Print Munsell Color Charts at Home

content_image1Color references are often very pricey. In my blog post “Save hundreds on studio equipment!” I showed you how I made my own color charts which in the end can literally save you hundreds of (insert your currency here). And in “Mixing Neutrals” I showed how I made a neutral value scale based on my Munsell color chips from the Munsell Student book.

In the blog post “Munsell 101 for the Artist” I explain the Munsell Color System and how it can help you learn to see and mix colors.

Now I have another way of saving money on color charts – Just print them at home with your inkjet printer!

With the Print@HOME Color Charts package you can print your own color references – based on the Munsell Color System – without spending hundreds of Dollars like professional color charts cost.

And this is in the Package:

  • 40 printable color charts in CMYK color
  • 11 step value scale
  • Color Balance Card for Your Photos
  • Grey Background for Your Glass Palette
  • Instructions how to use the Charts
  • and more…

I hope this will serve you well in your Classical Atelier at Home!

Get me to the Color Charts!

The video below explains all in detail so click the Play button:


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Save hundreds on studio equipment!

Save 781.50€ on studio equipment!…..What?


Recently I talked about the Munsell color system which in brief is a system based on the three qualities of color – hue, value and chroma which helps you in judging color. As an artist you will need to know what colors to mix for your subject and which paints to choose to mix these specific colors. And here comes a color catalogue in handy. While there are some painters who have the Munsell Book of Color the old masters only had their own tube paints with which they made color charts.

My first set of color swatches was the Munsell Student Book with matte chips of the number 5 hues in all their variations in chroma and value. The book cost me about 75€ and it has 276 color chips.

For my flesh tones I put the 5YR and 5R chips under the glass of my low budget glass palette.

Paint piles according to the Munsell color chips 5YR chromas 2 and 4

My Munsell Student book chips as flesh tone swatches. Neutrals, 5YR chromas 2 and 4 and 5R chromas 2 and 4

But 5R is too red for skin tones. What I needed was 7.5R. So I opened the Munsell poster on my computer, placed the 5R from the Student book besides me and tried to interpolate a 7.5R which I then painted on a paper palette to be able to cut out chips after the paint had dried. This approach of trying to mix color coming from a light source isn’t very effective and nearly impossible for a perfect match.

Self made 7.5R chromas 2 and 4 on a paper palette

Self made 7.5R painted on a paper palette. After the paint had cured I cut out color chips.


Picture frame palette with neutrals, 5YR chromas 2,4,6 and 5R chromas 2 and 4 from the Munsell Student book plus two columns of my self made 7.5R chips

So this was my flesh tone palette for a while and I started premixing larger amounts to store them in syringes (a little more detail on premixing can be found here).

premixed colors in syringes

These are all my premixed paints to date.

Using premixed paint makes the painting process much easier and faster. With a photo reference from (see my blog post about Posespace here) I painted this guy with ease.


Shot with a mobile phone and edited in Photoshop. The original painting is waaaay better 😀

classical painting palette

I then had the luck that someone borrowed me the original 7.5R chips to make my own chips. I bought polystyrene boards, sanded them and painted my premixed colors onto it (with Standoil for a glossy finish). After the paint had cured I cut them out and replaced my Student color chips under my palette (got a new one from IKEA for 6.99€ with a much better and more durable fastening on the rear side).

polystyrene chips

Polystyrene board

chips under glass

My new palette and Munsell flesh tone chips.

Do I need all this?

To be able to mix all colors in the Munsell Book of Color you would need numerous different types of tube paints which not all are easily accessible. A color catalogue like the Munsell Book of Color will not show you which paints to choose – you have to find out by yourself by mixing them and learning their characteristics.

The Munsell Book of Color would cost me 799€ (EDIT: I made a mistake and forgot the tax; so it actually costs 950€). In it there are 1600 color swatches (~0.50€/chip). And there’s also the possibility to obtain the Munsell Replacement Color chips for $145 for each hue (~0.70€/chip).

There are propably many color swatches in the Munsell Book of Color that you won’t need except in very special cases. Mark Carder only uses 5 colors to mix all of the colors that he needs for his terrific portraits.

I recently stumbled across Thomas Bakers video on making color charts (see the video at the bottom of this post) and he uses 6 basic colors (with few more as convenience colors; they are not absolutely necessary). So I decided to make these color charts too.

This was my investment compared to the 799€ for the Munsell Book of Color:

  1. Sheet of illustration board ~80 x 100 cm 10€
  2. Roll of tape 2.5€
  3. Paints (just an estimation for all the paint that is going to be used) 5€

Which is in total 17.50€! You see: for the fraction of the costs you’ll have a catalogue for all the colors you’ll need and you’ll know how to choose the right colors to mix the desired hues, values and chromas since you make notes on the boards. Depending on the size of your swatches and the value steps you make (I made 7) you can have hundreds of swatches for nearly free. When I have filled all the space on the illustration board with more swatches I’ll have 616 swatches!

This is 0.03€/chip and it is unbeatable! So go and do your homework – these charts will accompany you a lifetime.


I am still in the process of making them but here is the most current shot

Making color charts

Making color charts



Piles of paint. Much more pleasing to the eye than Damien Hirts dotted paintings :D

Piles of paint. Much more pleasing to the eye than Damien Hirst’s dotted paintings 😀


And here’s the video by Thomas Baker. Make sure to watch part 2 and 3 as well.

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Instructional video by Douglas Flynt

I recently wrote about Scott Waddell’s new instructional video “Drawing & Painting” and considered it as very valuable since it is packed with lots of information.

Two days later I found Douglas Flynt’s instructional video which somehow went under my radar since it is available for over 2 months now. With $39.95 (~29€) for 74 minutes it is about the same as Scott’s video. And it has the same information density – if not even more!

I also wrote about the Munsell color system recently and if you still have questions about it, watch this video and see how it is applied in a still life painting.

Sit back and listen to his bedtime story voice.

Not only this video is very informative – Douglas has also two free demonstrations on his website:

Demo #1

Demo #2

And his blog is also full of information

douglas flynt2

douglas flynt

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Munsell 101 for the artist

Color theory – a little physics for the artist

For me color theory was always a boring topic. With my background as a lab technician I knew about the wavelengths of light and how the eye perceives color. But this did not help me learning to see and mix color. But here are the basics:

There are different types of color models and most of them are organized in a circle. Color is a visual sensation of electro magnetic waves. The eye is the organ that is able to perceive these wavelengths. The eye perceives waves which have wavelengths between 380 nanometers and 780 nanometers. Between these wavelengths we can see every color – starting with violet at the low wavelengths up to red at the high wavelengths with every color in between.

This explanation makes clear that a true color model is not circular but rather linear – wavelengths decrease or increase and become invisible for the eye. But we also notice that both ends – violett and red – are very similar and can indeed go from one to another.

Now to the practical part for mixing colors on your palette. (Here I show you a low budget glass palette with which you can place color chips beneath to make matching colors much easier).

The Munsell color system

The Munsell color system is the most logical color system – forget about other color systems. It defines colors by Hue (red, yellow, blue, green, blue-green, yellow-red ect.), Value (the lightness of a color; starting at 0 for a perfect black up to 10 for a perfect white – both can`t be represented by tube paints), and Chroma (purity of a color; the lower the chroma the more it tends to a neutral grey).


The right hand side of the picture above is an example of only one hue – 5R. You can download photos of the big Munsell book or use this handy online-tool Virtual Munsell Color Wheel. Keep in mind that trying to mix a screen color with paint is impossible which makes a big difference in perceiving color. But for a general impression it is what you’ll need in your atelier. Actually there are more hues than in the image above – each hue is divided by 2.5, 5, 7.5 and 10.

If you would like to know how you can save hundreds of dollars on color charts just like those from the Munsell Book of Color click here:

Get me to the Color Charts!

Exercises for judging colors

Now that you know about the three different properties of color try to judge colors that you see by these three properties. If you need some help to judge a certain color then use the Munsell Wall chart.

colorswatchThis color definetly is neither blue nor green. Is it red? Yes a little bit. Is it also yellow? A little bit too. So it must be a yellow-red or simply orange. But it is not a pure yellow-red.  The chroma is neither neutral/grey nor full strenght. It’s lightness is about half dark and half light – so it’s about value 5 or so.

In fact this color is 2.5YR 6/6 in the Munsell Notation System which means a yellow-orange hue of 2.5, a value of 6 with a croma of 6. (Again: photos of the big Munsell book ; Virtual Munsell Color Wheel )

In case to match this particular color mix a pile of yellow and red (for example Cadium Yellow and Cadmium Red) to a strong chromatic orange. Now come the neutrals in handy (how to mix neutrals and store mixtures in bulk can be read here).

Take your Value 6 Neutral and mix the orange in. Not too much at first to judge the needed portion for going another step to more chroma. Our original orange mix also has a value of about 6 so the lightness of the neutral-orange mix won’t change. Now you can move closer to your target color by playing with yellow, red and neutral.

Most of the colors that we see in nature are low chroma colors (see Munsell analysis of different objects or read this excellent article on the blog “Muddy Colors”). Most skin tones fall into a small range between the reds and yellow-reds at less than chroma 4 – for black and for white, for yellow and red ones. See here at the bottom of the page.

Artist Gregory Mortensen shows his approach to working with a Munsell system palette for portraits.

See what students do in a Munsell workshop with Graydon Parrish

Read more about color on huevaluechroma. This is THE RESSOURCE for color in the internet for artists.

Here’s a little game for you to learn about Hue, Value and Chroma:

Eye Q Test 1

Eye Q Test 2

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Mixing neutrals


Color swatches from the home improvement store (right) in comparison with the color swatches from the Munsell Student Book.

Having some neutral values at hand is very handy. You can use them for a value scale or to mix with higher chroma colors (of the same value) to make them more neutral. If you have problems judging the value of a high chroma color squint your eyes.

While a commercial Munsell value scale can be quite pricy you can try to substitute it with free color swatches from the home improvement store. Compare them carefully – some will look somewhat greenish, some reddish ect. Coose the most neutral looking ones.

I’ve got the Munsell student book, but the problem with the matte chips from the book is, that you can not place paint dabs onto it and whipe it off afterwards. So what you need is some kind of glossy color swatch – and those from the home improvement store should be glossy.


Value stick with holes and matte neutral chips from the Munsell student book

As you can see in the above picture I wasn’t able to match some of the neutrals perfectly due to the matte chips (and little patience). Some are spot on but some are too warm. So I borrowed the neutrals from someone who has the big Munsell book, which contains chips with a glossy surface. Now I was able to check the neutrals better.

Munsell neutral chips

The 9 glossy chips from the big Munsell book. Perfect white and black can’t be made with paints so there are only 9 chips in the 11 value scale by Munsell.

value still not matching

Still not matching value and neutral hue

value perfect match

Perfect match of value and hue

broken palette knife

Oooops 🙂

in syringe

Syringes are a better alternative for empty paint tubes: easier to fill and much cheaper.

4 values in syringes

4 values in syringes

needed materials

These are the paints that I’ve used: Titanium White, Ivory Black and Burnt Umber.

The above picture shows the paints that I’ve used. But I had a hard time mixing some neutrals, so I needed a little bit of either Cadmium Yellow or Cadmium Red – depending on the direction I needed to go. Note that mixing Titanium White with Ivory Black will result in a cool color and not a neutral as one would expect. Ivory Black actually is a very dark blue (try it yourself by mixing it with yellow – you’ll get a green).

In case you go to the home improvement store and look for neutral swatches, compare all of them with each other. In this picture you can see the little differences (from left to right: neutral, neutral, too yellow, too green, too purple, too blue)


Comparison between color swatches from the home improvement store. The two on the left side are perfectly neutral.

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