- The core of the color space is represented here as a central pillar. It is without chroma and represents values. Value is the degree of lightness or darkness in a note. At the bottom of the core is the darkest value and at its top, the lightest. Remember, last night I said that the notes become graver as they approach the core. Here is that core, rising through the diagram like a central pillar.
- Hue, the name of the color, its color family.
- Chroma, the intensity or saturation) of the color, ie. how intensely or gravely colored is it?
- Value, the degree of lightness or darkness.
As a painter, that is not where its usefulness lies for me. There are artists who study the Munsell system and use it to build their color schemes, but I am not one of them.The reason the system is valuable to me is as a logic for matching the colors in nature before me, or effectively inventing a color that I need for some purpose. When I mix color on the palette I use the three criterion in the Munsell system to obtain my note. Here is how that sounds in my head;
- What hue is it? Gee it is a yellow. Which yellow on my palette looks like the note in nature? Is it my warm yellow or the cool one? I guess it looks the most like my cadmium yellow, so I will lay out a dollop of that on my palette.
- It looks as if the note in nature is greener than that so I will add a little blue. Ultramarine looks like it will do. So I add little ultramarine. Then I look back at the note in nature and ask myself "how is the note in nature different than what I have? Perhaps it is a little too colored? I need to drop the chroma a little.
- I drop the chroma by adding a little red (or gray). I would choose a warm or a cool red depending on whether the note in nature is warmer or cooler than the one on my palette.
- I decide to add a cool red so I throw a tiny bit of permanent alizarin into the note. That's a strong color so I have to do this very carefully or I will "blow the whole note out". That is overwhelm it with the powerful alizarin. I would then probably have to start over.
- I look back at nature again and ask myself, "how is that note out there different from the note on my palette?" I decide that it is lighter in value, so I add a little white to my mixture. I look back at nature again and ask myself "have I got it?" If I can't discern a difference between the note on my palette and the note I am attempting to match, I am there.
I will cook up a demo for this mixing process soon, so you can see it done. It sounds a lot more complicated than it is. Mixing color accurately is a skill than can be learned, but needs to be in the painters set of learned abilities. With an adequate palette you should be able to mix any color you can see. There are some colors that are outside the range of traditional pigments that can only be matched with some of the most modern pigments, but you won't run into them often unless you paint in the clothing section of Sears. There are some odd colors that are hard to hit but most often a close approximation will convince the viewer, when you can't hit a note exactly .
There are however values in nature that you can't get, often the sky is so much brighter than your white paint straight out of the tube, that you can only give the "look" of that brightness. Again like with the oddball colors I mentioned before, that is usually enough. There are ways to make the sky look brighter than you can actually paint it, but that is another post.