Black and White
Black and white is the most recognized color combination in the Japanese Chin breed. As one can see the striking contrast of the two colors produces a very flashy dog. This may be why the black and white has traditionally dominated all other colors in the show ring. In the chin, black and white is a dominant trait. The black and white combination can come in either extremes. Some dogs are nearly solid black while others sport only small areas of color. It seems that in most countries that the black and white coat color is the preferred combination for the show ring.
Red Japanese Chin are usually born all white or with very faint color markings and darken as they age. The adult color of the red chin can be any shade of pale tan to a deep red. The lighter variation of the red chin is often referred to as Lemon, but all shades of red are most likely created by the same gene. The red and white chin will not have pigment that is as dark as that found in the black and white or in the sable. The pigment in the nose and pads may vary from a dark brown to a pale flesh color. It is understood by Judges that the red and white chin will never have pigment as dark as its counter colors and in some cases the eyes might be a lighter brown or gold as well.  
New born red and white puppies. There is one black and white in this mix. Notice that they are born almost solid white. The ones that have noticeable red marks such as puppy A, will mature to be darker then those who do not. The faster that a puppy gains color after birth will coincide with how dark that puppy will be at adult hood. Puppy B and C have no markings.
Two red puppies of the same age, who have the same father. Notice the extreme difference in color between the two.
The sable chin is probably the second most recognized color in the Japanese Chin. Sable is often referred to as "red", but there is a distinct difference a true red and a sable. Sables are usually born darker, sometimes almost black, and lighten to their red color as they age. Sables also have black pigment, although they may sport a "snow nose" (the lightning of pigment with age or lack of sunlight), as they age. Most sables begin life with black hairs in their coats and some may loose all traces of black at adult hood leaving them a brilliant red, most do retain a few dark hairs, at the tips of the ears and along any saddle markings. As a puppy this chin had black hairs (see left) as an adult it has faded to a clear color that could easily be mistaken for a red or "lemon".
The Tri-color Japanese Chin is probably the most rare of any of the color combinations. Most likely the reason why is that there are only a few countries, such as the United States and Canada, that recognize the tri-color. Please let it be understood that just because a dog is a less then common color, it does not mean that is a reason for it to be bred. Overall quality and type must come before any particular color or pattern, for it is the entire package that maintains the breed. The tri-color is basically a black dog with tan points. These markings are distinctive and should not be confused with sables that may be heavily "tri-factored" (carry the tri-color gene). While we refer to this color as "tri" it is genetically a "bi" color, black and tan, paired with the white gene. The "bi" color (black and tan) is one gene, so the colors are inherited together, and the white spotting a separate gene. However for simplicity sake it is simply referred to as a tri-colored dog.
What is a Mis-Mark?
Black and white mis-mark:
Courtesy of Adrienne Wilder
Courtesy of Adrienne Wilder
Symmetrical markings are preferred when selecting a dog for show. However over all quality is the breeder's first concern. Many top dogs in the country, have sported a cheek smudge or less then symmetrical facial markings. While markings do not make the chin, correct markings should always be a goal of the breeder as well. These are some examples of mis- marked dogs, however they are only a small example of the possible mis- mark pattern types.
Smudges: also known as the Buddha's Kiss
These are some examples of "Buddha's Kisses" which usually occur on the forehead, top of the head or cheek. Some can be very obvious while others more subtle. Cheek smudges or small "finger prints" of color on the white areas of the head, are a fairly common occurrence in the Japanese Chin. These markings could be the deciding factor in placing a dog as a pet in some cases. While smudges are not preferred most breeders examine the overall quality of the dog first and foremost.
The white areas of the Japanese Chin's Coat should be clear and free of black hairs, also known as ticking or flecking. This is apparently not the same gene that causes spots in the Dalmation (as previously thought) Ticking occurs to varying degrees. It is important that things like this be considered when evaluating dogs as show/breeding prospects.