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Everyone Needs a Little Space…3 Dimensions of Color Space

Color space paint Munsell

When the average person thinks of color, he or she usually considers the aesthetic aspects of color such as the shade and whether it’s light or dark; or a cool or warm tone.  However, A.H. Munsell saw color in terms of its relationship to other colors, which led him to develop his 3-dimensional color space concept.  He described color space using objects with which most people would be familiar, such as a “color tree” to teach and communicate color with greater understanding and clarity.

Hue Dimension of Color Space

Hue represents the color itself—red, yellow, blue, etc.  The hue aspect of color space dates back as far as Sir Isaac Newton in 1704 with the hue circle.  If you were to take the visible spectrum—red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo and violet—and place each color in a circle, you would have a close replica of the Munsell Hue Circle, which doesn’t include orange.  In Munsell’s color tree, each hue represents a branch of the color tree.  After you’ve established the hue dimension of color space, then you can describe the value and chroma dimensions of color space.

Value Dimension of Color Space

Value is the one dimension of color space that can stand alone. Value represents the lightness or darkness of a given hue.  In Munsell’s color system, value ranges from 0 for pure black to 10 for pure white.  In the absence of hue you would simply have black, white or shades of gray. . . 37 shades of gray to be exact.  The Munsell Color System includes 37 steps in its Neutral Value Scale, an independent set of color standards based on the neutral axis of Munsell’s Color Order System.  The neutral value scale represents the trunk of the color tree with white at the top and black at the roots.

Chroma Dimension of Color Space

Chroma is often described as the brightness or saturation of color.  Chroma is the least uniform dimension of color space, because not all colors can achieve the same level of chroma.  For example a highly saturated red can have a chroma that exceeds 20, while a green may only reach a chroma of 12-14.  Remember, Munsell’s system was based on visual perception of color and was created with paint, so the chroma limits of various pigments used to create each hue will limit the overall chroma.  Use the chroma dimension of color space in relation to value because as you approach the black or white poles of the neutral value scale, chroma is limited, hence the color tree concept where the branches taper at the upper and lower sections of the tree and are widest at the center.   In Munsell’s color tree, numerous branches of varying lengths represent chroma with lighter and lower chroma colors as the upper tree branches and darker lower chroma colors as the bottom branches . . . excluding the conical evergreens, of course! Learn more about Munsell Color Space.

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0 responses to “Everyone Needs a Little Space…3 Dimensions of Color Space”

  1. […] We are happy to explain whenever anyone asks that our artistic choices are informed by the Munsell Color System with its unique theory of hue, chroma, and value. […]

  2. […] been written about the Munsell Color System. The system configures a solid sphere used to unite the three attributes or qualities of color: Hue, Value, and Chroma (HVC). How about studying the Munsell Color […]

  3. […] the main components that are identified when using color, and organizes these into a sensible three dimensional graph that anyone can look at and understand. Any color can be broken down into these components […]

  4. […] Munsell Color Tree. This was the first model I had seen that diagrammed the attributes of color in three dimensions and I was intrigued by the idea that the vast world of color could be described spatially in the […]

  5. […] a real eye opener. I started thinking about colours in a completely different way… and in the third dimension! As a spatial designer whose work is mostly 3D, this notion is very important. I also enjoyed […]

  6. […] for this book by Professor Munsell, will be found a brief compendium of his theories upon the dimensions of color and color relations, which though generally scientific in form, is stated with such admirable […]

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