Statement of problem. A good color match combined with a proper translucency match results in excellent esthetics for a metal-free restoration, yet basic color and translucency comparisons between available zirconia systems are not well described. Purpose. The purpose of this in vitro study was to compare the color and translucency of commercially available zirconia materials. Material and methods. Eight specimen disks were formed in each of the single-layer (0.5-mm thick) groups and double-layer (0.5-mm zirconia with 1.0-mm porcelain) groups for each of 5 zirconia-based substructure systems. Colors on black, gray, and white backings were used to obtain CIEDE2000 color differences between the zirconia systems in the layering groups and to obtain relative translucency parameter (RTP) values. Color differences were compared with perceptibility and acceptability thresholds, and comparisons in RTP were made using analyses of variance and the Bonferroni corrected Student t tests (alpha=.05). Results. The Shrout-Fleiss random set reliability for the duplicate L* determinations was 0.9992, 0.9756 for a*, and 0.9959 for b*. Although some mean color differences were below or at the perceptibility threshold, most differences were at or above the acceptability threshold. For the single-layer configuration, 1 material system had higher RTP values than every other material (P<.001), and another material had lower RTP values than every other material (P<.001). Conclusions. The results of this study present significant differences in both color and translucency among 5 ceramic substrate systems when studied in single layers. Perceivable and often unacceptable differences in color were also found among these materials when layered with porcelain. It is concluded that the esthetics of restorations which use a ceramic substrate is notably affected by the ceramic system used.