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Farnsworth-Munsell 100 Hue Test

Engineering Psychology

This object consists of a long rectangular wooden box containing four smaller long thin boxes, each containing a series of cylindrical tiles displaying different colour hues.

The container box is made of wood with a particle board base, with a metal handle at one end. A ridge along the interior top edge and end indicates that the box originally had a sliding lid; however, this is missing and the box is open.

This box contains four long thin boxes that when they are all loaded in the box fill the box space entirely. Each box is closed by two metal latches and labelled with a metal label marked with two numbers: “22-42”, “43-63”, “64-84” and “84-21”. The “64-84” box is also marked with a pink sticker “Neutrals”. The interior of each box is painted black.

Each box opens to reveal a line of round tiles consisting of a black cylindrical plastic housing with a circular opening in the top. Affixed inside this there is a piece of cardboard painted or printed on the upper side with a particular colour, so when the tiles are upright, the colour is visible in a black surround. The black pieces are open on the bottom revealing the underside of the card; each card is stamped with a different number, indicating its order. In each box there are 23 colour cylinders, except for the first box (marked “85-21”) which contains 24 cylinders. The first and last cylinder in each box is fixed in place and appears to be a replica of the lowest and highest numbers in the box. 85 is located in the first (“85-21”) box, although it most closely matches the colour of the final fixed cylinder in the “64-84” box.

The hues in the boxes are arranged in an order that shows a smooth circular colour gradient from hue 1 to 85 (hue “85” is similar to hue “1”). Hues 1-21 are reds to yellow-green, 22-42 are greens to aquas, 43-63 are aquas to purples, and 64-84 are purples to reds.

Accession Number: 2014.ep.21

Alternative Name:

Primary Materials: Wood, Plastic, Metal: Copper Alloy


On the label of each box: “22-42”, “43-63”, “64-84” and “84-21”.

Handwritten on a large pink paper label on the “64-84” box: “Neutrals”.

Dimensions (cm): Length = 60, Width = 16, Height = 6.5cm


The Farnsworth–Munsell 100 Hue Color Vision test was first described by Dean Farnsworth in 1943 (“The Farnsworth-Munsell 100-Hue and Dichotomous Tests for Color Vision”). It is designed to test colour vision by the arrangement of hues in a consistent order. The original article describes the test’s purpose: “The purpose of the test is to measure hue discrimination in a curve of constant value and chroma and thereby indicate the distortion of the chromaticity plane of anomalous vision as com-pared to normal.” (Farnsworth, 1943)

This test is an early 85-tile version of the test.


Very Good: The surface of the corners and edges of the wooden container box are damaged. The lid of the container box is missing. The handle shows a large number of scratches in the enamel coating; where the coating has been removed, the metal is oxidized. The upper part of the left-hand metal latch on box “43-63” is missing its right-hand screw and is loose. The upper part of the right hand latches on boxes “22-42” and “85-21” are missing.

The tiles contained in the boxes are in very good condition. Some have very minor marks and damage to the hue surface.

Associated Instruments:


Date of Manufacture: 1940s-1980s


Additional Information and References:

Albert H. Munsell developed the colour system employed in this test at the beginning of the 20th century, defining three qualities of colour: hue, value (lightness), and chroma (Munsell, 1912). This system was used throughout the 20th century to analyze and categorize colour.

Although this hue test is based on a 100-hue series of colored papers based on Munsell’s system and selected into a consistent set in 1940 by Dorothy Nickerson and Walter Granville (Nickerson & Granville, 1940), Farnsworth found that a hundred hues was too high a level of difficulty for a normal user due to production difficulties in producing a smooth gradient of colour. He developed an 85-tile system which could be completed successfully by a normal user. Nevertheless, the “100” name was retained, Farnsworth writing: “While 85 papers constitute the present form of the test further efforts to smooth the series will change the number. Therefore, the number in the basic series is retained in the name of the test.” This test is an example of the 85-tile system proposed in 1943.

Farnsworth, D. “The Farnsworth-Munsell 100-Hue and Dichotomous Tests for Color Vision”. Journal of the Optical Society of America) Vol. 33, Issue 10, pp. 568-578, 1943.

Munsell, Albert H. “A Pigment Color System and Notation”. The American Journal of Psychology. 23 (2) pp. 236–244, January 1912.

Nickerson, D. and Granville, W. C. “Hue Sensibility to Dominant Wave-Length Change and the Relation BetweenSaturation and Colorimetric Purity” Journal of the Optical Society of America. Vol. 30, Issue 4 159-162 (1940)

Historical Notes: