Munsell Color SystemIf more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. - J.R.R. Tolkien
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Munsell Color System

Albert Munsell developed a color system to define color by hue, value and chroma.

Albert Musell was an art teacher and artist who published a simple color system in 1905 and an atlas of colors in 1915. His book was successful at creating a standardized set of colors that continues to be used by artists and publishers. to this day. The Munsell standardized colors make it easy for people to communicate in the language of color. But just as a person trying to learn a language learns grammatical rules, people studying color need to understand the ranges of color. Although other tools exist to define colors, most notably the CIE 1931, they are slightly more difficult to work with in comparison to the Munsell system. The simplicity of the system as helped it gain wide acceptance by artists, designers, photography, printers and more.

The system is simple. As with other systems, the color is defined in three pieces, Hue, Chroma and Value.

Hue ranges from 1 to 100 around a circle. To make it easy to work with the colors, the Munsell system uses the first letter of each color, or combinations in the case of mixtures, to make it immediately obvious what the general hue is. They are: R, YR., Y, GY, G, BG, B, PB, P and RP, which stands for Red, Yellow-Red, Yellow, Green-Yellow, Green, Blue-Green, Blue, Purple-Blue, Purple, and Red-Purple.

Blue isn't what you think.

In order for the Munsell system to work out so simply, they had to redefine the color Blue.

What we would know as Blue is considered Purple-Blue in the Munsell system while a Cyan is called Blue. Magenta is defined as Purple-Blue while Munsell's Purple is what we would consider as a Bluish Magenta.


Value ranges from 0 to 10, and Chroma, or the saturation level of a color ranges from 0 to 10.

Munsell colors are easily written in the form Hue Value/Chroma for example R10.2 8.2/9.1 for a non gray color, or 7.3/. in the case of an achromatic gray.

Read more about the Munsell Color System.

Home Light Speed of Light Additive and Subtractive Colors CIE 1931 Color Space Colorimetry Color Space Color Temperature Spinning Color Top Glossary of Color Terms History of Color Science Metamerism Motion After Image Munsell Color System TriStimulus Refraction Double Slit Polarization Human Eyesight The Retina Color Optical Illusions More

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Color Theory for the Layman
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