Color History Section

About Federal Color Card for Paint TT-C-595

The following text is a transcript of an article published in Journal of the Optical Society of America (JOSA), September 1951. The article describes the then-new Federal standard TT-C-595, the first attempt at color standardization in the United States and thus a direct predecessor of FED-STD-595. Indeed, the first issue of FED-STD-595 from 1956 was derived from it. The text is being reproduced here by kind permission of the Optical Society of America.  (Ed.)

The Federal Color Card for Paint contains reproductions of 187 paint colors done in nitrocellulose lacquer by the McCorquodale multiple paint depositing process.

The purpose of the Color Card, as stated in the text preceding the pages of colors, is to present in a convenient loose-leaf book a collection of color spots which the various government agencies may use in the procurement of paint and of other related colored materials. The Color Card is therefore not a color system in the sense of the Munsell Book of Color, which may be used as an auxiliary method for the speci1ication of color, but it is intended to provide a simple practical means of indicating the colors used by various government agencies.

Each color deposit is designated with an arbitrarily selected number based generally on its hue and glossiness. By means of an index of these selected numbers, following the pages of colors, one may identify the service agencies using the particular color as well as the number, name, or other designation previously used by that agency for indicating that paint. For examples, paint deposit No. 1305 is National School Bus Chrome Yellow adopted by the National Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Commission on Safety Education;3 paint deposit No. 1205 is Aviation Surface Orange and has previously been designated as International Orange by the Army-Navy Aircraft Standard AN 508, the Department of the Army Specification 3-1 No. 106, the Department or the Navy Yards and Docks Standard No. 18, and the U. S. Coast Guard.

Listed therein are 315 such designations. Previous to the issuance of Federal Specification TT-C-595, procurement of paint for some colors required the stocking of several varieties of colors just perceptually different from each other. For example, paint deposit No. 1310 yellow is indexed for separate color chips of silt different agencies. There are a number of such instances of similar duplications as well as an indication that further coordination is needed especially for the gloss browns (including those browns listed under miscellaneous), the gloss and lusterless greens, some of the gloss and lusterless blues, the grays, the lusterless yellows, and some of the blacks and whites.

The similarity of some of the colors is indicated (page 4 of the text) by an example in which the manufacturer was required to reproduce 25 colors differing by one NBS unit of color difference or less and at the same time to avoid overlapping of one sample with neighboring samples.

This book could not have become a reality without the cooperation of the various participating governmental agencies, and their representatives serving on the Federal Specifications Board on its Paint, Varnish, Lacquer and Related Materials Technical Committee. Special commendation is due to the manufacturer, the Magill-Weinsheimer Company, Color Marketing Division, Cleveland, Ohio, under Mr. Frank J. Roetzel, who solved the special production problems arising from the unprecedented, large size of the color spots and the high density of pigment for some of the dark lusterless color spots.

There have been other national color cards for ready-mixed paints. One was published by the British Standards Institution for Great Britain in 1930, and revised in 1948. The National Research Council of Canada published a schedule of standard. paint colors in 1944, with a revision in 1950. The RAL Farbtonregister 6 published in Germany in 1944, pertained not only to government use but also to all uses of paint by the German industry. There were possibly other national color cards for paint, but of the ones that were examined only the 1948 edition of the British Standard 381 C was done previously in the McCorquodale Colour Display, Ltd., patented process.

The Federal Color Card for Paint was fostered by Mr. Eugene F. Hickson, retired chief of the NBS Paint Laboratory, and then chairman of the FSB, Technical Committee on Paint, Varnish, Lacquer, and Related Materials. He appointed Mr. C. R. Cornthwaite of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance, Department of the Army, as the chairman of the Subcommittee on the Federal Color Card for Paint. Mr. Donald B. Hanley of the Standards Branch, Federal Supply Service, General Services Administration, served as Technical Advisor to the Technical Committee. Mr. Paul T. Howard of the NBS Organic Coatings Laboratory (and the present chairman of the FSB Technical Committee on Paint, etc.) together with Messrs. Cornthwaite and Hanley served as a committee for the inspection and acceptance of the completed Federal Specification TT-C-595. Miss Ruth Sachs, U. S. Navy Purchasing Office, served as legal advisor and supervised the bids and contract. H. J. Keegan of the National Bureau of Standards Photometry and Colorimetry Section served as technical advisor on color, prepared the text, arranged and numbered the color samples, and acted as liaison in most of the development phases. Mr. Keegan and Dr. D. B. Judd of the same section, in cooperation with the Navy Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, prepared those parts of the printing contract relating to color and acted as referees in adjustments of the color matches submitted by the printer.'

As stated in the text, a complete spectrophotometric and colorimetric standardization of these present colors are to be made in the Photometry and Colorimetry Section of the National Bureau of Standards. Similar statements are made in both the British and Canadian color cards. It is understood that the British measurements are to be made at the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington, and the Canadian measurements at the National Research Council at Ottawa. This spectrophotometric study does not include the stability measurement of the permanence of the colors. It is well known that some paints fade when irradiated, so that repeated measurements are required for this investigation.

With the publication of the Federal Color Card, additional obligations arise-namely, that of the reproduction of separate chips for individual agencies for procurement purposes. In some Cases, chips in lots of 10,000 or more may be required for some of the agencies. This reproduction, however, is only at the planning stage.

It is reasonable to expect that in time the Federal Color Card will be revised. It was for this reason that the pages of colors were inserted into a loose-leaf binder for ready revision. At that time accommodations will be made for those agencies who did not have samples to submit for the present edition, and to enable those who wish to change their present colors. It is hoped that the standardization data will be available to assist agencies to decide what samples should be added or dropped from the Federal Color Card for Paint.

A black-and-white illustration of one of the pages of the book is shown in Figure 1 and the text of Federal Specification TT-C-595 Colors; (for) Ready-Mixed Paints is as follows:

Colors: Ready-Mixed Paints. Federal Specification TT-C-595, 12 January 1950

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