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The CIELAB colour model was defined in 1976 by the Commission Internationale de l’Eclairage and describes all colours that can be perceived. It is a mathematical colour model in which the spectral properties of an object and the perceptual properties of our visual system are set off against each other. CIELAB, or in short: LAB, has become generally accepted until today wherever exact colour calculation is required, whether in colour measurement, colour formulation or in the common operating systems: Colour management usually works via CIELAB.

Colour distance

The measured distance (colour difference) between two colours. The colour locations of the two colour values are displayed within a system and the difference is given in Delta-E.

Colour location

The colour location describes the position of a measured or selected colour within a colour space. This is often defined by coordinates, e.g. using L, a and b in the CIELab colour space.
The set of all the colour locations in a colour space is called the colour gamut (or gamut).

Colour mode

The colour mode is a setting that determines the depth to which colours can be displayed in an image file. This also affects the size of the file.

The most common colour modes are:

  • RGB mode (millions of colours)
  • CMYK mode (colours for four-colour printing)
  • Lab/CIELab
  • Index mode (256 colours)
  • Grayscale (256 shades)
  • Bitmap (2 colours: Black or white)
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