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Munsell Color Value Scale: The 2nd Step Away From Color Anarchy

Munsell Color Value Scales served as the vertical axis for Munsell's three-dimensional color space. In his initial system it was comprised of ten steps. However, today's Munsell Neutral Value Scales include up to 37 steps.

Albert Munsell had “color conviction.”  He was determined to develop an effective, systematic means for communicating and teaching color, much like the three-dimensional system of  music where each sound is comprised of three elements—pitch, intensity and duration.  Having developed the Munsell hue circle, the basis for today’s color wheel, Munsell developed his 2nd dimension of color—value.

Munsell’s Neutral Value Color Scale Describes the Color Attribute of Light to Dark

The color value scale describes a color’s lightness or darkness.  Munsell visualized the color value scale as a vertical axis with white being at the top and black at the bottom of the value scale.  The Munsell value scale served as the basis for today’s neutral value scales used extensively in the photographic industry and for the calibration of color sensitive instruments such as spectrophotometers and colorimeters.

Munsell Neutral Value Scales served as the vertical axis for Munsell’s three-dimensional color space.  In his initial system it was comprised of ten steps from black to white—the progression logarithmic because Munsell wanted it to be rooted in scientific principles found in the Weber-Fechner law. Today’s Munsell Neutral Value Color Scales include up to 37 steps.

Munsell surrounded the neutral value scale with the hue circle.  Progress… now Munsell has a two dimensional means for communicating color.  But even two dimensions were not effective enough for A.H. Munsell, prompting him to develop the 3rd dimension—chroma.

Munsell believed that, much like music has a system by which each sound is described in terms of pitch, intensity and duration; color could also be organized by three dimensions.  Value is the second dimension and another step away from color anarchy.  Learn about Munsell’s 1st and 3rd dimensions:  the Munsell Color Wheel and the Munsell Color Chroma Scale.


Munsell, A.H.,  ed. 12, 1971. A Color Notation. Baltimore, MD:  Munsell Color Company.


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0 responses to “Munsell Color Value Scale: The 2nd Step Away From Color Anarchy”

  1. […] is fascinating to understand how hue change its value influenced by the neutral scale in such a way that hues are lighter or darker, depending of its […]

  2. […] each color having three qualities or attributes: Hue – colors like red, orange, yellow, etc. Value – the lightness or darkness of a color and Chroma – saturation or brightness of a […]

  3. […] to be the makeup of the pictures themselves there must be strong oscillations in the contrasts of light and dark (Value), of hot and cold (Hue), of weak and strong (Chroma). As in the case of advertising color, […]

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