Over one hundred years ago, Albert Munsell, an artist and educator, developed a color ordering system based on visual perception rather than mathemetical formulas. The Munsell system soon became the industry standard and is still used today to communicate and reproduce colors accurately.
I reference the Munsell system in my workshops whenever we talk about the properties of color. I do a visualization exercise that I call the “tilted equator” to show students that pure hues have different values and demonstrate how colors flow in relationship to each other.
If you are not familiar with the system – Munsell just posted a pdf on their blog with photos of an original Atlas. You can zoom in and see the details clearly. I would love to own a copy of the original but the pdf is almost as good as having the real thing on my shelf.
About a year ago I walked into a shop on Alberta Street in Portland and saw pages from a 1915 edition of Munsell’s Atlas of Color framed on the wall. They were from a damaged book that the owners had purchased and carefully taken apart to salvage the pages still in good condition. I left without buying one of the pages and kicked myself for months. I even went back and asked if they had any more but was told that all the framed pages were sold.
I visited the store two months ago and there were three more pages on the wall! They were able to save a few more pages of the book and had just finished framing them. I chose the Yellow – Blue Violet page, brought it home, and put it in a place of honor in my reading nook.
Some time last year I was invited to do a guest post for the Munsell blog. I ended up writing about a variety of color flow exercises in polymer and on the computer. The first post in the series was published on the Munsell site last month – just about the time I brought home the Munsell for my wall.