colours. RGB and CIELAB may exist in computers, but in real life, they're largely absent.

If this could be changed, the use of colour wouldn't just be made easier and cheaper, it would also bridge a giant gap in the market worldwide.

Founders of the association

Jürgen Opitz
architect, technical planner for colour

Reinhard Zerfaß
advertising agency

Peter Jäger
Grafik-Design und Media-Schulungen

Holger Everding
colour software developer

We founded the non-profit organisation "freieFarbe e.V." which was officially registered in October, 2016.


Freeware, source code, ICC profiles, PDF files - here you'll find various kinds of software and data related to FreeColour. The list will be continually extended.


Colors! COLORS!: Colour Collection with hundreds of commercial colour systems, HLC and LAB input and "EasyMatching". Unfortunately without the "big" systems, because these demand licence fees. (German) Windows · Macintosh
3D Farbraum
(3D Colour Space)
Shows colour systems in the three-dimensional CIELAB colour system. About 30 colour systems are being displayed. It's possible to recognise the possibilities and the gaps, which is also helpful in teaching and training. It includes the calculation of colour harmonies. (German) 3D Farbraum (Windows)
Palettes Here you have free access to c. 300 colour systems as colour palettes for many programmes (e.g. Brillux for Adobe CC, Caparol for CorelDraw etc.). There are about 10,000 colour palettes available. Current free access: FreieFarbe, 000000 Palettes website
ColorZilla Add-On for Mozilla Firefox with useful features: Select a colour from the screen and copy its Hex-values, create gradients, and more. Freeware. Add-On download page
QuickGamma Highly elaborated Monitor Calibration Programme, written by Norman Koren
Free for private use.
Quickgamma Win 7

Open Colour Systems Collection (OCSC) 2.0

More than 370 colour systems for inclusion in software and for personal use. The new version 2.0 uses (depending on the file format) RGB or LAB colour values. It also provides plain text files with LAB values, as well as photos of the fandecks for free use and redistribution under a CreativeCommons licence.

Adobe Swatch Exchange ASE files for Adobe and Corel Products
(SHA1 checksum: fea350149e2b95af55f36e283fe597f279d3f79c)
GIMP Palette GPL files for GIMP, Krita, Calligra Office, Inkscape and Mypaint
(SHA1 checksum: c0eefb3a74f658c9c201d5671b4af6a085650cbb)
SBZ SBZ files for Swatchbooker and Scribus 1.5.x
(SHA1 checksum: 6b2bab7dde9e5fe9e8778ee9f79f31edcaa8cef8)
SOC SOC files for LibreOffice, OpenOffice.org and Apache OpenOffice
(SHA1 checksum: 318d8fbaf391b0ec39fa433e807e3ec658381376)
Scribus XML XML files for Scribus 1.4.x
(SHA1 checksum: da456792dc89445022ab4ae1af3f5ccedc722cd6)
CLF LAB colour values as plain text files (CLF)
(SHA1 checksum: e65fd94db7f0d6484df9ce0cf0288ecd328ec655)
OCSC 2.0 complete package including above palettes, colour fandeck images and infos, RGB value files, OCSC logo
(18,6 MB; SHA1 checksum: e65fd94db7f0d6484df9ce0cf0288ecd328ec655)
OCSC 2.0

Calculations and source code

Ceasy.Filter ColorConverter Photoshop plug-in that enables users to determine colour values picked in a bitmap file in various colour models (RGB, CMYK, Lab, LCH/HLC etc.). The source code is freely available. Colorconverter.8bf
LittleCMS An advanced Open Source colour management engine, which is being widely used. LittleCMS can convert images using ICC profiles and also read IT8 test charts and write ICC profiles. littlecms.com
remission2lab Excel file including a VBA macro to determine LAB colour values from spectrometrically scanned remission values (400–700 mm). Thousands of LAB values can be calculated by pressing a push button. remission2lab.xls
lab2lch_lch2lab Excel file to convert LAB colour values to HLC / LCH and vice versa. lab2lch_lch2lab.xls

ICC Profiles

Here we have assembled links to some of the most important ICC profiles.

Colormanagement.org basICColor (Karl Koch, Penzberg). A comprehensive collection of ICC profiles for many use cases. The website also provides test images with respect to the CIELAB colour model and for screen calibration. ISO/FOGRA-ICC-Profiles
sRGB RGB according to HP and Microsoft has been established as a de facto standard for RGB with monitors and desktop printers, even though its gamut is smaller than, for instance, CIE-RGB. sRGB Color Space Profile
PSO coated (FOGRA 39) The current version of the standard for offset printing on coated paper (CMYK) CoatedFOGRA39

Your contribution

Do you know other downloead sources that may be relevant to this site? Did you create something yourself that you'd like to be linked to from FreeColour? Please send us a description, and we'll gladly add it to our link collection.


December 18, 2016

Open Colour Systems Collection (OCSC) 2.0 Available for Download

As of today, FreieFarbe/FreeColour and dtp studio oldenburg have made available a collection of more than 360 commercial colour systems under a Creative Commons licence: The Open Colour Systems Collection (OCSC) 2.0. The included colour palette files can be included into own software and software programming projects for free distribution. OCSC 2.0 includes:

The Creative Commons License 4.0 license is an important part of the "free colour communication" objective. Apart from free distribution, it assures that the diverse programmes and platforms are working with the same colour values and palettes.

Download OCSC 2.0 here!

Contact Address

FreeColour/FreieFarbe e.V.
c/o Holger Everding
Grünteweg 31
D-26127 Oldenburg
Tel. +49-(0)441-3001807

Responsible for the contents of this website:
Reinhard Zerfaß, Jürgen Opitz, Holger Everding
Translations: Christoph Schäfer