CA314/CA220 color palettes

CA314 Color Pallette Wheel  © Will Murray (Willscrlt)
CA314 Color Pallette Wheel © Will Murray (Willscrlt)

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Examples using the CA314/CA220 color palettes
  3. Background information
  4. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
  5. Download the files
  6. Installation
  7. Color charts

Introduction

Color-aid brand colored paper is used by artists for a variety of artwork. The CA314 and CA220 color palettes are digital approximations of the colors printed on Color-aid paper. The color schemes are used in schools to teach students about color theory.

CA314/CA220 were created by me, Will Murray (Willscrlt), for my personal use in an art class. I was supposed to use the real paper (and even bought a Color-aid Standard Pack of 220 colors), but I quickly discovered that I have a severe chemical sensitivity to the turpentine or another chemical in the paint used on the paper. I was permitted to do my art digitally if I could match the Color-aid colors. I contacted the Color Aid Corporation, and the vice president of the company told me they did not have any digital versions of the color. He sent me a sample of each color so that I could make my own, and I told him I would give him the digital files. This page contains those files, and I have released them freely so that anyone unable to use real Color-aid paper may be able to do as I did, and use these digital approximations.

Color “palettes” or “swatches” are provided in the formats that my software can generate. If you can convert them into even more formats so that more people can use them, that would be wonderful. Please provide a link to your files in the comments below.

Examples using the CA314/CA220 color palettes

These are examples of digital art that I have created using these palettes.

Striped Goldfish
CA314 / ©Willscrlt

American Bison
CA314 / ©Willscrlt

Background information

The Color Aid Corporation makes a variety of colored paper packs commonly used by art instructors to teach their students about color theory. Their two most common packs are the Color-aid Full Pack (314 colors) and the Color-aid Standard Pack (220 colors). The two packs are structured differently from one another, and the colors are identified differently as well. Unfortunately, there are several colors that share the same name, but they differ in value between the two sets.

The CA220 color palette is a good approximation of the colors found in the Color-aid Standard Pack of colored paper. It is very intuitive for painters. It features logical color names and gradations between pure hues for those used to mixing paint colors together. All three primary hues are present (Y for Yellow, R for Red, and B for Blue), and so are the secondary hues (O for Orange, V for Violet, and G for Green). In addition, there are six half-step tertiary hues between each of the primary and secondary colors (YO, RO, RV, BV, BG, and YG), and 12 half-steps between each adjacent color (YOY, OYO, ORO, ROR, RVR, VRV, VBV, BVB, BGB, GBG, GYG, and YGY). That gives you a total of 24 hues to play with, but what would art be without tints (a hue with added white), shades (a tint with added black), and tones (a tint with added gray, referred to as a pastel to avoid the abbreviations for tints and tones being confusing). Each hue comes with four tints. Each primary, secondary, and first half-step tertiary hues come with three shades. The other half-step hues come with three tones (pastels) instead of shades. That gives a total of 192 hues, tints, shades, and tone (pastels). The remaining 28 colors include black, white, eight warm tones of gray, eight cool tones of gray, and 20 miscellaneous colors.

The CA314 color palette is a close approximation of the colors found in the newer Color-aid Full Pack of colored paper. It probably is more accurate from a scientifically based color theory point of view. However, it took me a while to become familiar enough with the system for it to feel intuitive when using it. Now that I am, I prefer it to the CA220 colors. Most of the primary, secondary, and first half-step tertiary hues are present, unfortunately though, the 314 named hues do not match their 220 counterparts (e.g. CA314 RO is not identical to CA220 RO).

CA314 provides the following 24 hues: Warm Red (Rw), Red Orange (RO), Orange (O), Yellow Orange (YO), Warm Yellow (Yw), Yellow (Y), Cool Yellow (Yc), Yellow Green (YG), Cool Yellow Green (YGc), Warm Green (Gw), Green (G), Cool Green (Gc), Blue Green (BG), Cyan (C), Cool Blue (Bc), Blue (B), Warm Blue (Bw), Blue Violet (BV), Violet (V), Red Violet (RV), Magenta (M), Cool Red (Rc), and Red (R). The number of tints and shades available depend on the lightness or darkness of the value of the pure hue. Yellow (Y) is very light, so there are only two tints available, but there are four shades and eight tones (pastels) available. Violet (V) is very dark, so there are five tints available, but only two shades and six tones (pastels) available.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are these “official” Color-aid colors?

No (at least not at this time). The Color Aid Corporation does not have a digital specification for their color papers. From speaking with the vice president of the company it sounds like (and I may be wrong) they have different third-party companies calibrate their equipment each year to physical samples. The printed colors painted on the Color-aid paper are matched visually against the masters. While visual comparison by humans may not seem very accurate in a digital age, the results seem quite consistent from year to year and print run to print run.

Since the matching of colors is done using physical inspection, there is no digital standard to compare with. As I mentioned, I spoke with the vice president of the company, and he was interested in providing this type of information to customers, because many people have requested it. I told him that I would be happy to offer the results of my own efforts to anyone who wishes to use it. As a result, this is the closest thing there is to an “official” digital representation of the Color-aid colors, but it still is only an approximation.

Finally, I have no claim to the Color-aid brand, and I am not authorized to use the name Color-aid for these palettes. The colors in these palettes were sampled directly from Color-aid papers, and this was done with the knowledge of the vice president of the Color Aid Corporation, but beyond that, there is no endorsement or authorization (at least at this time) by the company concerning these colors.

How accurate are these colors?

In short, they are fairly accurate for most colors, especially the CA314 colors, which I spent more time correcting.

I was a college student at the time I did this, with a college student’s budget. I did not have the tools or the money to professionally calibrate my scanner and monitors.

Color Aid Corp. provided me with color charts containing chips of every CA314 color, which I scanned using my HP Officejet 6700 Premium scanner directly into Photoshop CS5 using the Adobe RGB 1998 color space. Next, I manually calibrated my monitor as accurately as I could. Then, I viewed the chips under an OttLite full-spectrum bulb and compared them to the scanned color charts, further adjusting my monitor a bit to match the real thing (which essentially means I calibrated my monitor to match my scanner). Next, I tweaked the contrast a bit on the scans to get the full range of values, again comparing them to the originals. Finally, I sampled the colors from the scanned charts using a 51px dropper to average out any artifacts or other small variations within the scans.

For the CA220 colors, I was less precise. Leaving everything calibrated as it was for the CA315 colors, I ran all 220 pieces of CA220 paper in small batches through my scanner’s automatic feeder, creating 220 separate JPEG files. I loaded each file into Photoshop using the Adobe RGB 1998 color space. I sampled the colors with a 101px dropper, avoiding any obvious flaws (streaks, white spots, blotches) in the paper and minimizing artifacts within the scans.

The CA220 colors seem to have a few rather obvious defects in them. The most notable ones are in the shades of the dark value colors (the dark blues and violets turn grayish instead of darker shades of pure hues), the tints of the light value colors (little difference between the tints), and a few of the blues and greens (possibly deliberate by the scanner manufacturer to defeat counterfeiting of currencies?). This is why I feel that the CA220 color palette is only an approximation of the true colors, but it probably is close enough for most academic purposes. The CA314 colors by their better design avoid most of these problems.

Can I use these as a “color matching system” for professional printing?

No. A “matching system” (like the PANTONE® Matching System or PMS) is more than a color you select in a painting program. It is a carefully calculated system that combines on-screen color choices with a detailed “recipe” of carefully balanced and mixed pigments or inks that gives consistent printed color across all types of printed media, year after year. PMS is an international standard, and “PANTONE Blue 072 U” will look the same whether printed in Vancouver, Canada or Auckland, New Zealand.

The Color-aid colored papers are white paper to which a matte-finished,  oil-based paint has been applied to one surface. The CA314 and CA220 color palettes are fairly accurate samples taken from one printing of these colors. They are not guaranteed to match anything, since there is no detailed recipe involved to ensure consistent color.

What can I use the CA314 and CA220 color palettes for?

Well, that depends on your creativity! In my case, I have a strong chemical sensitivity to the turpentine or something else used in the paint applied to the Color-aid paper. Since about one-third of my art course assignments required using Color-aid paper, my instructor allowed me to do the projects on my computer (in separate room from the rest of the class so I could breathe without inhaling the chemicals) using the CA314 color palette (I had not completed the CA220 palette yet). I used Adobe Illustrator to create sharp-edged line art objects, piecing them together much like my classmates did with cutout pieces of Color-aid paper. Once color printed and matted, it was impossible to tell the difference between my computer-generated art and my classmates’ cut paper art.

Since Color-aid paper often is used to teach color theory and how colors relate to one another (without the frustration of mixing paints), the same can be done digitally using these palette files. They give you an ordered, logically designed color scheme to use. Using these, it is very easy to plan monochromatic, analogous, complementary, split complementary, triadic, and tetradic color schemes.

How are these color palettes licensed? How much do they cost?

These color palettes are freely licensed under both the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International (CC-BY-SA-4.0) license and the Lesser GNU Public License (LGPL). Since these palettes are dual-licensed, it is up to you to pick the one that works best with your project. Also, if these licenses are not compatible with your project, please contact me, and I will try to accommodate your needs.

In summary, anyone may use these palettes in their artwork or other type of project for any purpose, including for commercial gain. You also may redistribute these color palettes, even charging for them if you feel you must. However, you must give me attribution credit (those details in just a moment) as the source of the color palettes. Also, you should note the differences between your version and mine, if any.

If you modify the palettes, which is allowed, you must release the modified works under the same license(s), provide your own attribution, and give me attribution credit as the creator of the original work upon which your work was modified.

To give me proper attribution credit, you must include my complete name, “Will Murray (Willscrlt)” and include a link to http://willmurraymedia.com/go/CA314 for CA314, http://willmurraymedia.com/go/CA220 for CA220, or http://willmurraymedia.com/go/color-aid-palettes for both.

Important note: You may not refer to these as “Color-aid” color palettes. Collectively, they are the “CA314/CA220 color palettes”, which simply are approximations of the colors printed on Color-aid paper.

Should I use the CA314 or the CA220 palette for my work?

Whichever one you prefer, or whichever one your instructor assigns.

CA314 more closely matches the “real” Color-aid colors, since they were more carefully calibrated than the CA220 colors. Also, my scanner seemed to distort some of the CA220 colors a bit, either due to limitations in the device or to foil counterfeiters trying to scan currency. Whatever the reason, the CA314 palette is a better match and prints quite nicely everywhere I’ve tried it.

CA220 may be more “user-friendly”, especially for artists with a background that includes mixing paints together. The color names are very logical, and the distance between hues on the color wheel is very regular. The CA314 system may be a more scientifically correct color theory, but it needs a booklet to explain it well.

Now that I am used to it, I prefer the CA314 colors better. The wider range of tones for darker value hues and shades for lighter value ones, along with the greater diversity in tones (pastels), give me more control over the finished artwork. Also, they print quite nicely, and the color variations show up quite well on both print and screen. The CA220 colors often look too similar to one another. This even is true with real Color-aid paper.

Finally, if it matters to you, the Color Aid Corporation seems to prefer the 314 color palette. They release more materials in that format, and they expressed to me some possible future plans for the 314 palette that probably will not be offered in the 220 palette. That means that CA314 may be more “future-proof” than CA220.

Download the files

Downloads are temporarily unavailable while I correct some errors and improve compatibility.

The Photoshop CS5 Swatches (.aco) are saved in the native Photoshop color swatch format. The Photoshop CS5 Swatches for Exchange (.ase) can be used with any other compatible program (like Adobe Illustrator). The Illustrator Scaled Vector Graphic (-boxes.svg) used the colors from an .ase file to create filled boxes of each color. These may be useful to import the colors into other formats used by other paint and drawing programs.

  • CA314 color palettes
    • CA314 by Willscrlt v1.x.aco: Photoshop CS5 Swatch
    • CA314 by Willscrlt v1.x.ase: Photoshop CS5 Swatch for Exchange
    • CA314 by Willscrlt v1.x-boxes.svg: Illustrator CS5 SVG file with boxes of each color
  • CA220 color palettes
    • CA220 by Willscrlt v1.x.aco: Photoshop CS5 Swatch
    • CA220 by Willscrlt v1.x.ase: Photoshop CS5 Swatch for Exchange
    • CA220 by Willscrlt v1.x-boxes.svg: Illustrator CS5 SVG file with boxes of each color

Installation

Sorry. This section has not been written yet.

Color charts

Sorry. This section has not been written yet. In the meantime, you might want to look at the color wheel I did for one of my art courses. It highlights only some of the 314 colors included in CA314.

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