UNDERSTANDING THE MUNSELL COLOR SYSTEM
How do people perceive subtle differences in color and, more importantly, how do they know they’re looking at the exact same color at any given time or place? These questions obsessed Albert H. Munsell, a man who in 1905 came to define color – literally. His enduring color theory, notation method, and namesake company’s invaluable products, live on through X-Rite Pantone today.
MUNSELL’S 3-ATTRIBUTES OF COLOR
Munsell realized he could define all colors precisely with three distinct attributes: Hue (basic color), Chroma (color intensity) and Value (lightness). He plotted these attributes in a 3-D model that was mostly spherical, but not quite.
What distinguished Munsell’s Color-Order System is that Munsell tested his color definition theory vigorously against what humans could actually see. If a color could exist, but people couldn’t see it, it had no place in a practical model.
Munsell’s insights have been used to define colors for companies, industries and governments across the globe. His system is still used to compare solids and liquids in hundreds of practical applications, from matching colors of soil samples to comparing the look of different beers – even to establishing uniform standards of golden french fries for the USDA! And, of course, even with all its technical uses, Munsell’s Color System still has wide applications to the worlds of fashion and design, ensuring people everywhere have more meaningful conversations about color up and down the production process.
Munsell color sample books and technical standards are essential reference tools for what Pantone calls Industrial, Scientific + Government users. With specialized charts devoted to color matching beads, creating accurate grey scales for camera calibration, setting and testing acceptable color tolerances for electrical wire coverings, and contrasting lighter pastels for cosmetics, the Munsell brand continues to be the standard for technical applications from archeology to forestry and beyond.
Munsell products also play a large role in both fashion and design. Their educational tools let anyone learning about color have a deeper understanding of how color works. Munsell products also offer easy-to-apply tests to determine a person’s color perception and acuity, essential for people who work with and evaluate color in their jobs.
Munsell Custom Color Consulting Services are offered exclusively through the Pantone Color Institute, setting custom color standards and defining acceptable tolerances for quality control in all production processes. Munsell custom color standards can match physical samples or numeric data and provide stable, reproducible tech specs – complete with Munsell System notations - for suppliers and others in need of precise color matching.