Munsell Color System

Munsell Colours

In the early 19th century, painters and scientists faced two significant challenges with the artists to describe colours. To overcome this challenge in 1913, the colour scientist Albert Munsell published the Atlas of the Munsell colour System.  This was the first system to describe the psychological experience of colour quantitatively and accurately. It contains 15 colour charts and thousands of colour chips. In 1918, Albert Munsell died, and his Munsell colour company took over his work and published the Atlas in 1929. The atlas was named as Munsell Book of colours 

The Colour Chips are Arranged Based on the Three Characteristics 

  1. Hue

  2. Value

  3. Chroma 

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Hue (H)

In colour theory, hue is one of the major properties of colour. "the degree to which a stimulus can be described as similar to or different from stimuli that are described as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple,"  In the Munsell colour tree, Each branch of the colour tree has10 panels, they are 

  1. Red (R)

  2. Red-Purple (RP)

  3. Purple (P)

  4. Purple-Blue (PB)

  5. Blue (B)

  6. Blue-Green (BG)

  7. Green (G)

  8. Green-Yellow (GY)

  9. Yellow (Y)

  10. Yellow-Red (TR)

Value (V)

The value of the colour helps to measure the darkness and lightness of colour by keeping the Hue colour constant.  In the Munsell colour wheel, the system ranges the darkness from 0-10, which is from dark black to pure white. They are arranged in a vertical manner from the bottom line to the top. 


Chroma (C)

Chroma represents the degree of vividness of the colour. which is known as the brightness or saturation of the colours. In the Munsell colour tree, the branches are extended from the center, horizontally. It specifically shows the chroma colour scale from low to high. The length of the branches is not in a uniform shape. It may vary depending on the hue colours. The colour with low chroma is weak and the colour with high chroma is strong. 5R 5/10 is stronger than  5R 5/7. The colour moves from the light chroma at the top of the tree to the dark chroma at the bottom of the tree. 


Munsell Colour Trees 

Munsell’s tree has a three-dimensional representation with 3D “colour space”. Here the colour values are marked in the y-axis, Chroma values are marked in the x-axis, and further, the hue values are represented in the z-axis. Munsell defined this method as a standardized method to represent the colours in the colour tree. 


This three-dimensional representation of the Munsell system is known as Munsell colour trees. This will help you to understand visually about the Munsell colour space. Here, 309 feature colours are mounted on the panel and assembled with a base. This will develop the tree and helps to visualize the relationship between the colours. It is proven that every variation in the properties of colours is set up within the 3-dimensional graph spaces. It helps a lot for naming the new colours with specific coordinates.

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How The Munsell Colour Tree Works?

Each colour in Munsell has 3 dimensions, Hue, Value, and Chroma. Each colour has Munsell colour notation to represent particular colours. For example Hue.5, value 5, Chroma 1. By marking each value in the Munsell colour wheel, it is possible to the targeted colour. 

For Example, Munsell Grey RAL Code is RAL 7035, it represents Light Grey colour. 


Advantages of Munsell Colour Space

Munsell colour space will provide the best accuracy while choosing the colours. It helps to maintain the perfect colour standards in various industries. They are widely used in various sectors like agriculture, education, archaeology, Environmental studies, Food Products, Government standards, Geology, Industrial and interior design, product development, pharmaceutical, and safety. This will assist you in maintaining universal standards. 

  1. Every unrelated and loose colour is related to each notation. 

  2. No new colour will find difficulties for the Munsell colour system

  3. All colours can easily undergo direct perpetual comparisons 

  4. Every colour can identify its own degree of hue, chroma, and values

  5. The psychological test proved the colour contrast

  6. Using this method, all colours can be translated into simple codes

  7. Its quantitative terms defined the colour fadings accurately.

  8.  Here the colour specifications can be re-expressed in CIE format. 

  9. They are widely used in optics and colour mathematics. 

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are the 5 Primary Colours of the Munsell Colour System?

Ans: In 1930, the artist-scientist found the Munsell colour system. Through this method, Munsell identified Hue as one of the main properties of colour. The Hue is related to the position of the colours in the spectrum. Hue has 10 colour plates in the Munsell wheel. Each horizontal in the Munsell wheel is divided into five principal hues as a primary colour. They are Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purple. Here, each of the 5 hues is subdivided into 5. The one colour will stay as a principle and the other subdivided colour will stay as intermediate hues. 

2. What is the Advantage of the Munsell Colour System?

Ans: The Munsell wheel helps a lot to choose the colour more accurately using the Munsell notation.  The Munsell systems are widely used in various sectors like agriculture, education, archaeology, Environmental studies, Food Products, Government standards, Geology, Industrial and interior design, product development, pharmaceutical, and safety. It helps to identify the unrelated colours with the definite Munsell Notation. The colour can be easily specified by direct perceptual comparison.  It will make it easier to express colour tolerance. 

3. Who Made the First Colour Wheel?

Ans: In the 17th Century, Sir Isaac Newton presented the first colour wheel. He described the first visible spectrum of lights.  He found that the product of the mixture of light and dark colours will result in new colours. Here, the colour wheel starts from the lightest red colour to the darkest blue colour. Also, he experimented and found that the mixture of primary colours in various ratios produces different hues for creating new colours.