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What are the 10 hues in the munsell color chart?

The Munsell color system is a color space that specifies colors based on three properties: hue, value, and chroma. It was created by Albert H. Munsell in the early 20th century and has become an industry standard color system used widely today in visual arts, graphic design, and other fields.

The Munsell system is organized around 10 primary hues, each representing a basic color. Within each hue, there are designated variations of value (lightness/darkness) and chroma (saturation/vividness). By systematically changing these three properties, the Munsell system maps out the full range of perceptible colors.

In this article, we will focus specifically on defining and exploring the 10 fundamental hues that form the foundation of the Munsell color space. Understanding these basic hues and the visual relationships between them is key to utilizing the Munsell system effectively.

The 10 Munsell Hues

The 10 main hues in the Munsell color system are:

Red Yellow Green Blue Purple
Orange Yellow-Red Yellow-Green Blue-Green Purple-Blue

These hues are spaced systematically around the Munsell color wheel at 40 degree intervals. They provide reference points that represent visually equal steps between the main spectral colors (red, yellow, green, blue).


Red is located at 0 degrees on the Munsell color wheel. It is one of the three primary colors and a warm hue. Reds contain just red light wavelengths, with no green or blue. In the Munsell system, hue 0R denotes pure red.


Yellow is at 40 degrees on the color wheel. It is a primary color and a warm hue. Yellows contain just the yellow and red light wavelengths, with no blue. In Munsell, 10Y is the notation for a pure yellow.


Green sits at 140 degrees on the Munsell color wheel. It is one of the primary colors and is considered a cool hue. Greens contain yellow and blue light wavelengths, with no red. The Munsell symbol for pure green is 5G.


Blue is located at 220 degrees. It is a primary color and a cool hue. Blues contain just the blue light wavelengths, with no yellow or red. The purest blue in the Munsell system is designated as 5PB.


Purple, at 280 degrees, is a secondary color made by combining red and blue. It is considered a cool hue. In Munsell, 5P represents the pure purple hue.


Orange, at 20 degrees, is a secondary color made from red and yellow. It is a warm hue. 10YR in Munsell denotes a pure orange.


Yellow-red, at 60 degrees, is an intermediate hue between yellow and red. It has qualities of both neighboring hues. 7.5YR represents a pure yellow-red.


Yellow-green, at 100 degrees, is an intermediate hue between yellow and green. It possesses qualities of both hues. The Munsell symbol for pure yellow-green is 2.5GY.


Blue-green, at 180 degrees, sits between green and blue on the color wheel. It exhibits a balance of those two hues. In Munsell, 2.5BG denotes the pure blue-green hue.


Purple-blue, at 260 degrees, is an intermediate hue between purple and blue. It displays traits of both hues in combination. 7.5PB in Munsell represents the pure purple-blue hue.

Visualizing the Munsell Hues

The 10 Munsell hues and their relationships can be visualized using a color wheel:

Munsell color wheel showing the 10 hues

As you move around the wheel, adjacent hues flow smoothly into one another. Complementary hues (directly across from each other on the wheel) provide maximum contrast.

The Munsell system is organized into horizontal hue “slices” around the color wheel. Within each hue, vertical variations in value are shown from light (10) to dark (0). Chroma runs radially outward from neutral gray (0) to maximal saturation (higher numbers).

Using the Munsell Hues

Understanding the 10 Munsell hues provides a useful foundation for color mixing, visual design, and other applications. Here are some key benefits:

– Provides controlled reference points for consistent color communication
– Allows systematic manipulation of hue, value, and chroma
– Simplifies describing relationships between colors (e.g. complementary hues)
– Aid in color mixing by revealing connections between hues
– Can identify perceptual gaps in color experiences
– Forms a logical basis for organizing color tools (e.g. pigments)
– Facilitates technical translation between color systems

The Munsell hues serve as anchors that allow colors to be navigated in a consistent and organized way based on visual properties. This supports many practical color tasks.

Interior designers may reference Munsell hues when selecting coordinated colors for a room. Painters can achieve cleaner color mixing by understanding hue relationships. Designers might choose complementary hues from the wheel for visual impact.

The Munsell system has remained popular because its organization around 10 principal hues aligns well with human color perception. The hues provide an intuitive scaffolding.

Munsell Hues in Practice

To provide more context, here are some examples of the Munsell hues being used in different fields:

Color Matching in Manufacturing

Quality control in manufacturing often involves color matching to established standards. Munsell color charts are commonly used to inspect products like textiles, plastics, and ceramics.

The 10 Munsell hues provide fixed reference points. Subtle color variations can be detected by comparing to the closest matching hue chip on the chart. The hue designations (like 5R or 10BG) provide an objective numeric color specification.

This allows manufacturers to consistently check that product colors fall within accepted tolerances. Any deviations outside the target hue can be identified and corrected.

Identifying Color Deficiencies in Vision

The arrangement of Munsell hues is designed to be perceptually uniform. This makes it useful for testing color vision deficiencies.

Patients with conditions like color blindness or macular degeneration may have trouble distinguishing certain hues apart. By systematically testing identification of the 10 Munsell hues, vision deficits can be reliably detected.

Subtle discrimination issues between neighboring hues may also be revealed. This allows the type and severity of color vision impairment to be thoroughly assessed.

Studying Color Perception

Researchers investigating color perception often rely on the controlled Munsell system. Using the 10 standard Munsell hues allows color relationships to be studied in a systematic way.

Experiments may involve asking subjects to rate aesthetic qualities of various hue combinations. Or, measuring reaction times in distinguishing complementary hues. The regular Munsell color space permits rigorous quantification of perceptual responses.

By intermixing Munsell hues under different conditions, researchers can dig deeply into the mechanics of human color vision. This provides data to develop and test models of our visual processing systems.

Color Matching in Photography/Design

In fields like photography and design, managing color is crucial. The Munsell system provides a way to communicate and match colors accurately.

For example, a graphic designer may use 5BG and 5Y as referential starting points for selecting a color palette. A photographer might calibrate screens using standard Munsell hue samples as baseline references.

This gives everyone a common language for color-critical tasks like lighting adjustment, white balance, establishing mood, and other decisions that rely on hue perception.

Munsell Hues and Color Order Systems

The Munsell hue circle forms one of several widely used color order systems. Some key properties it shares with other standardized color models:

– Perceptual spacing of hues designed to match human vision
– Comprehensive mapping of all visible color space
– Systematic organization using dimensions of hue, value, and chroma
– Combines artistry with empirical measurement
– Practical applications across many fields

Some other influential color order systems include:

– CIE 1931 XYZ (scientific standard observer functions)
– Ostwald/Swedish Natural Color System
– Boutet (one of the first circular hue models)
– NCS Natural Color System

Each of these models represents colors using defined perceptual axes. While they vary in precise specification, they aim to provide orderly, rational color frameworks.

The Munsell system combines advantages of both artistic color organization and rigorous color science. This balance helps explain its continued prominence today.


The 10 principal hues of the Munsell color system provide the foundation for this highly influential color model. From a visual design perspective, these hues establish fixed reference points at perceptually equal intervals around the hue circle.

Understanding the relationships and interactions between these 10 main Munsell hues facilitates many practical color tasks. It enables objective color specification, communication of color, manipulation of hue/value/chroma, and other applications across a wide range of fields.

The orderly arrangement and systematic variations of the Munsell hues align strongly with the mechanisms of human color vision. This lends them an intuitive and ergonomic quality, part of why the Munsell system remains a color standard over a century after its creation.