Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Munsell color notation.

It would be difficult to advance with this project without offering a short primer on Munsell. Reilly adopted the Munsell Color System for his program, and an understanding of its basics and nomenclature is fundamental to the Reilly vocabulary.

Munsell divides color into three components: hue, value and chroma. 

Hue is the quality that distinguishes one color from another, i.e. red, yellow, green etc. Munsell's color wheel is a little different from what most of us refer to. Instead of three primaries of red, yellow and blue, and three secondaries of orange, green and purple, Munsell expands the wheel to 10 colors. Red, Yellow, Green, Blue and Purple are considered "Simple Hues". Between them are found the "Intermediate Hues" of yellow-red, green-yellow, blue-green, purple-blue, and red- purple. So when Reilly describes complexion as yellow-red, this is where the nomenclature comes from.

Value is the quality which distinguishes light colors from dark colors. In this system, the gradation of light to dark is separated into eleven values. Pure black is labeled 0 and pure white is labelled 10. Nine values equally distant from each other lie in between. A color with a value of 8 is very light, two steps down from white.

Chroma describes how strong or weak a color is. The color red with a chroma of 2 is a warm neutral, a chroma of 14 describes a brilliant red.

So a Munsell color notation for caucasion skin tone in the light might be described like this: YR8/4. This means the hue is yellow-red (orange) the value is 8 (very light) and the chroma is 4 (relatively weak). Reilly uses these notations through-out so it is important to be familiar with them. A premise of the Munsell system is to get us away from terms like Banana Yellow or Lime Green, and offer a more specific method of describing color, and a common language through which to describe it.

Further study of the Munsell system is suggested. There are lots of informative websites you can explore. A simple but informative guide can be found at  The Munsell Color System - Color Models - Technical Guides

For your bookshelf: MUNSELL, A Grammer of Color by Albert H. Munsell and Faber Birren, ISBN 0442255764

© John Ennis 2010

Next topic: The Reilly Palette: The Reilly Neutrals


Nancy Bea Miller said...

Sounds complicated!

Coyote said...

hole europe waiting for more informations about reilly method :D

post more!

cheers and thanks for this action

Tristan Elwell said...

Nancy, who said painting was simple? ;)

John Ennis said...

It may seem technical, but it's usefulness will become apparent in future posts.

Anonymous said...

Munsell system is industry standard. It approaches color (which is difficult and highly subjective phenomenon) in a logical and simple way.
Having said, that I think it could be even more logical and rational - had Munsell divided his color wheel into 9 hues. Since it consists of 10 colors the primaries are inevitably unevenly spaced (it could have easily been avoided). Further confusion might cause the way he chose to title colors in his wheel. For instance - pure blue is not Blue but Purple Blue (5PB), and what he calls Blue (5B) is actually a green blue hue.
Despite this, I find Munsell's color nomenclature very useful for professionals. All imaginable hues can be precisely described for practical purposes, using a simple and understandable color notation, whereas pigment indexes or romantic names like Veronese green etc are not nearly that accurate.

Connie said...

Thanks for the opportunity to "study" with a master. I appreciate your generousity and look forward to other posts.

Jennifer Foster said...

Thanks so much for posting these lessons. For those of us who wish we could have gone to art school, it's a nice chance to live vicariously!

Jennifer Foster said...

Hi John,

Thanks so much for posting these lessons. For those of us who wish we could have gone to art school, it's a nice chance to live vicariously!

Munell said...

Phenomenal breakdown of the system!
Thank you!
For anyone being exposed to the munsell color matching system for the first time, we will recommenced this post as a primer.
Thanks again

David Briggs said...

For your digital bookshelf:

Munsell, Albert H., 1905. A color notation. (1st edn) (5th edn, 1919)

Munsell, Albert H., 1913. Color balance illustrated.

Cleland, T. M., 1921. A practical description of the Munsell color system (3rd edn, 1937, online pages)

RGB Munsell Atlas by Prof. Hans Irtel

Jono Gray said...

Ohhhh~! That's what those strange notations stand for!! I definitely need to spend more time with this.