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Munsell Color Standards

Posted April 30, 2019 by Art Schmehling

When you think of Albert Munsell, do you think of dirt, food and electrical wires? The United States government does.

Munsell Color Standards are used for more than just design and Fine Art. They’re also used to ensure safety and reliability, and to maintain compliance with federal regulations. Today we’ll look at some of the government agencies and trade associations that rely on Munsell’s exacting standard color codes.

munsell color standards color codes

French Fries, Anyone?

munsell french fry color standards

From tomatoes to pumpkins, Munsell USDA Color Standards help agriculturists determine when to pick produce and how to grade it for sale.

Would you eat a green French fry? A brown cherry? Color can impact the value of your crops and plays a huge role in evaluating food and produce quality. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and numerous private food processors rely on Munsell’s USDA Color Standards for accurate grading and sorting of food. Whether you're harvesting crops or processing food, color provides valuable insights, such as ripeness and readiness for processing.

Munsell standard color charts meet UDSA specifications for color sorting and grading. From canned olives to frozen cherries, color standards are a key factor in determining which foods make it to store shelves.

White is Neutral and Green is Ground

munsell color electrical coding charts

Munsell Laboratories developed electrical color coding charts for the Electronic Industries Association (EIA) to ensure that wire colors are within tolerance. Each chart has a center color that represents the ideal color of the wire, plus several acceptable variations to allow for manufacturing variables.

If you’re in the electrical wire and cable industry, you know how important color is to worker safety. Wires are color-coded based on their purpose, so if you’re told to cut the blue wire, you want to be sure the wire you choose is really blue! Aerospace suppliers and wire and cable manufacturers use Munsell Color Standards to communicate with each other, to comply with government regulations, and to ensure the safety and reliability of electrical products.

Red Means Stop!

munsell NEMA safety color standard red

Munsell Color Standards help increase safety through sign color. This Munsell NEMA Red, 6R 3.6/13.8 color standard sheet is used to ensure stop signs meet government safety standards.

Stop signs are red, highway direction signs are green and most construction signs are orange. What would happen if a manufacturer didn’t have good color control during production? What if the red stop sign turned out to be more orange than red? Lack of color uniformity can become a safety issue if left unchecked, which is why Munsell worked with the National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association (NEMA) to develop the NEMA Safety Color Standards family.

Soil Color Matters, Too.

Archaeologists love Munsell, too. Soil color is one factor the USDA uses to distinguish and identify soil layers and to group soils according to a classification system called “Soil Taxonomy.” Soil color can tell you a lot about the types of plants that can grow in an area. It can tell you whether an area should be deemed wetlands and can be used as a clue to the mineral content of soil. Lack of color can also tell us something about the environment and the types of bacteria that can live there.

Munsell Color Standards in Action

From maintaining roadway safety to choosing which crops are suitable for sale, Munsell helps ensure U.S. products are up to standard.


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