10YR Munsell Chart – Can I Match it?

A 10YR Munsell chart wouldn’t have meant anything to me 2 years ago. But learning to think about color in Munsell terms i.e. hue/value/chroma has been game-changing for me. It has been the single thing that has improved my painting over the last couple of years. Not the most exciting thing today but useful nonetheless. I’ve been thinking about how long it would take to reproduce every chart in the Big Munsell Book in oil. This is the gold standard if you’re working with Munsell and is eye-wateringly expensive. The recommendation is to start with the student book which has fewer chips but is only around $100. You can also pick up used editions on Ebay every now and again.

All About The Munsell Color System

If you want to know more about Munsell see my new post about what it is and how to use it. Includes a link to downloadable pdfs and access to the online Munsell tool ChromaMagic.

Munsell wheel at different values

New! ChromaMagic

A free online tool to identify Munsell chips from any photo.

How Easy is it to Mix a 10YR Munsell Chart?

So there are 40 charts and around 1600 colors in total. I thought I’d start with the chart that always seems to be present – 10YR. This is a yellow orange hue and has the full range of colors from light to dark and bright to gray. It took me around 4 hours to exactly mix every swatch. Phew! At one a day this would take me 40 days. Hmm.

Here’s the same thing in grayscale (actually desaturated). Each row should look exactly the same value.

Grayscale Munsell chart and oil painted copy
Munsell Chart 10YR Desaturated.

Not too bad. A couple of wobbles here and there but pretty close.

I did this on Strathmore canvas paper and marked out the swatches with 1/4 inch masking tape. I should have waited until tomorrow to take the tape off but couldn’t wait 🙂

Online Watercolor Classes

I don’t explicity teach Munsell in my watercolor classes but I do use the principles when mixing color. I run regular beginners and intermediate/improvers classes throughout the year. If you are interested please visit my classes page. If you would like to be notified of any upcoming classes please sign up for my mailing list.

Vermont farm watercolor landscape by Michele Clamp

Online Zoom Classes

I run online zoom courses regularly for both beginners and more advanced students. Please check out my workshop page.

Michele Clamp Studio Wall

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Venice and Watercolor Value Studies

Varying the value range alters a painting’s feel

The plan behind venice and watercolor value studies is the following. Take a reference and paint it three times. The middle one is painted as closely to the actual value range in the reference as possible. The top one is shifting and compressing the value range to the top i.e. lighter than the reference. And similarly the bottom one is shifting and compressing the value range to the bottom i.e. darker.

Change the values but keep the value relationships

The first goal with these studies was to see whether we could shift the values but still keep the value relationships. If the relationships are good then the scene will read correctly. And I think they all do. None of them are great paintings but you can see they all represent the same thing.

Shift the values to change the atmosphere

The second goal was to change the feel of a painting by shifting the values. I thought the lighter one might have a more misty, ethereal feel. And the darker one would be more moody. Well I don’t think I succeeded here. Maybe I’m over simplifying the process. But it definitely an exercise worth doing.

Some days nothing really works

Wasn’t really feeling it for this one. Let’s hope I can pull something out of the bag for tomorrow’s class. In any case it was good practice for value studies. I’ve also included a larger version below. Again I’m not really happy with it – just one of those days I suppose.

venice sunset watercolor
venice sunset watercolor

And a link to someone who can really nail this – Joseph Zbukvic

A lot of you will know of Joseph Zbukvic. His value handling (amongst many other things) is spectacular.

Watercolor by Joseph Zbukvic

Yes well we’re all depressed now aren’t we? He actually uses quite a narrow range of values here but expertly implemented.

Nighttime People Doodling

People sketches on ipad
people sketches on ipad

Noodling on the ipad last night I tested drawing some people from imagination. Tricky but quite satisfying.

Learning from Zbukvic and Chien Chung Wei

Another set of Zbukvic and Chien Chung Wei copies today. Only 3 more as time was limited. Some successes (bottom left I was happy with) but struggled a lot.