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CIE Colorimetry - Part 4: 1976 L*a*b* Colour Space

Joint ISO/CIE Standard

ISO 11664-4:2008(E)/CIE S 014-4/E:2007

The three-dimensional colour space produced by plotting CIE tristimulus values (X,Y,Z) in rectangular coordinates is not visually uniform, nor is the (x,y,Y) space nor the two-dimensional CIE (x,y) chromaticity diagram. Equal distances in these spaces do not represent equally perceptible differences between colour stimuli. For this reason, in 1976, the CIE introduced and recommended two new spaces (known as CIELAB and CIELUV) whose coordinates are non-linear functions of X, Y and Z. The recommendation was put forward in an attempt to unify the then very diverse practice in uniform colour spaces and associated colour difference formulae. Both these more-nearly uniform colour spaces have become well accepted and widely used. Numerical values representing approximately the magnitude of colour differences can be described by simple Euclidean distances in the spaces or by more sophisticated formulae that improve the correlation with the perceived size of differences.

The purpose of this CIE Standard is to define procedures for calculating the coordinates of the CIE 1976 L*a*b* (CIELAB) colour space and the Euclidean colour difference values based on these coordinates. The standard does not cover more sophisticated colour difference formulae based on CIELAB, such as the CMC formula, the CIE94 formula, the DIN99 formula, and the CIEDE2000 formula nor does it cover the alternative uniform colour space, CIELUV.

This Standard has been approved by CIE and ISO.

The publication is written in English. It is readily available at the National Committees of the CIE or via the CIE Webshop


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