View Full Version : Graydon Parrish's Color System or Learning Munsell, Discovering Chroma

09-18-2007, 09:26 AM
Hi Nilesh,

I did not attend any of Graydon's lectures or demos. I have researched all of the posts that Graydon has made on three forums. It's said that there is enough info out there on the internet, that a beginner to intermediate painter would gain tremendously from thinking about what Graydon has posted.

It does involve Munsell. Munsell should be looked up. Here is a good link that covers it you might look at:


You can also go to www.ArtandArtistry.com and do a search on AdmiralG, Graydon's name on that site. They have two to three threads. Key in Munsell, as well. The people over there are great. Every post that Graydon makes, I copied and pasted to a WordPad document. About ten documents, in all...lol!!!

There is another great site, www.artquorum.com. They have one or two threads, as well. Excellent people.

Do a search on the name Ebauche on www.studioproducts.com in Forums, General Q & A. You will be inundated with tons of info.

What I have learned, and anyone please jump in and correct me if I got something wrong:

Most artists lay out strings of color on their palette. Say, a string of yellows, burnt umber to yellow ochre and then to white. This is done in a string of values. There are other color/hue strings laid down, too. Perhaps you want to do a red string, Alizarin Crimson is the lowest red, up to Cad Red and then maybe Cad Red Light, and to lighten further, a white.

Take a look at the first picture. This is the way that most people set up their palette with the strings. The values are right. You have a 1 to 9 value increment between a solid black and white at the top. But, the chroma is not going to be correct if you paint directly from this. You would take a value seven paint, gray, pink and yellow, mixing them together to get the right chroma, as well. There is a guide for gray values, but, where do we get the correct guide/scale for chroma?

This is where Munsell comes in. He has already gotten it done for us. That is the second picture. This is a picture of 5R red. As you read the www.applepainter.com website on Munsell, the second picture should take on meaning to you.

Now, when we look at something to paint it, we think, "oh, this rose is red, pink, some white", and we figure out value, but, we have not been taught about chroma as Graydon does. The red of the rose could be a value 5, but, which chroma? Same with the other colors. Which chroma for them? If you have the Munsell book from Greta McBeth, the company who publishes and sells them, you would look to your 5R page, find the chip that matches the color and chroma of the red part of the rose, and you would know exactly what you needed to come up with as a mix for that red. For the other colors, you would go to their respective pages, remove the color chip, and compare what you think the color should be. You might find out how what we think we see is not what is actually in front of us. Oh, there is so much to learn!!!

Once you have found the correct value and chroma chip for each color, you commence making up the mix for that. In making up the mix, Graydon has found that there are 20 pigments that you can use to make up all the colors in the Munsell book. I believe that there are NO HUES used. Single pigments only. You know that hues will really throw you off in mixing, not taking you closer to your target color. He was gracious to post 14 of them, I believe, and I jotted them down. You will probably run across them in your research. You would select the colors you believe would create that color in front of you, say the red, and match it to the chip via these pigments. I can post what I jotted down, if you like.

It allows you to hit the color that you want "spot on", all the time, every time. You can always recreate the same color later on, (hopefully, you will write down your recipe by taking notes of what you add together). And, you will always want to have the correct chroma. Man, this is so important!!!

Now, listen to what Graydon says about how he paints; it blew me away:

"What distinguishes my system is that I make strings of single chromas combined with single hues. I analyze what I am going to paint, find its notation, then mix up strings to cover the range. Reilly's method used cadmiums, way out of flesh range. A string of cad orange brought down with burnt umber/alizarin crimson shifts not only in value, but in hue and chroma as well, making it hard to predict. Reilly too recommended the addition of neutral greys to kill the chroma, but this causes the hues to shift as well. This is something Reilly never mentioned."

The above is just the beginning. One can analyze, then translate so many effects of nature into paint. I have a photo of a Bouguereau drawing where he had written the various colors of his model: green-grey, yellow-grey, rose-grey etc. With Munsell, the notations can be much closer. No more vague terms. (How much grey, for example, is in green-grey?) Its better to say 7.5 YR 6/3 or 7.5 R 5/4, for the average flesh and the ruddies. Then with mixing and planning, one can create an entire palette of Bouguereau flesh, for every change in value, and predict the rise and fall of chroma.

Likewise, Paris Hilton, could be studied and painted as well in all of her sun-tanned splendor. She is likely a chroma 5. When you then know where the chroma rises and where it falls, why some colors pull yellow in the lights and others don't, and how various transparent objects are more chromatic on the edges, then you have the beginning of an entire repertoire of visual phenomena from which to create."
So, instead of painting with strings of reds from 1 to 9, you would find out the chroma of the object and creat a string of chromas, as he says above. The string would have all the values, but, at each value it would be the same chroma. So, looking on the 5R chart, you would go over to the correct chroma for that, (pretend a chroma 16) and make up all the chromas 16. (The string of chromas have value in them. You can see that the chromas go from 4 to 7 for chroma 16.) I am not a realistic painter, and, what I do is just mix up the chroma that I need.

I have a lot more to share and would be happy to post the pigments that I think are a part of the palette. I have not figured it all out, yet. And, it's fun. Maybe, if there are people that want to join this discussion, to learn about this one system, we could help each other.

09-18-2007, 11:14 AM
Here are some websites worth checking out:

Munsell Cubes - A Tone Exercise

Munsell Cubes - A Tone Exercise (part 2)

More Munsell Tone Studies -Part Three

Munsell Tone Studies- Part Four

Munsell Tone Studies- Part Five


archive for color theory



09-18-2007, 11:26 AM
Why did you post this thread in Acrylics? Graydon works in Oil and almost all his info is based on the open time on palette, not available with acrylics. I see your posting in Oils to come here, but I think the thread would do better in the Oils forum.

09-18-2007, 12:01 PM
Why did you post this thread in Acrylics? Graydon works in Oil and almost all his info is based on the open time on palette, not available with acrylics. I see your posting in Oils to come here, but I think the thread would do better in the Oils forum.

OH NO - here we go again! This would be even more appropriate in the COLOR THEORY/MIXING forum, IMO.


09-18-2007, 12:59 PM
You put a lot of work into typing this. Thanks for the excellent info. I will enjoy all the reading and hopefully learn something in the process!!!


09-18-2007, 01:35 PM
Acrylics people were the ones that asked for more info. I think the ideas that Graaydon shared work in oils and acrylic. Isn't that right?

09-18-2007, 01:39 PM
Greymist - enjoy the reading! I think that this Graydon is a genius. Keep a notebook handy, or cut and paste all the gems he shares!

09-18-2007, 03:55 PM
... I think the ideas that Graaydon shared work in oils and acrylic. Isn't that right?

Perhaps. Not all pigments available to oil painters are available in acrylics. There are substitutes, but they don't mix in the same way, so you have to learn how to compensate for that. Applying the same pigments in the same way will not always give you the same results.

Color mixing is like telling a good white lie. It's not about being truthfull, but about being convincing, and knowing how far you can go. The more truthful it sounds, the more believable it is. ;)

09-18-2007, 10:36 PM
Hi David!

I think what Nilesh wanted was where to go to read. I think that is the most important thing. To take in new information. And Graydon sharing what he did is absolutely the best thing we could of had happen. It's new stuff to most, and the results can be seen in many people's work.

You are right, not all pigments available to oil painters are available to acrylics, and there's lots to learn in this medium as well.

Jim T
09-19-2007, 01:45 AM
Graydon Parrish?, Munsell? or Gamblin system???? :lol: :lol: :lol:

Seems like a few people wanna own Colour Space :lol:

Have a look at this and watch the video...



09-19-2007, 06:17 AM
Graydon Parrish?, Munsell? or Gamblin system???? :lol: :lol: :lol:

Seems like a few people wanna own Colour Space :lol:

Have a look at this and watch the video...



Hi Brainless,

Thanks for the link, but, it doesn't work for me. I think Graydon did the most explaining of Munsell to me, but, it's really still Munsell. Everyone uses what works for them.

09-19-2007, 10:30 AM
Have a look at this and watch the video...

Thanks Jim. Finally a no-b.s. presentation by someone who wishes to educate rather than obfuscate! Of course it's also intended to sell more Gamblin products, but at least he's provided a worthwhile service instead of ripping apart forums all over the internet with contentious/pretentious posts.


Jeff Rage
09-21-2007, 03:46 PM
I thought this was an interesting thread.


That video is great. It's like a modern version of the Munsell article.

Anyone ever play around with the Windows color thing (like what you see when you want to change the desktop color)? Left and right is Hue. Up and Down in Chroma. And the slider on the right is Value. :)

Marc Kingsland
09-23-2007, 07:03 PM
You can also go to www.ArtandArtistry.com (http://www.ArtandArtistry.com)

I haven't been able to get into this site for one or two months.
So it's still there?