What Exactly Is the Munsell Color System and Why Should I Care?

What Exactly Is the Munsell Color System and Why Should I Care?

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I’m entering a new phase of exploring color in a deeper, more intentional manner. Working with color has always been a fascination, and I have come to realize that there is much more to learn beyond the technical nature of how to use DaVinci Resolve or any color-grading tool. This notion seems to be beckoning me to open up to new perspectives.

In this podcast with Art Schmehling, Business Manager for X-Rite/Pantone, I’m going farther along the path of the language of color. This interview is what I hoped for – an open conversation about color use and color awareness with the Munsell Color system as a basis and starting point for talking about color.  There are other color models. I have my reasons for starting here.

A number of years ago I was introduced to the Munsell Color System by Kevin Shaw during an International Colorist Academy class on Color Strategies for Colorists. I realized that, as a filmmaker and a colorist, I truly did not have a solid feel for how to language my expression of color. Truth is, I think a lot of us have never really had the opportunity to understand how color works, much less how to language it, unless we attended school as an artist. We do our best each day when working with producers and filmmakers, but honestly, at times it feels like the blind leading the blind during the initial conversations. In time a kind of meta understanding is deciphered as we sit long enough and talk.

Kevin mentioned numerous times that “Colorists are often tending toward clichéd looks – different movies using similar looks based on the type of movies,” and of course you can see this pattern clearly with the never-ending use of teal and orange grades, especially in blockbusters. That said, I’ve seen some very creative, subtle, interesting uses of teal and orange, but I get his point. But how do we discover new looks or uses of color that are in service to telling the story in more creative ways?

My mind begins to wonder how color is talked about in development of a script. How does the filmmaker work with the art and set designers so the topic just keeps unfolding? What color language do they use, and how subtle is that use? In time I’ll be looking for one or more art and set designer-type folks to interview on this topic. Know someone? Let me know!

Back to the podcast …  Another focus of my conversation with Art was to see if there is a kind of renaissance occurring around color in our lives, and if so, why? Turns out the answer is yes and Art explains why during the show.

Before finishing. I want to mention how useful I have found the Munsell Blog. I have been reading their posts over the last year and find myself continually enlightened with so many different uses of color in the world.

Lastly, it’s worth getting your head around Munsell Color Notation as it’s a wonderful starting point for understanding what color is and how to communicate your ideas with greater precision – regardless of your commercial use of color. Open up and discover!

Let us use our curiosity to discover how color can become more a conscious choice versus one made for us by companies trying to influence us with color. That’s a tall order, I know, but it’s worth considering. Hope you enjoy the podcast. There will be more shows of this nature over time.

What Exactly Is the Munsell Color System and Why Should I Care?

Here’s How Munsell Color Theory Works

Munsell color order system is based on a three-dimensional model depicted in the Munsell color tree. Each color has three qualities or attributes:

Hue – color such as red, orange, yellow, etc.

Value – the lightness or darkness of a color

Chroma – the saturation or brilliance of a color

Hue, value and chroma are also referred to as (HVC)

Munsell Color Theory is based on a three-dimensional model in which each color is comprised of three attributes of hue (color itself), value (lightness/darkness) and chroma (color saturation or brilliance).

The Munsell Color system is set up as a numerical scale with visually uniform steps for each of the three color attributes—in Munsell color notation, each color has a logical and visual relationship to all other colors.

What Exactly Is Munsell Color System and Why Should I Care?

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During my research for this show I spent a lot of time on the Munsell Blog site. There is one particular author, Aleksandar Macasev,  who evoked many new perspectives in my mind about our use and interpretation of color.  You can see all his posts here.  I’m still considering this one sentence  at the end of Culture… Why That Color?

” Knowing how much we are color-curbed by our own culture might at least show us direction toward a Dionysian color utopia where we could use the color freely as we like. Where we could loosen up and get in touch with our own feelings and the feelings of others. Where we could forget about codes, rules, and classifications and just feel the color.”

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