NCS - Natural Color System ®© , the NCS ®© notations and NCS ®© products are the

property of the Scandinavian Colour Institute AB, Stockholm 2008.

Key for translation from Munsell to NCS

Munsell Book of Color

In 1905, the artist Albert Munsell wrote “A color

notation” with a description of a colour appearance

system. The first edition of the “Atlas of the

Munsell Color System” was published in 1915.

The Munsell system was intended to be a visual

colour order system, but the colour samples were

selected largely on physical and mathematical

principles, so that the resulting structure does not

fully comply with the visual perception of colours.

This is particularly true for several of the principal

colours, which are five in the Munsell system,

compared with four in the NCS.

The fifth principal colour, in addition to Y, R, B

and G, is P (purple), Approximately corresponding

to R50B. The consequence is that Munsell R and

B differ from the corresponding NCS elementary

colours: R is slightly bluish and B distinctly greenish,

whereas the correspondence is rather good for

Y and G.

After a number of editions the atlas samples had

changed considerably from the original specifications.

A “Munsell renotation” was undertaken to

smooth out the irregularities, aiming at an equal

spacing but still adhering to the then main structure.

The Munsell system is since 1943 defined by colorimetrically

defined aim points for the atlas samples,

evaluated for illuminant C and the CIE 1931

2 o observer (ASTM Standard Method D 1535-89).

The Munsell system is based on the three following


The Hue of a colour is to “distinguish one color

family from the other”. A bipartition of the

five sectors between the principal hues gave the

intermediate hues. Each of the ten sectors was then

partitioned to give a hue circle of 100 steps.

The Value (lightness) is to “distinguish a light

color from a dark one”on a ten step scale. Value 0

is ideal black and value 10 is ideal white.

Related hue symbols arranged on 100 hue circuit

The Chroma is to “distinguish a strong color

from a weak one”, indicating the degree of departure

of a given colour from a neutral grey of

the same value.

Compared with the NCS, Munsell is using lightness

(value) instead of whiteness and blackness,

and absolute chroma instead of relative chromaticness.

The Munsell Book of Color is a colour atlas

with 40 of the 100 hue steps, within each sector

numbered 2.5, 5, 7.5 and 10.

5R, 5YR etc. indicate the centre of each sector,

the figure 5 may be dropped in some cases.

Munsell Book of Color - Matte Finish Collection

(1976) with 1150 colour samples.

Munsell Book of Color - Glossy Finish Collection

(1976) with 1500 colour samples.


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