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announcing the latest British Standard Colour Range


Architect's memo 3: September 1980

The development of British Standard Colours – The origins of standard colours.

The development of a range of standard colours goes back to 1930 when the British Standards Institution realised there was a need for standardised colours. In 1945 it produced a leaflet entitled “Flat Colours for Wall Decoration.” This showed samples of the standard range of that time – ten pastel colours – and was referred to as BS381 WD.

The BS 2660 range

In 1955 appeared the first comprehensive range of standard colours for the building industry, known as BS2660. This was considered a tremendous range at the time as it co-ordinated civil aviation colours, camouflage colours, post office colours, identification colours for pipes etc as well as incorporating most of the colours of the previous standard range. However, the British paint manufacturers were reluctant to accept this as they thought it was far too large and complex with 101 colours. Also, some of the colours were difficult to achieve with the current paint technology.

In 1969 Resene was the first New Zealand paint manufacturer to supply all the colours in the range. This was considered innovative, but we were limited by the quality and range of pigments available in those days. It was not simply a question of producing a matching colour – overcoating, weather resistance and resistance to fading also had to be considered. The fact that architects had been waiting for such a comprehensive choice was evident by the success of our BS2660 colour range at the time.

Development of the BS5252 range

The Standards Committee in the UK aware of the limitations in the BS2660 range and aware also of the opportunities offered by new and better pigment technology, decided to have another look at the whole question. They put together a draft framework of colours entitled DD17.

This draft came out for the building industry in 1972 under the title of BS5252 and became the standard in 1976. It was never intended that any paint manufacturer should attempt to produce every colour in this range, but that it would provide a framework of colours which would include all likely possibilities.

The BS4800 range

The paint industry in the UK appraised the BS5252 range and decided that the colour range they would adopt would comprise 88 of these colours. This was known as BS4800 and was adopted in January 1973. Resene, aware of these moves and remembering the success of our BS2660 range, lost no time in producing a range conforming to BS4800. This was released in February 1973, just one month after the adoption of the BS4800 in Britain and made us the first paint manufacturer in New Zealand to conform with the new standards. Although paint manufacturers in the UK stopped production of their 2660 colours with the advent of the 480 range, we realised there was still merit in the 2660 colours so we retained the availability of this old range.

Resene's 5252 range

Architects and painters had, in the meantime, become aware of the existence of the full 5252 range and some demands were being placed on us to produce a larger range of colours. Fortunately, we had done an enormous amount of work on our tinting system which made it right at the forefront of tinting technology. It was this that permitted us to bring out the full 5252 range available in all our finishes – to our knowledge, the only paint manufacturer in the world making available the total of 238 colours. We are sure that the availability of so many new colours will be greatly welcomed by Architects and Colour Consultants alike. They will provide endless new colour combinations and exciting possibilities for colour design.

Download as a pdf. (You will need Acrobat Reader).


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Colours shown on this website are a representation only. Please refer to the actual paint or product sample. Resene colour charts, testpots and samples are available for ordering online.   See measurements/conversions for more details on how electronic colour values are achieved.