Colours of the Sphere
A research project in the School of Art, Design & Media, University of Portsmouth, England UK
Viewing the Universe of Colour
An introduction to colour theory and models

Throughout the centuries humanity has sought ways of representing and describing colours in relationship to each other and their various properties when mixed. These descriptive methods have changed as technology and the material composition of the colour has changed. Many of these systems were developed for sound economic reasons as well as for educational and philosophical enquiry. The advent of digital machinery in the last century saw the development of new systems for describing colour being developed through the need to enable digital computers to deliver in visual form the output of their computations. Most notably was then development of the computer monitor on the back of cathode ray tube technology. For most of us this level of access to the display of colour is everyday and has its roots in the progressive development of systems for describing how colours are shown, manipulated and mixed on the screen. Parallel and different systems have been developed for the production of the printed image using inks, dyes and pigment media.

One of the most straightforward systems for describing colour is the HSV (also known as HSB or HSL) system, developed by Professor Munsell at the start of the 20th Century.


It was pioneered as an intuitive way of thinking about colour and was aimed at the commercial colour markets rather than its RGB and CMY counterparts, which arose as light technologies advanced. The HSV model is a technology free system and any process of mapping the colours to a technological platform is an application function.