This chapter of The Munsell Color System explains how to combine colors to produce color harmony. Previous discussions had centered mostly on complementary colors, but in this chapter the discussion is broadened to include color combinations within a single Hue, with neighboring Hues and with three or more colors.There is one thing more painful than learning from mistakes (our own or somebody else's):  Not learning from them. - Barbara Johnson
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Color Combinations

The Munsell Color System

If in the foregoing discussion we have touched upon the combining of colors in use, it has been only by way of explanation of some point in the laws of Measurement and Balance. I it is hoped that no impression has been given that the color combinations possible within the range of the Munsell Color System are limited to the examples which have thus far been mentioned. This is so far from being the case that any attempt to cover the subject of color combinations possible with this System would be quite futile within the limited scope of this article. A orderly and logical system will, in fact, offer a greater range of possibilities for the combination of color than could be discovered at random.

We must, therefore, be content to mention here only a few of the directions or paths which offer harmonious color combinations, trusting that the reader may be sufficiently interested by these to seek other possibilities of his or her own accord.

In considering the use of two colors together, we have usually used those having opposite Hues, because that is the clearest example with which to explain the idea of Balance. This combination of opposites is one of the simplest and surest means of producing color harmonies. We have seen how, if properly proportioned as to amount or area, these opposite colors will balance in perfect neutrality. But another interesting fact is that when placed together these contrasting colors tend to stimulate and enhance each other.

Another very simple and practically infallible series of color harmonies may be made within a single Hue. We may combine a low Value of any Hue with a high Value of the same; or a weak Chroma of any Hue with a stronger Chroma of the same. A more interesting combination within a single Hue is that of a low Value and weak Chroma with a high Value and stronger Chroma or vice versa.


Different Values of a single Hue produce harmony.
Color Combinations


Different Chromas of a single Hue produce harmony.
This book, written in 1921, explains Color Combination and how it can be achieved using the Albert Munsell Color Wheel.


A low Value and weak Chroma of a Hue will harmonize with a high Value and strong Chroma of the same Hue and visa versa.
Color Combination


This suggests variations in the application of the rule, such as are indicated in the smaller perspectives above, where the elliptical path is shown tilted to different levels of Value.

*EDITOR'S NOTE: The above is the result of Mr. F. G. Cooper's research study on the Munsell Color System. A correction was made after this book went into print. The original printing said "We may avoid this danger in the selection of our colors between these opposites by choosing steps of Chroma for them which shall be nearer to the neutral pole and approach to within, perhaps, three steps of it." This should have said, "to within, perhaps, two steps of it." The diagram is incorrect. The short axis of the ellipse should extend only two steps instead of three.

A further study of Color thus arranged in measurable order will certainly be rewarded by the discovery of many interesting possibilities which we have failed to note here. The subject is endless and unless this article is to be likewise endless, the few suggestions which it offers must suffice. The deeper we penetrate this always fascinating subject, the more clearly we shall see that "Color Harmony" is only another term for color order and that order will yield order. Any path in the Color Sphere, and some paths outside it, which are themselves orderly in form and interval, will lead through a series of colors which are in accord and when used together will render the agreeable sensation which we seek in all color relations.

Editor's Note: Now that you've finished reading this interesting book, if you are ready to experiment with colors, try this full featured Color Wheel.

Continue on to the Appendix - (Good information. Worth reading.)


Forward Chap 1, Hue Chap 2, Value Chap 3, Chroma Chap 4, Color Wheel Chap 5, Complementaries Chap 6, Color Balance Chap 7, Color Combinations App 1 Summary and Usage App 2 Usage Examples App 3 Hue Nomenclature About This Book

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