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What is Fed Std 595?

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Fed Std 595 SpecificationFederal Standard 595 is the US Government specification on color.  Anything the Government specifies that is painted will have a Fed Std 595 color callout.  Colors for tanks, ships, uniforms, the yellow line down the middle of the street, are all specified in 595.

The current revision is ‘C’.  The initial specification was released in March, 1956 containing 358 colors.  Revision ‘A’ was issued in January 1968 and contained 437 colors.  Revision ‘B’ was released in January 1994 and contained 611 colors.  Revision ‘C’ was released July 31, 2008, and contains 650 colors.

The spec is available in 3 formats: fan deck, notebook, and 3×5″ cards.  The fan deck and notebook are for reference only.  Officially the 3×5″ cards are used to check if an applied color matches the specification.

The colors in the Federal Standard 595 set have no official names, just five-digit numbers.  The 595C Specification Book does include some generic names, but in many cases the same name has been used for multiple colors.  FED-STD-595 colors should ALWAYS be specified by a 5-digit number.

The first figure can be 1,2 or 3 and indicates the level of sheen:

  • 1 = gloss (minimum 80)
  • 2 = semi gloss (30-45)
  • 3 = matt, flat, or lusterless (maximum 6)

The second figure of FS code indicates a general color classification group;

  • 0 = Brown
  • 1 = Red
  • 2 = Orange
  • 3 = Yellow
  • 4 = Green
  • 5 = Blue
  • 6 = Grey
  • 7 = Other (white, black, violet, metallic)
  • 8 = Fluorescent

The remaining figures (third to fifth) provide a 3-digit number representing approximate intensity. Lower values generally indicate a darker color, higher values are typically lighter color. The numbers have been assigned with gaps to allow addition of new colors. Fed-Std-595 is a color collection, not a complete color system, and this has the following implications:

The existence of a color chip 1xxxx in the FS Fan Deck doesn’t imply that there is a color chip for 2xxxx or 3xxxx.  In fact, the vast majority of shades only have chips for 1 or 2 gloss levels

There can be small differences in shading between chips with different gloss levels, making the creation of “virtual chips” for numbers not defined in FED-STD-595 set a very dangerous practice.  This can be seen by comparing the RGB values below for 10045, 20045 and 30045, which were derived by measuring actual chips.  Variations are obvious, which is typical.  To assume that 20032, if it existed, would be exactly the same color as 10032 is not valid.

All color numbers in FED-STD-595C, with Change Notice 1 applied, are listed in the specification.  If a color number is not listed in the spec, it is not part of FED-STD-595C.  (All colors in 595B and 595A are included in 595C.)

FED-STD-595C is not extensible, i.e. it does not allow imputing new colors from the existing ones. If comparing RLM colors to FS-595 codes, for example, one can only refer to the nearest existing FS-595 color, which most often isn’t a perfect match. In practice, the FS-set set is extensive enough to find a good-enough match for almost any color.

CP Technologies can paint products in colors matching the Fed Std 595 to meet customer requirements.  A good source for information for the colors and to acquire paint chips, decks, etc., is Fed Specs.

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