Color was increased to 40, this led the CIE to develop
a uniform, continuous colour space, the CIELab.
This was based on Munsell’s system but described
the positions of colours in terms of reddish/greenish
(a*/-a*) and yellowish/bluish (b*/-b*) chroma instead
of hue and total chroma.
An alternative approach that emphasises logically
describing the experience of colour and nuances of
colour without referencing lightness/value, informs
the Natural Colour System, a proprietary perceptual
model developed by the Swedish Colour Foundation
from 1964 onwards. The NCS atlas was first published
in 1978 and denotes hues in terms of blackness,
chromaticness and hue, and is used as a standard in
countries such as Sweden, Norway and Spain.
People have been struggling with ways to describe
and to measure colours ever since Aristotle decided
that they came from white and black and related
them to the four elements: water, air, earth and fire.
Although his system has been refined and renotated,
Munsell retains his place in an honourable line from
Newton, through Maxwell to German physicist
Herman von Helmholtz and beyond, based on
psychophysics, the quantitative study of stimulus
and sensation. Isaac Newton arranged colours from
red to violet around a wheel corresponding to the
seven musical notes in the Dorian scale – including
indigo as a distinct hue for his own semi-magical
convenience – whereas Munsell managed to create an
internationally accepted means of describing colour
that could be read in much the same way as music. In
doing so, both as an artist and as a scientist, he made
a difference that was more than just noticeable.
The Atlas of the Munsell Color System, 1915. Munsell wrote
that ‘failure to state either the hue, the value or the chroma
of a colour creates doubt and confusion’
Overleaf: Munsell’s system is still in use by organisations such
as NASA for predictive colour rendering. His colour solid is shown
here as it would appear under one specific source
Following page: Austrian naturalist Ignaz Schiffermüller’s
1772 colour wheel