Per a question in another topic, I thought I would share this post I did back a few years ago in another forum on the Munsell Color system for artists:
Alfred Munsell was a color theorist who published a book called "A Grammar of Color" back around 1924.
Munsell's system was based on "color as it relates to light" and not "color as it relates to selling paint". Many artists prefer Munsell's color wheel and color system to the systems offered by paint companies like Grumbacher who have an interest in selling you something - and their color wheel reflects it.
Munsell's system is based on color having three basic properties:
- Hue - The attribute by which we distinguish the color - blue, yellow, red, etc.
- Value - The lightness or darkness of the hue.
- Chroma - The intensity of the color or the amount of grayness the color exhibits.
Munsell's color wheel has the following "primary" hues:
It also has the following "tertiary" hues:
They come together like this:
The Munsell color wheel reflects these hues. Here is a Munsell Color Wheel that I made for myself:
Munsell expressed value as a measure of lightness. Munsell's scale of value ranges from Black at value 0 to White at value 10. It is important to distinguish that Munsell separated out Black and White from the hues listed above. When a color or hue has value, then it is expressed as a "Chromatic" value. Chroma is the next topic.
Here is a Munsell value scale:
Chroma can be confusing. The easiest expression of Chroma is that it is the amount of gray in a color. By adding gray, you gradually neutralize the hue. Chroma is often also referred to as "intensity".
The key to the Munsell system as it applies to artists is that you use the value scale of grays to neutralize your hues instead of using the color on the opposite end of the color wheel. It is important to realize thereby, that each hue will have a value/chroma scale of its own - Dark Blue at Value 1 to Light Blue at Value 9. To neutralize the chroma or intensity of a value 5 blue, you add to it a value 5 gray. If you added pure black or a lighter or darker gray, then you would contaminate the value and possibly the hue of that value 5 blue.
Munsell has a 14 step sequence of chroma, but I have found it easier to express chroma in three categories - High, Medium, and Low. In artistic terms, the high medium and low categories refer to the amount of (equal value) gray you add to a hue to neutralize it - High=25%, Medium=50%, and Low=75%. The more gray you add to the pure hue, the lower the intensity or chroma of the hue becomes.
You can actually build charts of each hue in values from 1 to 9 and then neutralize each value into high, medium, and low categories.
Here is a simple chroma example using Purple: