Munsell Color Order System

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The Munsell Color Order System, commonly called the Munsell Color System, is a color space for describing color of surfaces. It uses an irregular 3-dimensional color space. The dimensions are hue, represented as a circle, value, along the central axis, and chroma, represented as distance from the axis. Changes in each dimension are intended to be perceptually equal within the dimension, so that an increase of chroma from 3 to 4 is perceived as the same difference as an increase from 7 to 8. As a result, the color space is not geometrically regular, unlike most color systems developed previously.

The Munsell system has five primary hues: Purple, Blue, Green, Yellow, and Red, and five secondary hues, equidistant between the primaries.

Munsell hues; value 6 / chroma 6
5R
|
5YR
|
5Y
|
5GY
|
5G
|
5BG
|
201 130 134
201 130 127
201 131 118
200 133 109
197 135 100
193 137 94
187 140 86
181 143 79
173 146 75
167 149 72
160 151 73
151 154 78
141 156 85
127 159 98
115 160 110
101 162 124
92 163 134
87 163 141
82 163 148
78 163 154
73 163 162
5BG
|
5B
|
5PB
|
5P
|
5RP
|
5R
|
73 163 162
70 162 170
70 161 177
73 160 184
82 158 189
93 156 193
104 154 195
117 151 197
128 149 198
141 145 198
152 142 196
160 140 193
168 138 189
177 135 182
183 134 176
188 132 169
193 131 160
196 130 153
198 130 146
200 130 140
201 130 134

A color is described using the notation H V/C, for Hue, Value, and Chroma. Hue is notated with a number and the letter(s) representing the primary or secondary color being represented, while value and chroma are notated purely with numbers. For example, a vivid orange may be 5RY 7/12. Numbers for hue range from 0 to 10 at each primary or secondary color, and increase in the direction from red to yellow. The primary colors use the initial letter of the color name, while the secondary colors use the initial letters of the two primary colors nearest, thus RY for orange. The letter N is used for pure grays (including black and white). Value is measured from 0 (pure black) to 10 (pure white), though a value of slightly higher than 9 is the highest practically obtainable. Chroma is measured in equal perceptual steps. In the original Munsell system, 10 was the highest chroma possible, but advances in pigmenting technologies have made possible materials with chroma ranging over 20, and fluorescent materials can have chroma greater than 30.

Albert H. Munsell, creator of the Munsell Color System

The Munsell system was developed by Albert H. Munsell, an American artist and researcher. The first version of the Munsell system was published in 1915, in the 15-page Atlas of the Munsell Color System. In 1929, the Munsell Book of Color was published, updating the system. The update had 20 pages of different hues, with about 20 samples on each page of varying value and chroma. The system was updated again in 1943, with an extensive recalibration. The 1943 update is the one most commonly used. The Munsell Color Order System has been adopted in various national standards: American National Standards Institute ANSI Z138.2, Japanese Industrial Standard for Color JIS Z872, German Standard Color System DIN 6164, and others.

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Munsell value (vertical) and chroma (horizontal); hue 5Y and 5PB
This sample is limited to the colors reproducible in the Adobe sRGB color space, the actual Munsell charts extend to about twice the chroma shown here.
12108642 0 24681012
10
255 255 255
9
228 228 250
232 232 232
243 227 207
250 227 178
8
190 201 239
200 200 222
203 203 203
215 200 181
221 200 154
227 200 126
233 199 97
237 199 63
7
142 176 241
154 175 225
164 175 210
173 174 195
179 179 179
188 173 155
194 173 128
200 173 101
205 172 72
210 172 29
6
79 150 244
101 150 227
116 149 213
128 149 198
138 148 182
146 148 168
150 150 150
161 147 129
167 147 103
173 146 75
178 146 42
5
46 124 214
72 123 199
89 123 185
101 123 171
111 122 156
120 122 142
124 124 124
134 121 103
141 121 77
146 120 48
150 119 9
4
38 97 172
59 97 158
74 97 144
85 96 130
93 96 116
97 97 97
108 96 77
114 95 52
119 94 25
3
26 72 133
45 72 120
58 72 106
67 72 92
70 70 70
81 71 55
87 70 33
2
20 49 93
35 49 79
44 49 66
48 48 48
57 48 34
63 47 6
1 5PB
13 28 56
23 28 45
28 28 28
37 27 9
5Y
0
0 0 0