Color Notation

Color Notation
Catalog # SKU1989
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name A. H. Munsell


Color Notation

Hue, Value, and Chroma


An enlightening study of 'color' that few people are educated in. Outside the artist and a few professions, most of us never understand the basics of color, its workings, and its components.

Raphael, Titian, Velasquez, Corot, Chavannes, and Whistler are masters in the use of gray. Personal bias may lead one colorist a little more toward warm colors, and another slightly toward the cool field, in each case attaining a sense of harmonious balance by tempered degrees of value and chroma

Excerpt from Introduction

The lack of definiteness which is at present so general in color nomenclature, is due in large measure to the failure to appreciate the fundamental characteristics on which color differences depend. For the physicist, the expression of the wave length of any particular light is in most cases sufficient, but in the great majority of instances where colors are referred to, something more than this and something easier of realization is essential. The attempt to express color relations by using merely two dimensions, or two definite characteristics, can never lead to a successful system. For this reason alone the system proposed by Mr. Munsell, with its three dimensions of hue, value, and chroma, is a decided step in advance over any previous proposition. By means of these three dimensions it is possible to completely express any particular color, and to differentiate it from colors ordinarily classed as of the same general character.

The expression of the essential characteristics of a color is, however, not all that is necessary. There must be some accurate and not too complicated system for duplicating these characteristics, one which shall not alter with time or place, and which shall be susceptible of easy and accurate redetermination. From the teaching standpoint also a logical and sequential development is absolutely essential. This Mr. Munsell seems to have most successfully accomplished.

In the determination of his relationships he has made use of distinctly scientific methods, and there seems no reason why his suggestions should not lead to an exact and definite system of color essentials. The Munsell photometer, which is briefly referred to, is an instrument of wide range, high precision, and great sensitiveness, and permits the valuations which are necessary in his system to be accurately made. We all appreciate the necessity for some improvement in our ideas of color, and the natural inference is that the training should be begun in early youth.

The present system in its modified form possesses elements of simplicity and attractiveness which should appeal to children, and give them almost unconsciously a power of discrimination which would prove of immense value in later life. The possibilities in this system are very great, and it has been a privilege to be allowed during the past few years to keep in touch with its development. I cannot but feel that we have here not only a rational color nomenclature, but also a system of scientific importance and of practical value.


(83) Color balance soon leads to a study of optics in one direction, to æsthetics in another, and to mathematical proportions in a third, and any attempt at an easy solution of its problems is not likely to succeed. It is a very complicated question, whose closest counterpart is to be sought in musical rhythms. The fall of musical impulses upon the ear can make us gay or sad, and there are color groups which, acting through the eye, can convey pleasure or pain to the mind.

(84) A colorist is keenly alive to these feelings of satisfaction or annoyance, and consciously or unconsciously he rejects certain combinations of color and accepts others. Successful pictures and decorative schemes are due to some sort of balance uniting "light and shade" (value), "warmth and coolness" (hue), with "brilliancy and grayness" (chroma); for, when they fail to please, the mind at once begins to search for the unbalanced quality, and complains that the color is "too hot," "too dark," or "too crude." This effort to establish pleasing proportions may be unconscious in one temperament, while it becomes a matter of definite analysis in another. Emerson claimed that the unconscious only is complete. We gladly permit those whose color instinct is unerring-(and how few they are!)-to neglect all rules and set formulas. But education is concerned with the many who have not this gift.

(85) Any real progress in color education must come not from a blind imitation of past successes, but by a study into the laws which they exemplify. To exactly copy fine Japanese prints or Persian rugs or Renaissance tapestries, while it cultivates an appreciation of their refinements, does not give one the power to create things equally beautiful. The masterpieces of music correctly rendered do not of necessity make a composer. The musician, besides the study of masterpieces, absorbs the science of counterpoint, and records by an unmistakable notation the exact character of any new combination of musical intervals which he conceives.

Softcover, 8¼" x 6¾, 140+ pages

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