Munsell color system

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Munsell model


Munsell Color Wheel

A color notation system begun in 1898 by Albert H. Munsell, a lecturer in color composition and art at the Normal Art School in Boston as a teaching aid in his color composition class. Munsell published the full system in 1905 in his book titled Color Notation. The Munsell system uses sets of color chips for visual comparison of hue, value, and chroma.

Hue is the name of a color. Munsell uses ten major divisions of hue: R-Red; BG-BlueGreen; YR-YellowRed B-Blue; Y-Yellow PB-Purble Blue; GY-GreenYellow P-Purple; G-Green; RP-RedPurple

Value is a measure of the lightness or darkness of a color on a scale of 0-10. A high value represents a light color with a high daylight reflectance. Ten is ideal white. A low value indicates darker colors and lower daylight reflectance. Zero represents ideal black.

Chroma is a measure of the saturation (or purity) of a color. The maximum chroma, or 100 percent pure color, can have numbers of about 18-20. Weakly saturated colors can have chromas of about 2. The constant hue charts are prepared with regular progression from achromatic colors (black, gray, or white) at the left side of each chart to saturated colors on the right side.

Synonyms and Related Terms

Munsell system; color order system

Additional Information

  • Munsell Color Science Laboratory at the Rochester Institute of Technology: Website
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Thomas B. Brill, Light Its Interaction with Art and Antiquities, Plenum Press, New York City, 1980

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