This new CPD from NCS UK looks at factors affecting colour perception, the relevance of lightness and LRV, the concept of colour mapping, how we see colour, and the properties of colour. One of the main effects is that we think the colours we see are lighter and brighter than they actually are: less black and more chromatic.
In other words a colour sample that may look slightly dull in the studio will look stronger and lighter on a façade. Several factors may be responsible for this change in perception. Our new CPD explains some useful aspects of choosing colours for exteriors.
How colours look outside
The perception of façade colours is not constant. It changes with the position of the observer, the distance, the weather, the season, the light, etc. One of the main effects is that we think the colours we see are lighter and brighter than they actually are: less black and more chromatic. In other words a colour sample that may look slightly dull in the studio will look stronger and lighter on a façade. Several factors may be responsible for this change in perception. These are colour samples from a study where a number of architects were asked to make judgements about the colour of buildings from a distance (the perceived colour) and then to match the actual, inherent colour by putting colour samples against the surface.
We are all aware of the change in perceived colour over longer distances. We see it frequently in photographs or when we look out over a distance of hills and trees. Since many buildings appear in surroundings of natural vegetation it is useful to know a little more about the inherent colours of nature and the NCS System can be useful in mapping, analysing and plotting these colours. All green inherent colours have some yellowness and tend to have hues G40Y and G50Y and nuances 5040 to 6030. However we have seen how green colours become bluer as the viewing distance increases – so if you want your building to look green at a distance a more yellow green hue should be chosen.
Distance also affects how light and dark colours are perceived, regardless of hue. The difference in lightness between a building and its surroundings is probably the most important factor contributing to recognition of its form, particularly at a distance when difference in hue may not be so apparent. Even at close range the difference in lightness between colours is important for defining different parts of a façade. NCS Exterior includes a table of visual lightness and LRVs.
A special collection of 322 Exterior colours selected as being most suited to the exterior environment. The Exterior Design Guide included with the boxed set highlights some of the main issues which have been taken into account in compiling the collection including colourfastness and sustainability of pigments, inherent and perceived colour, and historical and contemporary exterior colour. The fanbook includes 252 matt façade colours with page size 50 x 140mm and a further 70 low sheen colours for trim with 5 colours per page. Presented in a sturdy slipcase together with an Exterior Design Guide. Light reflectance values (LRV) are included for decisions regarding heat absorption of surfaces, while visual lightness values are given for making creative judgments.
The colour identity of an area and its surroundings
An area, its buildings and surroundings are often unique and will have very particular colour characteristics. Many cities around the world have now developed colour plans to ensure their unique character. Examples of these are Moscow, Hong Kong, and Lisbon where plans have all been based on the same type of analysis using NCS.
The award winning ‘Design guide and colour study’ by the architects department at Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council showed a commitment to ensure good design throughout the region. Colour is one of seven design principles used collectively in planning considerations.
The comprehensive colour study was based on days of on-site research across the borough, using NCS to identify key colours. Four distinct colour palettes were developed to reflect the colours found and observed in each area - areas that vary from moorland to industrial. Referencing the colours to the NCS Colour System ensures that these colour palettes can be translated accurately and successfully into the built environment.
Newhall Colour Palette
Newhall is a distinctive new neighbourhood in Harlow Essex. The masterplan demonstrates how high quality contemporary architecture located within a site that responds to its context can create an identity for the neighbourhood. To achieve this, the Newhall Design Code stipulates a colour and materials palette to be used to create contemporary architecture. This is based on the belief that every settlement can be distinct by virtue of its mineral setting.
A detailed study by the artist Tom Porter of the materials and colours used in local traditional architecture in the area informed four palettes which are used to describe facades, roofs, paintwork and floorscape. Quality materials include hand-made bricks, Welsh slates, and granite setts and kerbs for street details.
Newhall demonstrates that the intrinsic differences of every site can inform development proposals to create distinct places that have a character and identity of their own. It also illustrates that you don’t need fake elements and pastiche to make a place identifiable; high quality contemporary architecture located within a site that responds to its context can create highly successful identifiable places. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
NCS UK offers colour services, products and training for specifiers and manufacturers. The full range of NCS products is shown online together with interesting case studies, CPD, and a link to NCS Navigator. NCS - Natural Colour System is an international colour standard used worldwide by major coatings and other surface product manufacturers.
More information on this and other case studies can be found on our website.
NCS colour training
We offer free access online CPD units and run two full day workshop style colour courses.
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