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  • Hyper Advanced Quantum Functional Color Theory

    Hyper Advanced Quantum Functional Color Theory

    Yes, I'm writing another one of these, and yes- I did go over the top with the title. I'm assuming by now you've read and know the basics about Hue, saturation and value. If you haven't do so now.. I'll be here when you get back.. Now, one thing I keep seeing over and over is people asking others 'What color is that?” Or “What's the (Insert Manufacturer name here) equivalent for that color?” This brings up the problem of color names. Anytime someone says a color, it's basic components are not really discussed... UNLESS you use the system developed by Mr. Munsell many years ago for just this purpose.
    You see, we can name colors anything because it's totally subjective to the person. “Cherry red” or “Sky Blue” obviously can change colors and aren't very specific. We could name colors based on their wavelength in Mhz, or even the temperature they absorb or reflect.. but this is for scientists and has no use in any art discipline.
    Munsell imagined all colors on a solid which he thought of as a perfect sphere.. Of course, using his own system we've found it actually looks more like a mango, with some colors not being able to fit, and some that go off the grid. Plotting it like a graph on 3 axises would create a theoretical shape like this:

    Plotting Color Components:

    In the Munsell system, colors are described with 3 numbers and an initial, this is more than enough to accurately describe a color so that even when not viewing it, you can get a sense of it. First, he divides up the color wheel into 5 equal parts (this is so he can have integers of 10). Y=Yellow, R=Red, G=Green, B=Blue, and P=Purple also N=Neutral (More on that later). My more astute students will notice a problem with this: you exclude Orange, which becomes YR.... Also, Magenta is counted as RP (Red Purple) but apparently having 10's is big in this system.

    The number before the initial denotes it's hue. 5 is the middle and “pure” color, adding numbers makes you go towards yellow and lower numbers go towards purple. The system is set up so by the thime you get to 10 or 1 you're at a second intermediary color. 5R Would be regular red, and 10R would be RYR (Red Yellow-Red) and 1R would be RPR (Red Purple-Red). While we're on it, let's talk naming conventions- for Munsell, secondary colors always come before primaries on intermediaries, and are hyphenated. Intermediaries also have their own mid number. Thus, Purple-Blue is 5PB. Secondary intermediaries are always a 10, an can be expressed by simpler hues.. Thus, P-BP is expressed as 10B- a blue so purplish if any more is added, it'd be considered a purple with blue.

    That was the hard part. Now, we all know that value of a color is it's relative light or darkness. In Munsell, 0=Black, 10=White... This means there are 11 shades of tints, so that N5/- is equal to a perfect 50/50 Gray. N is meant for pure black and white work, it has no other numbers because lacking a hue, it cannot have a saturation of that hue. N5/- is an important color because it is at the middle of the color solid, so all colors balance out through it.

    Chroma (Saturation)
    The last number in any Munsell color is it's chroma, or saturation. This is the relative strength of the color. Lower means there is less of it and higher means there is more. The best analogy I can make is that you can taste cinnamon on it's own, but you get less of the flavor if you mix it with milk, and the flavor is even harder to pick up in coffee. Thus it is that you can determine a color's hue easier when the low saturation is mixed with white than black.

    Determining Color-
    (Old School) Chances are when you're painting, you don't have a computer with Photoshop next to you (though you may) or you may see a color on a poster and want to remember it for later. So then you are faced with the task of getting the 3 basics down.
    First off, value is relatively easy to determine. All 2-D artist learn to do it since we have to do graphite and charcoal drawings. You just look around and figure out what's the lightest thing around and what is the darkest and how the color you're looking at relates. If you don't feel confident in this, they make value finders like this one:

    You can then dim your eyes and colors of like value will seemingly blend together.

    Hue is tricky, mostly because if you add black it will make the color slightly blue. Below is a chart I made from watercolors.

    Notice how Magenta looks more burgandy and yellow gets this olive like drab to it.. but of course purple and blue stay mostly the same.

    As for saturation, you may have to have a reference, but ask yourself this: is it easy to tell what hue it is? Then it's most likely 5+ chroma. Even if you can't get the exact values, getting a ballpark figure is still helpful and gets better with practice.

    (Avec L'ordinatuer) If you do have a computer with photoshop, it's very easy to find out a color's Hue/Value/Chroma. Clicking on the eyedropper tool (or paintbrush +Alt) then selecting a pixel gets the color to the foreground swatch. Double clicking the swatch opens this prompt:

    As you can see, I have it set to N5/- on the default red screen. The color selection screen is an okay example of one “Page” from the color solid- that being all the values and saturation of one hue. I say “okay” because in reality the maxium saturation/value isn't.. Meaning if they're on the same row, we expect the color in the top right corner to be same value as the one in the top left (white).
    If you look at the right for “B” (Brightness), this will be the value in %. Obviously, all you have to do is divide by 10 to get the munsell number. Same goes for Saturation(Chroma) in the “S” row. Hue, again, is tricky. Since we're on a circle of color, Photoshop likes to make the hues in degrees... and Munsell's base 10 system doesn't fit very well. In any case, every 30 degrees is a primary or secondary. I've marked out the 3 primaries by underlining them.

    To determine complementary colors with this system, just remember that you're shooting for 180. If you subtract a smaller number from a larger one, you should have 180.. Example: Green is 120 and Magenta is 330. 300-120= 180. So if you have a color with 35 degrees, add it to 180 to get 215- it's complement.

    Now that we've reviewed the 3 components of color, let's put it all together and see what it can do for us. If we take a color, say 5R7/6 we know that it is pretty saturated (7), and also mid-brightness (6). Since we're on a base 10 system, it would be easy to subtract and get it's exact complimentary color- 5G is directly opposite of it, and we get 3/4- a unsaturated and slightly darker green. If plotted on the color solid, this would form a line going through N5/-. (See? That one's important!)

    Color Balance-

    I didn't speak at length about this in the last article, but to balance out colors more is needed than just knowing complimentary colors. Picture a bunch of white flowers and one heavy black rock. You need a lot of feathers to equal out the one rock! The human eye can stare at more unsaturated color than a saturated one. Can you imagine if the room you're in now was a highlighter yellow? You'd get minor snow-blindness from reflectivity, not to mention psychological effects of agitation and nervousness. So how do you figure out how much of a light, saturated gets evened out by a dark, unsaturated one? Those Munsell numbers to the rescue again! You take the two numbers after the intial and multiply them, then take the inverse to see what proportion you need.

    Not that complicated in practice- see below.

    We have 5R 7/6 (7 x 6= 42) and 5R3/3 (3 x 3=9) dividing 42/9 we get 4.666. So one part of 5R7/6 will be balanced by a bit less than five parts 5R3/3

    Another good feature of the Munsell system is because the components of Hue/Value/Chroma are seen as independent we can create color schemes in which the colors only share one common feature. Most anime colors are unsaturated, around 3-4 with a few bits of richer colors here and there. In these, hues and values may change, but saturation stays the same. Second you have the same value scheme- but this one does not have a place in mini painting, as like values ten to blend together visually and we want contrast. And finally, in a monochromatic scheme, you stay with one hue and change it's value and saturation.

    Color Paths-
    Since we are plotting points on a theoretical graph with 3 axises, we can make our own paths through it and this is by far the most helpful thing. Say we have a red basecoat, 5R7/8- the traditional “bright blood red” or “candy apple red”.

    What should we use as shading and highlights? Well, remember back to geometry, we go rise and run and in this case also sideways. We go to RP and 2 down, 2 over- ending up with RP5/6, a dark unsaturated color. For highlights, we go up and over 2 and slide the other direction, making YR9/10, very bright and very light color. This also has the effect of making a natural progression of color in the path so it looks more natural.

    But say we change the directions we went slightly and we end up with RP5/10, R7/8 and YR9/6. This means we will have a more saturated, dark color as a shade and a more pastel-like highlight. But both still work!

    As stated before, Munsell runs into some problems. First off is the annoying base 10 system- since we all know it is so much easier to divide colors by 3, and this throws off the initials since you then have this hue called “Yellow Red” instead of orange. Second, though it is theoretically possible to have a very light or dark saturated color some colors do this better. Colors have a “home” value- that being they seem bright and “clean” at a certain value. Our traditional color wheel is all over the place on values, so they wouldn't be on the same plane. Yellow tends to be high in value, blue low (see below)

    Why is this? I have a theory- our sun is a yellow star, so I believe we've evolved to see yellow as lighter than blue. If our sun was another color, who's to say blue would lighter?

    The last problem deals with this.. colors can be more saturated than the standard gives them. As you can see above, the blue is going almost to 30! L*a*b color has replaced Munsell in some professions, but forsenic scientists still use it in hair/ teeth/ skin identification... so, though flawed it's still good at what it does: identification of colors and implementation.


    So, theory is all well and good, but what does that mean for the average painter? Well, if this was a college class, I'd have you mix paint and try and fill in graphs to match the numbers for a grade. But since I'm not getting paid to make you groan, I will have to impart wisdom a different way. If you want to change a specific component of a color, you will have a tough time in paint mixing. For example, no matter how much you add to a dark, unsaturated color- it will never be 10/10. Now, you can change hue easily if you have paints of the same saturation- just remember that mixing colors that are not next to each other will lower the overall saturation. Adding any neutral color from white to black will change both the color's value and saturation, useful for dulling down a color for a shade or highlight. You could also use a color's complement to lower saturation- but this may be a problem, as if the colors are not 100% complements, hue will change. The best way of having a specific color is to get it already mixed . Failing this, higher saturation colors can always be dulled down and darkened but lower ones only go up a bit.

    Using Munsell's system you learn to think of colors a lot better, how to use them and create a thought structure that will help you in your endeavors. For example, people have trouble with skintones. Using the system, we learn that skin is on a very low saturation level running from red to yellow orange (with perhaps a bit overspill into Magenta-ish Red). So with nothing more than 3 or 4 colors I could make all the world's skin colors. (And trust me, I've had to at times). For a long time, I was having trouble figuring out a vampiric or “Goth” like skin color because the shadows always looked too light.. Then it hit me- if the skin is very high in value and I want to keep saturation the same, I have to compensate by making a sudden shift in values. Conversely, all paint you want to use for NMM should be unsaturated and of the blue-purple to cyan range.. and these make a balance since they are bout unsaturated, but on opposite sides of the color wheel!

    I hope things make sense for ya'll.. I know at times I question it, but then when it makes sense it's a TREMENDOUS help. You'd think I'd be done with articles on color after this, having only quantum physics and infared to talk about... But! I'm not done by a long shot! Why, I still have to make an article about the colors of on-light source and how additive and subtractive colors work with each other!

    Thanks for your time, patience, and cow!
    Comments 8 Comments
    1. me_in_japan's Avatar
      me_in_japan -
      Blimey! Once again I realise I am just an amateur poking at things beyond my ken with a wooden stick. Thanks a lot for the article. I'll have to read it a couple more times for it to sink in, but it's always good to learn more about art theory (I never studied art, not even in high school.)

    1. PowerhouseMiniatures's Avatar
      PowerhouseMiniatures -
      This was so helpful, thanks a lot!!
    1. secretpaintgeek's Avatar
      secretpaintgeek -
      Just when I felt like i was starting to get to grips with coloUr (I'm British ) theory I'm reminded that I'm just scratching the surface. My brain hurts a little after reading that but its great stuff. A little knowledge goes a long way so thanks for taking the time to share yours.
    1. Broke n English's Avatar
      Broke n English -
      Brilliant, thanks for that Chrispy, another great article
    1. aosol's Avatar
      aosol -
      Are you a wizard?
    1. Chrispy's Avatar
      Chrispy -
      Quote Originally Posted by aosol View Post
      Are you a wizard?
      Shhh.. you'll get me into more trouble with the Reality Police..
    1. OneBadMOnkee's Avatar
      OneBadMOnkee -
      Don't. Understand. A. Word.
      But I know I'm dumb...
    1. Revelen's Avatar
      Revelen -
      VERY nice article, thanks! It's like talking to my dad, but slowed down and visible. Excellent!
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