Munsell Color Books

Browse the Munsell color book samples by selecting a collection using the left tab and a color page on the right tab. The collections used here are kindly made available by the University of Eastern Finland and Robin Myers for free for educational purposes. Click on a sample to see measured spectral reflectivity values and chromaticity coordinates in various color spaces.


This application displays the colors and spectral reflectivity data of the color samples found in Munsell Color books. For more background on Albert H. Munsell, his color books, and, most importantly, his color order system, see the Munsell Color System section below.

The plots shown are derived from measurements done by the University of Eastern Finland UEF and by Robin Myers, shared through his spectral library collection at Chromaxion. They can be used freely for personal, scientific, and educational purposes and redistributed only with attribution to their respective sources. Data from these sites were converted to spectral JSON files, the applications on this site.


At start-up, the spectral composition of the sample with the highest chroma value of a Munsell Color Book page is shown, which is the 5R5/14 sample, a Burgundy red color. Its name, a circular color sample, three sets of chromaticity values, and spectral distribution are shown above a color patch selection box on the web page. The chromaticity values displayed here are the CAM16 UCS Ja’b’ values, using the CIE2015 10° standard observer, and the OKLCH lightness, chroma, and hue values and sRGB hex value using the CIE 1931 2° standard observer. For the most accurate colorimetric perception representation and color matching, use the CAM16 values; in digital applications, use the OKLCH or the sRGB hex values, preferably in that order.

Color Book Selection

Below the plot is the color patch selection area. This app has spectral data measured using different spectrometers and from different color books. On start-up, the data, as measured by the University of Eastern Finland, is shown using a Munsell Matte Color Book published in xxx, identified by the label UEF/Matte. The following color book collections are available:

  • The University of Eastern Finland Collections, with the labels
    • UEF/Matte
    • UEF/Gloss
  • and the Robin Myers — Chromaxion Collection:
    • Chromaxion/Matte
    • Chromaxion/Soil

The measurements are done on the actual samples of a colorbook, which can vary due to production tolerances and aging. Also, different instruments were used for the measurements.

Hue Selection

The Munsell color book typically contains forty pages, each containing samples with the same Hue. They are identified by a number, with a value of 1, 2.5, 5, 7.5, or 10, and an abbreviation of the color group with R for Red, YR for Yellow-Red, Y for Yellow, GY for Yellow-Green, G for Green, BG for Blue-Green, B for Blue, PB for Purple-Blue, P for Purple, and, finally, RP for Red-Purple. Select a page from this online color book with the second tab. The first page shown is 5R with a collection of red colors.

The samples within a page are ordered by Chroma value on the horizontal axis and Munsell Value (lightness) on the vertical axis. The Munsell value is a number between 1 and 10, placed directly after the Hue value, and the Chroma value is the value after the forward-slash separator. In the Munsell Color System, the Chroma value is unbounded at the high end, but here you’ll find maximum values of 14.

Access Spectral Data

The spectral data can be copied to your device’s clipboard by clicking the spectral plot area. A regular click will copy the data as two columns of values, with wavelengths, in nanometer units, in the first column and spectral values in the second column. The values can be directly pasted into a spreadsheet if you want to do calculations yourself.

Spectral values are normalized to a peak value of 100.00 and are given with a three-decimal precision. Holding down the “shift”-key while clicking the spectral area will copy a single column of spectral data over a range from 380 to 780 nanometers, with a step size of 1 nanometer, resulting in a total of 401 copied values.


You must be online to use this app, as the spectral data are fetched from the website when selected. Please check your internet connection if you don’t see any spectral plot or sources in the list.

The site uses JavaScript, as many web apps do nowadays, but if you have disabled JavaScript support for this site, you need to enable it to use its functionality.

A cut-out view of the three-dimensional shape of the Munsell color space, using cylindrical coordinates, with Hue (Color) as azimuth angle, Value (Lightness) as height (axial coordinate), and Chroma (Saturation) as radial distance. The colors in this view are inaccurate and intended for illustration only. Original by SharkD, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

Munsell Color System

Albert H. Munsell (1858-1918) was a painter, teacher, and color scientist, mostly known for his color ordering system. He introduced his color system in his book A Color Notation in 1905. His first color book, Atlas of the Munsell Color System, was published in 1915. His last book, A Grammar of Color: Arrangements of Strathmore Papers in a Variety of Printed Color Combinations According to The Munsell Color System, was published after his death.

He founded the Munsell Color Company in 1917, a year before his death. His family later restructured it as the Munsell Color Foundation and Munsell Color Laboratory at the Rochester Institute of Technology. They are well known for producing the Munsell Books of Color, an improved version of the Atlas published by Albert Munsell in 1915, the Munsell Color Tree, and the Farnsworth Munsell 100 Hue Color Vision Test. Although the foundation closed in 1983, the X-Rite company still produces and sells these products under the Munsell product name.

He created an atlas of color, or color book, consisting of a collection of different painted color patches, categorized by the parameters Hue, or color in colloquial language, Value, typically called brightness, and Chroma or color saturation. Based on color perception experiments, the samples were created to have approximately the same perceptual color differences as their neighbors. He was not the first to propose these perceptual color parameters, as Grassmann used them in his first color law in 1853. Still, he was the first to create a systematic collection based on perceptual color differences using a systematic color notation.

In the Munsell color ordering system, a hue is identified by a number, ranging from 1 to 10, and a letter combination, as shown in the second tab of the color selection box above. The 1929 edition of the Munsell color book contained matte color samples and had 20 hue pages, identified by the numbers 5 or 10 and ten letter combinations. Later versions added pages with the numbers 2.5 and 7.5, resulting in 40 hue pages.

Besides Hue, colors are categorized by Chroma (color saturation) and value (brightness/lightness). Values range from 1 to 9, with 0 and 10 representing perfect black and white, which are not part of the color books as they are mathematically defined only.

Chroma values start at 0 for the grey samples and have varying maximum values. For 5R-hue in this application, it is 14, but values may extend the value of 20 for very pure colors.