Munsell color system

The Munsell color system (Munsell Color System or Munsell Color Order System ) goes back to the artist Albert Henry Munsell ( 1858-1918 ), who published the system from 1898 to 1905. Munsell color atlas has been measured by the Optical Society of America in 1929 and calibrated.

The Munsell system is one of the first complete, the most common and still used color systems. It is prevalent mainly in the U.S. and in Japan. Industries in which it is used there frequently, the architecture, engineering and consumer goods. In German-speaking countries, the Munsell system is in heavy machinery ( shipbuilding), in cosmetics and in particular in soil science and archeology application.


End of the 19th century, there were various efforts have colors to denote clear and uniform, to enable on the redundancy of the color names beyond communication about colors.

Munsell developed a three-dimensional color space of a finite number of color patterns that are presented in a color atlas. As a painter and teacher, it was his aim to present color pattern as it corresponds to the sensation. The distances between adjacent samples should be regarded as equal, the harmony of adjacent color samples should be correct. He achieved this by psycho visual experiments, constant comparison and remixing.

At the beginning of his studies took advantage of Munsell under the influence of Roods the color wheel as a base level of his system. The system was later released for the standard illuminant C and the 2 ° standard observer new. Because there are different chroma and brightness levels in the various hues, was an irregular body.

For the first time the system was published in 1915 in the " Munsell Book of Color ," in which the color values ​​of the " Munsell Book Notation " were defined. The Munsell Book of Color consisted of two representations: 1277 color samples on matte and 1452 color patterns on shiny material.

1943, each color is defined by the CIE color coordinates x, y, and Y, and rectified in a few samples in the Munsell Renotations the American Optical Society.

The Munsell system is uniform and independent of the lighting or the size of the considered color space.

System Design

The three organizing principles are Hue ( color), chroma ( saturation) and value ( quality, brightness). The primary criterion of this system is the hue.

Munsell chose five main hues

  • Red ( R)
  • Yellow ( Y)
  • Green ( G)
  • Blue ( B)
  • Purple ( P)

Intermediate hues divide the perceptual color nuances further

  • YR ( yellow-red )
  • GY ( green-yellow )
  • BG ( blue-green )
  • PB ( purple - blue)
  • RP ( Red - Purple)

This arrangement results in a 10-car paint surface. These ten shades are again divided into ten increments. For the identification of hues numbers to the letter symbols yet (0 to 10 ) is added: thus the color ( hue) with 1RP, 5P, 3Y or 7.5 GY, 2.5 PB, and similarly labeled.

Each line are places outwardly increasing saturation (chroma).

The value is added as a third dimension of the color solid, the vertical central axis. This ranges from V = 10 to the ideal white to V = 0 the reproducible with colorants Black, then, with a 10 -piece gray scale.

To name each color pattern obtains in the Munsell system, so each color represented a color sign the form HV / C, where H ( Hue ) for hue, V (Value) for brightness and C ( chroma) represents saturation.

For example, the color is 2.5 YR 5/10 describes a second yellow card, which tends to red, medium brightness and has a maximum saturated appears.

L * a * b * color space is a three-dimensional coordinate system in which each color value in the three dimensions L, a, and b ( similar to the xy and z) is associated. In contrast, the Munsell system, be considered as a mixture of vector representation and coordinate. A vector is defined by its direction ( for example, expressed in degrees ), and its length. Similarly, a Munsell color is defined by its tint ( direction Hue value) and their intensity (length as chroma), while the brightness is a coordinate component.

System Properties

On the basis of experimental and visual development of the system, the system is uniform and equally spaced.

  • Uniform is the system, since not affect changes in a parameter to the other two parameters.
  • Equidistant is the system that has controlled since Munsell establishing adjacent pattern with eye and sensation. The color difference between all adjacent color samples is thus perceived by human observers as equal.
  • Hue: The rotation in the base level by a fixed amount results in an equal perceived hue change (without changing the brightness or saturation).
  • Chroma: saturation levels per color are present in different numbers. The distance from the center to color point ( towards the edge ) results in an increasing saturation without change of brightness. According to the ( visual ) design of the color remains intact and does not change. Since the intensity of color is different for different colors (such as yellow and high intensity can be for blue only low intensity ), the number of color patterns within the color ( hue) varies accordingly. The same is true with respect to different brightness values ​​(Value). Absolute White and Black have any more perceptible by the human eye chroma values ​​in any Hue direction.
  • Value: The step between white and black are located on the axis through the center of the base plane. This is a ( neutral ) gray scale and represents the brightness (Value). Saturation or hue of the pattern are not changed, the system is designed.

The colors of the Munsell color system can not be converted into CIE color values ​​. Only the value- value can be calculated as the CIE tristimulus value Y for a conversion formula. For conversions therefore tables are used.

A color atlas can only represent remission colors.