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After posting this answer, I was told that I should of set the Color Space to non-color. Hence my question, what is the purpose of the Color Space on image texture nodes in cycles? I have not set any of my image texture nodes to Non-Color Data and have not noticed any side effects.
The blender wiki is not too clear on the purpose.

For most color textures the default of Color should be used, but in case of e.g. a bump or alpha map, the pixel values should be interpreted as Non-Color Data, to avoid doing any unwanted color space conversions.

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Depending on your color management setting in the Scene Properties Editor, Blender will interpret the colors in an image in different ways, (i.e. apply a gamma curve to it, or adjust the color gamut/saturation of the image^)

Changing the color space to noncolor basically tells Blender to skip that conversion, i.e. a bump map is should not be color-managed.

^ I am greatly simplifying what 'color management' is, but for the purpose of this, I think it's sufficient.

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  • $\begingroup$ But a bump map simply uses the value of each pixel for the bumping. Shouldn't a normal map, which uses the individual red and green color channels to adjust the normals, not be set to non color data? $\endgroup$ – PGmath Oct 28 '14 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ A color management system could alter both the luminance and chroma value of a texture. Therefore all non-diffuse texture should technically have the noncolor checkbox enabled. $\endgroup$ – Mike Pan Oct 28 '14 at 19:58

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