Developing Your Palette Using the Munsell Color Wheel

Munsell color wheel

Munsell Color Wheel

When I was in elementary school, the color wheel had three primary colors — red, yellow, and blue. Mixing these three colors formed secondary colors — orange, green, and purple.  In the six-color arrangement, there were three pairs of complements, blue/orange, red/green, and yellow/purple.

The traditional form of the color wheel is still being taught today, but I prefer to use an alternative color system developed by Albert Munsell.  The primaries are red, yellow, green, blue, and purple.  Secondaries are combinations of these colors, red-yellow (also known as orange), yellow-green, etc.

The color wheel on the right is a simplified version of Munsell’s arrangement.  There is less space between red and yellow, so the complements are different from what we learned in school.  For example, the complement of red is blue-green instead of green. Complements are aligned so that they produce the greatest visual vibration when placed next to each other and produce a neutral gray when mixed.

Understanding a color wheel is the basis for designing any type of color scheme.  Complements will produce the most exciting color schemes. If you prefer less excitement, try combining analogous colors which are close together on the color wheel.  You can also develop interesting color combinations by combining triads of colors spaced one-third of the way around the color wheel from each other.

In part 1 of this series, I asked you to start collecting photos and objects with colors that appeal to you.  Have you started your collection?  Post some comments describing what you have found.   Keep adding to your collection, and next week we’ll talk about how to make sense of your personal colors.

Read the other parts of the series..

Part 1:  Developing Your Personal Color Palette

Part 3:  Analyzing Your Personal Color Palette

Part 4:  Using your Personal Color Palette

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  1. Nancy Woods October 16, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

    Where can I buy a Munsell color wheel?

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