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So many tube colors to choose from

numbered tube colors

Munsell should be helping but first I’ll need to learn more about how to use my tube paints to duplicate the Munsell chips from the Student Book.

numbered tube colors
Tube colors I already own

How to build my own Munsell Charts? First I sorted by tube colors by hue.


  • 1 – Cadmium Red Medium – Artisan
  • 2 – Cadmium Red Deep – Cobra
  • 3 – Permanent Magenta – Cobra
  • 4 – Alizarin Crimson – Artisan
  • 5- Indian Red – Artisan
  • 6 – Transparent Oxide Red – Cobra


  • 7 – Burnt Umber – Artisan
  • 8 – Permanent Orange – Cobra
  • 9 – Cadmium Orange Hue – Cobra
  • 10 – Burnt Sienna -Artisan
  • 11 – Burnt Umber – Artisan
  • 12 – Burnt Sienna – Cobra
  • 13 – Cadmium Yellow Deep – Cobra


  • 14 – Cadmium Yellow Light – Artisan
  • 15 – Primary Yellow – Cobra
  • 16 – Lemon Yellow – Artisan
  • 17 – Naples Yellow – Artisan
  • 18 – Yellow Ochre – Cobra
  • 19 – Yellow Ochre – Artisan
  • 20 – Raw Umber – Artisan


  • 21 – Permanent Green Light + Cadmium Yellow Light


  • 22 – Permanent Green Light + bit of Titanium White
  • 23 – Permanent Green Light – Cobra
  • 24 – PhthloGreen (Blue Shade) – Artisan
  • 25 – Transparent Olive Green – Cobra


  • 26 – Ultramarine Blue – Artisan
  • 27 – Ultramarine – Cobra
  • 28 – Primary Cyan – C0bra
  • 29 – Cobalt Blue – Artisan


  • 30 – Dioxazine Purple – Artisan

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Building my color wheel

my color wheel

I started looking at the color bias wheel for my own tube paints. I have Cad Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Cad Red Light. Instead of Rose Red I used Alizarine Crimson Hue.

Color Bias of Primaries

From then I did lots of mixing and built this wheel.

my color wheel
My Color Wheel

Amazingly it seems to give me lots of information about some of my tube colors. I’m beginning to feeling more confident that I’ll be able to mix my own Munsell charts. Tomorrow I’ll start down that path…

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Pre-Munsell Color Work

color bias chart

Color Bias – Warm/Cool

I learned that every color has a particular bias (warm/cool) and therefore leans one direction around the color wheel or another.  A blue will either be a blue which leans toward violet, such as Ultramarine Blue, or it will lean toward green, such as Cerulean. The same is true with red. A Cad Red Light looks more orange than a Permanent Alizarine Crimson which looks more like a blue red. That’s because Cad Red Light leans toward yellow, and Permanent Alizarine Crimson leans toward blue. The same is true for Lemon Yellow which leans toward green, and Cad Yellow Light which leans toward orange. 

color bias chart

That’s how I learned to mix bright secondaries: Purple=Ultramarine Blue + Alizarine Crimson; Orange=Cad Yellow + Cad Red; Green= Lemon Yellow + Cerulean Blue

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Applying Munsell Myself

SM White Rose Study

Although I’ve been following Paul Foxton for a bit over a year, this is really my first real try at using Munsell for my own paintings.

Ok. I’m convinced. Paul has taught me something quite valuable.


White Rose Study

White Rose Study


This study still has a long way to go to “match what I see”, but I know it’s much better than my earlier flowers.

My process:

1) I found a subject I wanted to paint

2) altered my studio a bit to allow me to paint sight-size as Paul does then sketched in the subject on my 5×7 panel (toned with burnt umber)

3) chose Munsell chips from the student book for the light/mid/dark values for the white rose and the green leaves

4) mixed up my WSO paints to match the chips

5) then began to paint: first the background, then the dark(lowest values) and light(highest values) on both the rose and the leaves

6) next the mid-values were worked in to the painting, blending only a bit as needed

The most challenging is still mixing up the paints to match the chips, so I know what my next project will be: mixing, mixing, mixing and more mixing!

Royal Talens Cobra Water Mixable Oil Color Sets - Combo Set, Set of 10 colors, 40 ml tubesimage 9142569 13717235

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Munsell Neutral Value Study

fullsizeoutput 110d

These Value Studies are designed to help my still life paintings improve. I’m finding them quite a bit more difficult than I had thought.

I asked a carpenter friend of mine to help. He agreed to cut up some 2×4 into 2x2s. Only after he did that he mentioned that the only 2×4’s he had came from old wood 2x10s that originally were part of a 3 hundred year old barn! So the cubes had once been part of a tree that was approximately 300-500 years old! It felt like a sacrilege but it was too late.

IMG 0157
My old cubes ready for the value study painted with acrylic- white, N5, and yellow

This turned out to be more difficult than I thought it would be. Two of the cubes are OK, the white-N9 and the yellow-N8 are not too bad.

I’m quite unhappy with the N5 cube and the ground. They were both supposed to be N5. It doesn’t look like it is! So either my Munsell student book N5 chip is really an N4 or my ‘neutral grey’ palette paper is N6!

At any rate, I did learn that I was not able to paint the black dark enough for the shadow side of the N5 cube.

fullsizeoutput 110d
Value Study N9 N5 and N8

Another thought: These are really boring!!

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Munsell to Paint Some Fruit

Setup for 1st Color Study

All enthused I went down to our cafe and brought home a lemon, an apple and an orange. I painted a couple of cubes with some acrylics. The shadow box was set up and I was ready to paint.

This should be simple, right? Of course not.

Setup for 1st Color Study
Set up for 1st Color Study
Fist Munsell Color Study
1st Color Study
2nd Color Study

These both look worse than when I was just painting by eye! In fact, they look MUCH worse! Not only have I missed everything about the colors, the drawing is really wonky, too!

I think I’ll just go to bed early tonight. I’ll begin to listen and start doing color Paul’s way in the morning. Step by baby step. Just don’t give up!

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Painted my own Munsell Neutrals

Munsell Value Scale

Ok, so we’ve all seen grey scales or value scales. So what’s different here?

Munsell Value Scale
My Munsell Neutrals

Well they’re not really grey! Or at least they cannot be made by combining Titanium White and Ivory Black!

And that’s because Ivory Black is really not black. Rather it’s a very dark shade leaning toward blue.

In order to create a truly neutral value scale the blue tint must be neutralized. The most effective way to achieve this is by adding a bit of Burnt Umber.

I created my own Munsell value scale by first creating a value scale of Titanium White/Ivory Black. Next I created a similar value scale of Titanium White/Brunt Umber. Then I carefully blended a bit of each to get a truly neutral value scale of my own (or a neutral as I could).

I matched each of these to the original Munsel scale from my Student book.

Hue Value Chroma
Munsell Neutrals
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Learning to use Munsell

Yes, I’m fully bought in! I am committed to really making my colors realistic. Paul Foxton has convinced me that this is really easy. Right now I’m not so sure that easy is the right word, but I’ll certainly give it a whirl.

This all feels like graduate school and I’m still a freshman. But studying always helped me in the past, so I’ve spent the last week or so just studying more about Munsell.

The 5th edition of the Student Color book only missed a single YR chip. Perhaps I’ll be able to make a replacement once I’ve learned more about how to estimate the missing one.

Over last week or so I’ve been spending lots of time reading. I found some interesting information on Frank J. Reilly on-line. Reilly was a big proponent of using Munsell in painting. One of this students, John Ennis, was kind enough to upload some notes from his 2010 class. You can find the Reilly Papers on his blog:

My apologies for the terrible color of my photos of the Munsell pages. The chips are actually quite right and not at all like these photos…

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Completed the Munsell color chart book

5RP 1

Ok, the last color charts are now done. Boy that was some undertaking.

5P 1
5RP 1

But it’s another one I’m really glad I did. What a learning journey!

The way a mid Chroma is altered over the range of Value and Chroma is amazing. To really see how orange becomes brown. To see all the subtlety. To see how nature creates sooo many greens.

It does give me a much more complete conceptual framework for developing the color sense that will be required in the realistic artwork I want to pursue. But this is only putting chips in a book! There will be a endless learning curve in translating the chips into paint and then applying the paint to canvas.

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Munsell book progressing


Munsell is a slow but steady process. Just sorting out the pages and chips for this 5Y page took most of the day.

5Y Chart

The first first page of the value/chroma chips, the R/Y (normally called orange) had me concerned. Most of the chips are just perfect, but some are stuck and that leads to a few getting the color pulled off. A few are missing entirely, but not too many. Then I found others stuck so only missing one.

I had learned from my fellow students of Paul Foxton’s Munsell color course. They had problems with missing color chips or paint chipping off in the 3rd edition of the Student book. I was worried I was seeing the same thing in my new 5th edition. But I decided to proceed on faith that the company had taken care to fix the problem.

I did get a link to the name and email for their Pennsylvania representative. Once I’ve got all the pages completed, I’ll send a note. Perhaps they’ll be able to replace the damaged and missing ones. I’d also like to see if I can get glossy chips since this book has only matte. Paul says the color is truer on the glossy. But, how obsessive am I really??

These pages took me most of the day and I’ll try to finished tomorrow.

Faith restored! The rest of these pages were fine. I’ll need to go back and look for a stuck chip on the 5YR page later.

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The 5G, 5BG and 5B went smoothly, but it was getting too dark to really see the colors. The rest will wait til tomorrow.


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Do you really want to nail color?? Learn with me

Munsell Student Color Set

I finally took the plunge. I’ve been trying to do color without really spending the time to do it right. It’s been quite a challenge.

Paul Foxton has been really encouraging all of his followers (devotees) to use this book to really nail the color that we see. And then he stresses using bracketing to mix the colors to match the Munsell color chips in this book.

Munsell Student Color Set

Here’s how Amazon describes this book:

Adaptable to both studio and lecture courses and appropriate for all student levels from beginner to advanced,The New Munsell Student Color Set, 5th Edition, is a complete learning package that offers opportunities for experimenting with color effects using paint, paper, and computers. A full-color interactive and experimental guidebook for understanding color in all its dimensions, it includes 11 Munsell color charts, 15 interactive charts, 12 packets of color chips, and a textbook, all designed to facilitate hands-on learning of color’s aspects and effects. The text provides a complete study of color use and color science, including extended discussion of visual perception, optical effects, and practical application of color phenomena in fine and applied art practices.

I ordered this puppy last week after I completed the Yellow Rose study. It just arrived! And I’m very excited to begin this part of my journey.

So my challenge for the next few days is really learning about hue, value and chroma. Then I will be putting the 12 packets of color chips onto the 26 charts in the correct places.

I’ll let you know how it goes…