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Charting Color from the Eye of the Beholder

A century ago, artist Albert Henry Munsell quantified colors based on how they appear to people; specializations of his system are still in wide scientific use

Edward Landa, Mark Fairchild

Figure 2. Brightness and colorfulness...Click to Enlarge Image

Everyone knows the particular shade of yellow that adorns all school buses across the United States. But how do we define exactly what shade this is, and reproduce the same color from coast to coast? Much of the standardization of colors stems from the century-old work of Alfred Munsell, who created one of the first colorimetry systems defined by how people see color: lightness, hue, and chroma (how much the apparent hue differs from neutral grey). Munsell's color charts have been customized for different fields, and are still in use in areas as diverse as beer brewing and soil science.


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