The Virtual Munsell Color Wheel is a simple online tool that lets you browse Munsell color notation in your web browser and obtain RGB and Hex values for chips. Detailed information about Munsell as a color space can be found elsewhere on the web (I recommend The Dimensions of Color, Handprint, and Munsell).
(Looking for the original version of this tool? You can continue to find that version here.)
NEW VERSION (January 25, 2024)
I’ve finally, after many, many years, released a new version of the Virtual Munsell Color Wheel. Pretty much the same features, but a new look, and one that I hope will work better on mobile devices as well as on large monitors. The web page should be responsive to whatever device and orientation you’re using.
Here’s what the new version looks like (you can click on the image to launch the tool):
There are three main sections to the tool: The color wheel; the hue pages; and the code display area.
Click on any of the colors in the color wheel to select a hue page. In the Munsell color notation, hues are designated by one- or two-letter color codes (R, YR, Y, GY, G, BG, B, PB, P, RP) prefixed by a number (2.5, 5, 7.5, or 10). Each hue has four color pages, so, for instance, you’ll find 2.5R, 5R, 7.5R, and 10R as you move from Red towards Yellow-Red(YR, a.k.a., orange) hue pages.
Once you’ve picked a hue page, you can hover over any one of the chips to see the full Munsell notation for that chip appear. The notation includes the Hue, the Value, a slash, and then the Chroma. For instance, a chip might have the notation 5R 7/4, a red hue with value 7 and chroma of 4. Value is a number from 1 (darkest) to 9 (lightest). Chroma is a number indicating the “colorfulness” of the color compared to a neutral gray of the same value, and ranges from 0 (completely neutral) to around 24 (for this tool); only even-numbered chromas are displayed (2, 4, 6, …).
Only chips whose colors fall within the gamut of the sRGB color space are shown. That is, if you take some “official” Munsell data and try to convert some chips into the sRGB space used on the web, those colors might fall “out of gamut” and are not able to be accurately displayed on many monitors.
Why is the data different in this version?
In the original version of the tool, I found some Munsell data online (from the Munsell Color Science Laboratory (MCSL) at Rochester Institute of Technology) that was already converted into sRGB and I just used that data.
For the newest version, I decided to see if I could recreate their computations using the colour_science Python library. In doing so, I found that the original data was converted using Illuminant C, but I think (though am not certain) that using Illuminant D65 is a better choice and decided to use that illuminant for my color space conversions. I used the colour_science library to fetch all possible Munsell chip data and, where the data was available, converted it from xyY to XYZ to sRGB (using D65) and then, if that result fell within the sRGB gamut, I included the chip in this tool. (It seems that in the data I used for the original version of the tool, some out-of-gamut chips were brought into the sRGB color space by clipping them. That’s one reason why in the new version you may find a few chips missing; the other reason is that the different illuminant used for conversions causes slight changes in colors and may push a few chips out of gamut.)
Please note that although I love studying color and even spent a few wonderful days at a summer intensive program taught by the MCSL delving deep into color science (many years ago!), I’m not a true expert on the nitty gritty of color conversions! If you need guaranteed, official color data for anything important, you should do your own research and calculations!
If you have problems with the tool or find it’s not working right for you, contact me.
Many thanks to Glenn Tait and Ron Francis for their help during the development of the original version of this tool with testing and suggestions for improvement.