Help for the ChromaMagic App
Help Videos

ChromaMagic - Overview

Welcome to ChromaMagic! The magic color tool for artists to improve your color perception. Use the search box at the top of the page to search the help topics or go to one of the sections below.
  • Navigation- zooming, panning, selecting colors.
  • Loading - Importing images, drag and drop, taking photos from within the app.
  • Color - An overview of the Munsell colors and why they're so good for artists
  • Displays - The different display modes and how and why to use them

The Settings Icon and Popup

The settings menu lets you set some default settings and change which things are displayed on the main screen. You can access this by clicking on the gear icon in the top right of the main ChromaMagic screen.

Settings - Pixel Sample size

By default when you select a color ChromaMagic takes the average of a 5x5 square (i.e.25 pixels) around the selection point. This gives us an average color as colors can vary quite a lot pixel to pixel in a photo. Sometimes we may want to be more sensitive or sometimes less sensitive so ChromaMagic lets you modify how many pixels are sampled. For a single pixel, highly sensitive selection choose 1. If you want to average over a larger area choose up to a 50x50 size to sample over. This selection is saved for you and will remain the same each time you open ChromaMagic.

Settings - Default Display

Each time you start ChromaMagic the default display mode is Munsell. It's the mode I use the most and the one that I think people spend most time on. But if you want to start up with a different mode you can pick a new one here.

Settings - Default Value Steps

The number of discrete value steps is initially set to 5. I've found this a good starting number. But you may find that you need (or like) a different number. Change this in the settings and every time you start ChromaMagic and go to the value step display mode this will be the starting point.

Settings - Hide Overview Display

By default the overview window (top left) is on. Sometimes you may want to turn this off or maybe just never show it. If you click the checkbox to hide the overview display you need never see it. This setting persists every time you open ChromaMagic.

Settings - Show Paint Links

ChromaMagic has a database of over 500 individual oil paints from a variety of different manufacturers. Each of the paints colors has been measured and converted into Munsell notation. If you switch this option on each chip (in Munsell mode) that has a paint associated with it will have a dot in the corner. Clicking the chip will bring up a tooltip showing the names and manufacturers of the paint. Additionally the paint names are clickable and will take you to Here you can find more information about the pigments used to make that paint.


Select a Color by Clicking

Simply clicking (or touching the screen) on a point in the image will move the cross-hairs to that position. The color chips will update with the selected color and the closest Munsell color chip is displayed.

Zooming In and Out

Pinch in or out on the screen to zoom in or out. On the desktop use the mouse wheel to do the same.

Drag The Pointer to Move the Cross-Hairs

You can click and drag the pointer across the image to move the pointer. The color chips (and the Munsell display) will update in real time. I like to do this to see how the hues, values, and chromas changed across a lighted form. You don't need to put your finger or mouse directly over the crosshairs. Put your finger close the cross hairs and they will move. Very useful for seeing the selected color without your finger being in the way.

Repositioning the Canvas

Clicking and dragging away from the crosshairs will move the canvas in any direction you want.

Center the Image on the Selected Color

Select the icon on the top right to recenter the image on the selected color. Very useful before zooming or if your selected color goes off screen.

Fitting the Image to the Screen

If you want to see the whole image on the screen there are two ways to do it. On the top right the icon will fit the image to the height of the image canvas. The will fit the image to the width of the screen. I often use this after zooming in on a region to quickly get back to see the full image.

The Overview Panel

Your full image is shown at the top left of the screen. The region shown in the zoom panel is outlined in red (you can see it grow and shrink when you zoom). If you click anywhere on the overview panel the zoom region will move to that region.

Showing and Hiding the Overview Panel

Sometimes (usually on my phone) the overview panel gets in the way or is too small to be useful. You can hide the overview panel by going to the settings and clicking the 'Hide Overview Panel' checkbox. The settings gear icon is in the top right of your screen.


Loading Images from the Desktop

I love this bit in the new ChromaMagic. If you're working on a desktop you can now just drag and drop images onto the ChromaMagic window to load it. Bliss!!! So much better than clicking buttons - should have done this ages ago.

Loading Images from your Phone or Ipad

The blue icon in the middle of the bottom bar brings up a menu where you can load photos in one of three ways. (Note on desktop it will bring up the finder so you can select an image file.) You can
  • Load an image from your photo gallery
  • take a picture using the camera (note: the photo will *not* be saved to your photo gallery. This will be in an updated version)
  • Load an image file from the files on your phone.


Pixel Sample Size

Colors can vary quite a lot over even a small area in photos. By default ChromaMagic takes a 5x5 pixel square and averages the color. You can go to settings (gear icon in the top right) and increase or decrease the number of pixels. Larger values are great for getting an overview of the main colors in an area. I often use this and drag the cross-hairs across a form to see how the color changes. Can be surprising! Smaller values are good for low resolution photos and pinpointing small highlights or accents in a photo.

Chip Display Panel

When you select a color the Chip Display panel updates automatically (this chip display panel is in the bottom left). The image color is shown in the bottom triangle. The closest Munsell Chip is shown in the top triangle along with the Munsell notation for that color.

Munsell Colors

If I'm honest I've known about describing color the Munsell way for years. However I rejected it for a long time. It was a *big* mistake. It's been by far the best way to look at color for an artist and I wouldn't go back. So first the basics: Color has three components and Munsell organizing them into:
  • hue (the 'name' of the color - R red, y = yellow, G = green, B = blue, P = purple)
  • value (how light or dark the color is 0 = black, 10 = white)
  • chroma (how intense or saturated the color is 0 = pure gray 22 = very high saturation or chroma).
I'm guessing that we're all very familiar with the first two. But the final one - chroma - is the missing piece that takes our color perception to the next level.

Munsell Color Charts

Each color (or hue in Munsell terms) has a color chart. The chips are arranged with value vertically and chroma horizontally. Dark values are at the bottom and light values at the top. And similarly low chroma (or grayed out/unsaturated colors) on the left and high chroma, saturated colors on the right.


The Munsell Display

Every color is described by its hue, value, and chroma (see help entries under Munsell). The selected color is highlighted in the main chart by an outline. We can then easily read off the hue (overall color theme to the chart), the value (dark at the bottom, light at the top), and the chroma (grayed at the left, saturated at the right).

Munsell Color Charts

These charts can look a little intimidating at first. But they very quickly become familiar and, for me, are the heart of why ChromaMagic is useful. When we select a color in the photo the color is highlighted in one of these charts. And we can see immmediately where our color sits in context. Having that context is crucial in being able to identify and mix what we see. At a glance we can see what hue it is by the overall 'mother' color of the cart, what value it is - high, mid, or low, and what chroma - very gray, very saturated, or somewhere in the middle.

Each color (or hue in Munsell terms) has a color chart. The chips are arranged with value vertically and chroma horizontally. Dark values are at the bottom and light values at the top. And similarly low chroma (or grayed out/unsaturated colors) on the left and high chroma, saturated colors on the right.

Munsell Display - Tooltips and Color Swatches

Clicking on any one of the color chips in the chart brings up a tooltip with the Munsell notation. Clicking on the tooltip will bring up a full-screen (on a phone) or larger (desktop) swatch containing that color. Especially when using a phone we can use this to help us mix the color. If the selected color has some commercial oil paints associated with it links to these ( are also shown.

Munsell Display - Paint Links

ChromaMagic has access to a database of over 500 individual oil paints. Each of these have Munsell notations provided (mostly) by the manufacturers. You can see which chips have paints associated with them by switching 'paint links' on in the settings (gear icon in the top right). A colored dot (black or white) will be shown in the corner of the chip if paints are available. Clicking on the chip will list the paints (sometimes there's more than one per chip) and provide links out to the relevant page at

Value Display

I often want to simplify my references into a smaller number of values. The value step display reduces the reference photo to grayscale and a number of equally spaced values. The default number of values is 5 but using the slider you can increase or decrease that depending on the value balance of your reference. For a scene with a full range of values I find 3,4, or 5 steps are the most useful. They reduce unnecessary detail but still retain a sense of what the image represents.

Value Display - Grayscale

If you just want to see your reference in pure grayscale click the checkbox underneath the slider in the value step display. I often use this in conjunction with the value steps. Going back and forth between the two modes helps me see the scene better in terms of the big value shapes.

Chroma Display

The different chromas in a scene are an often overlooked component. Some things are obviously high chroma - a lemon or a brightly colored flower for instance. But chroma can vary in a scene in non obvious ways. The chroma display is there to show us the high and low chroma areas. ChromaMagic reduces the reference to grayscale and colors high chroma regions white and decreases the value as the chroma decreases until the lowest chromas are black.

Wheel Display

It is useful to have an overall sense of the different colors (or hues) that appear in a reference. The ChromaMagic Wheel Display Mode is there to help us with that. All the main hues appear at the center of the wheel.

Wheel Display - The Spokes

The 'spokes' that radiate around the wheel reflect the hues in the reference. The longer the 'spoke' the higher proportion of that hue is present. If you click on any color in the reference you can easily see what hue it is as the relevant spoke is highlighted.