31 Dark Color Palettes for Dramatic Designs

Dark color palettes illustration

What’s the best type of color scheme to use if you want to capture your audience’s attention? If you said a bright palette, you aren’t wrong. But when used thoughtfully, darker palettes can create dramatic, striking designs that are just as memorable.

Not sure where to start? Check out our collection of darker color palettes below.

Dark Color Palettes

Prepare to be inspired by these beautiful dark color palettes. Hex codes are included if you want to use the colors in your next design.

1. Summer Raspberry

Summer Raspberry color palette

Names: Chocolate cosmos, Rosewood, Tyrian purple, Palatinate, Barossa
Hex Codes: #46000D, #5E0009, #720137, #590054, #42002E

Raspberry-like shades can have a light, summery appeal when mixed with vivid blues and yellows. But pair them with darker shades of purple like you see here, and you get a perfectly deep, moody palette.

This grouping of colors is deceptively complex — each one is a shade of purple, but they run the gamut from brownish to reddish to violet to aubergine. But as you can see, when they’re swirled together in the right proportions, they make a wonderfully dramatic design.

2. Static

Static color palette

Names: Davy’s gray, Onyx, Jet, Eerie black, Night
Hex Codes: #4A4A4A, #3E3E3E, #333333, #252525, #131313

This image is a beautiful example of how texture can make an otherwise unremarkable design really stand out. At first glance, it might look like it’s more or less one color. But when you look closely, you see that the heathered pattern is made up of several similar shades.

This isn’t the only design that this palette is good for. While the colors are too closely related to one another for effective colorblocking, the smooth gradient between them makes them work well for blended or watercolor-like designs.

3. Coffee Bean

Coffee Bean color palette

Names: Van dyke, Kobicha, Seal brown, Bistre, Smoky black
Hex Codes: #48312B, #603A28, #522D17, #402315, #0B0201

Who doesn’t love the smell of freshly-ground coffee? This lovely palette captures the color of roasted beans, and it’s perfect for monochromatic designs.

Of course, you might find that you want a little more variety in your project. If you want to intersperse a bit of lighter color, try adding cream or a parchment-like shade of warm white. Shades like these will keep the warm theme going while lightening things up a little.

4. Forest Floor

Forest Floor color palette

Names: Bistre, Van dyke, Kobicha, Black olive, Space cadet
Hex Codes: #332521, #4B3830, #5F3920, #373F38, #292D3F

This unusual, somewhat cool-leaning palette looks a bit like the forest floor on a late autumn night. Bistre, Van Dyke, and Kobicha echo the shades of earth and fallen leaves, and Black Olive is a deep, mossy green. Space Cadet is a deep, near-black shade of blue that looks a lot like the night sky.

As you can see, the example image for this palette includes lighter splashes of yellow and rusty orange. You can add these shades if you want to brighten your design!

5. Forest Dawn

Forest Dawn color palette

Names: Dark green, Brunswick green, Castleton green, Gunmetal, Prussian blue
Hex Codes: #0D3A32, #224942, #245B47, #223546, #192A3C

The dark cast of this example image gives it an air of mystery and intrigue. And when you use the palette above, you can bring that same feeling to your own design. As you can see, this color palette has two different gradients. Dark Green gradually lightens to Castleton Green, and Gunmetal darkens into Prussian Blue.

If you do use these colors, you might find that you want to lighten up your design just a bit. If that’s the case, consider using a pale blue-gray like the color of the sky peeking through the trees.

6. Mahogany

Mahogany color palette

Names: Smoky black, Bistre, Café noir, Kobicha, Coffee
Hex Codes: #0C0402, #3B2214, #563521, #684127, #734F35

Old, scarred wood has a certain charm. And this palette captures the many shades of black and brown you might find on a reclaimed wood table or bookshelf. Of course, it’s a great palette for a woodgrain design, but you can also get creative with unusual, abstract images.

Smoky Black is a good bit darker than the other colors here, so it affords you an interesting opportunity. Try blending together Bistre, Cafe Noir, Kobicha, and Coffee into either a smooth gradient or a swirling, watercolor-like background. Then, use lines of Smoky Black to create a web-like, geometric design over this backdrop. For a simpler look, you can just use Smoky Black to create a border.

7. Wednesday

Wednesday color palette

Names: Walnut brown, Golden brown, Night, Dim gray, Onyx
Hex Codes: #615545, #9B773D, #121112, #646263, #444243

The combination of gold and matte black is great for anyone wanting to create a strikingly unconventional interior. But you also can use it to create unique digital designs. The above color palette has a dignified, upscale appeal, and it might work well if you’re creating a website for a law firm or upscale furniture retailer.

The combination of Golden Brown and Night can be great for creating logos, and you can even shadow Golden Brown with Walnut Brown to make a 3D effect. Dim Gray is light enough to use as a website backdrop.

8. Navy Ombre

Navy Ombre color palette

Names: Oxford blue, Navy, Midnight, Black pearl, Rich black
Hex Codes: #11244A, #0B1C3E, #061831, #051024, #030A1C

Color palettes with a lot of contrast can be great for making striking designs. But so can palettes of very similar colors. The above color scheme starts with Oxford Blue and gets steadily darker until it becomes Rich Black. As the example design shows, this color collection is perfect if you want to create abstract, shadowy designs with a gradient effect.

9. Silhouette

Silhouette color palette

Names: Rich black, Eerie black, Jet, Davy’s gray, Battleship gray
Hex Codes: #020202, #1A1A1A, #323232, #4D4D4D, #888888

Black-and-white photos have an undeniable mystique. Even if your design isn’t actually a black-and-white photo, you can impart some of that magic with the palette above.

As you know if you’ve spent time working with color, there are seemingly endless shades of black. This group of colors includes several of them. Inky Rich Black lightens slightly into Eerie Black, which in turn fades into Jet. Lighter shades of gray give you the opportunity to create a gradient. And if you want to make sure you include the full spectrum, you might add in some cool white, too.

10. Teal Crystal

Teal Crystal color palette

Names: Caribbean current, Deep teal, Midnight green, Dark green, Rich black
Hex Codes: #016764, #005958, #014848, #00312F, #001E1E

The deep blue-green of teal is one of the most soothing cool colors there is. So if you want a dark color palette that manages to be calming as well, this is an outstanding one to use. And thanks to the greenish undertones throughout, Rich Black even looks teal-like.

As the example image illustrates, this color palette does well in abstract designs where each shade has an opportunity to blend into the next. This color grouping is complete on its own, but if you want to introduce a burst of contrast, try interspersing some cool, crisp white.

11. Pahoehoe

Pahoehoe color palette

Names: Jet, Umber, Dim gray, Onyx, Raisin black
Hex Codes: #2E2B26, #57463A, #656772, #33363F, #1D1E23

Pahoehoe is a word describing ropy formations of solidified lava. The example image captures this phenomenon, and the faint, gold-like dusting makes it a little more special.

This five-color palette is good for more than just depictions of volcanic rock, though. Its striking depth makes it perfect for eye-catching advertisements. As a bonus, it’s dark enough to make white and other light-colored text stand out.

12. Purple Sunrise

Purple Sunrise color palette

Names: Space cadet, Indigo dye, Payne’s gray, Violet (jtc), Russian violet
Hex Codes: #161638, #1B435E, #38667E, #563457, #3A2B50

When you think of snow-covered mountains, you probably imagine blue skies, white clouds, and deep, rocky shades of gray. You probably don’t picture purple! But as you can see in the example image, even a hint of purple can really transform a snowy, icy palette.

That being said, your design doesn’t have to include snow and ice to use this magnificent color palette. This collection of deep blues and purples really lends itself to swirling, blended designs. It’s also ideal for creating shadowy illusions of depth.

13. Woodgrain

Woodgrain color palette

Names: Licorice, Black bean, Bistre, Kobicha, Seal brown
Hex Codes: #140405, #2E0F0A, #332420, #72421F, #4D2806

“Wood tones” are a very broad class of colors. The shades in this palette cover the darker end of that range. Deep blacks and browns can keep your design grounded while also offering your audience a sense of calm.

But you don’t have to use these colors only for wood-inspired designs. Thanks to the caramel-like Kobicha, this combination also has a candy-like look that can work for promoting chocolate shops and other businesses.

If you don’t want a design that’s quite so monochromatic, consider adding a contrasting color. Blue and brown are known for going well together, so a rich royal blue can really make your design remarkable!

14. Charcoal

Charcoal color palette

Names: Black, Night, Eerie black, Raisin black, Jet
Hex Codes: #000000, #141414, #1D1D1D, #272728, #313131

This might just be the darkest color palette on the list. Shades of black and charcoal are great for creating dramatic and memorable designs. Imagine the tiled design in the picture as a shower wall — it’s certainly not something you see every day!

But monochromatic palettes like this aren’t the only way you can make a statement. When you pair a bright, warm shade with deep, moody blacks and grays, you can create incredible contrast. Tangerine orange is especially eye-catching, as are yellow and lime green.

15. Slate Forest

Slate Forest color palette

Names: Prussian blue, Pickled bluewood, Cadet gray, Coffee, Taupe
Hex Codes: #122537, #2D4459, #9498A1, #74563B, #4E433B

Slate blue and similar shades are perfect choices for regal interiors. But these wonderfully classic shades have plenty of other applications, too. Prussian Blue and Pickled Bluewood have an air of formality about them, making them great for businesslike designs. You might even consider Cadet Gray pinstripes on a Prussian Blue backdrop!

16. Emerald Smoke

Emerald Smoke color palette

Names: Smoky black, Night, Dark green, Pakistan green, Cal poly green
Hex Codes: #090804, #071402, #0C2703, #074300, #125607

Shades of green don’t have to be neon to be vivid. And as this example design shows, the combination of green and black can be strikingly vivid! Cal Poly Green has a bright, emerald-like charm, and with the help of Pakistan Green and Dark Green, it deepens slowly into Night and Smoky Black.

As you can see, this seamless gradient is ideal for creating deep, shadowy designs. The example image has a lot of energy, but there’s a lot of mystery to it, too.

17. Nightlife

Nightlife color palette

Names: Dark purple, Raisin black, Night, Black bean, Chocolate cosmos
Hex Codes: #411D2B, #211720, #110E15, #2A0A11, #430E18

Deep shades of burgundy and maroon might remind you of opulent, old-style interiors. But as you can see in the example design, these colors can also come together to create super-modern illustrations. Thanks to the background of Raisin Black and Night and the gradient of purple shades, the design looks like it’s glowing. With a project like this, you’ll certainly catch your audience’s eye!

18. Emma

Emma color palette

Names: Wenge, Van dyke, Raisin black, Umber, Raw umber
Hex Codes: #775E59, #493F3D, #2B2628, #5B4A40, #936D58

Black-and-white photos and illustrations have a beautiful old-school appeal. But if you want to create a design with a vintage vibe, grayscale palettes aren’t your only option. This color scheme is ideal for creating sepia-toned projects, and the gradient of colors makes it possible for you to create stunning light-like effects — just look at the realistic glow around the lamp, window, and candles!

19. Purple Blur

Purple Blur color palette

Names: Purple, Eminence, Indigo, Persian indigo, Federal blue
Hex Codes: #811A71, #62187B, #450077, #380072, #220059

This bright design is reminiscent of the 1980s-style vaporware designs that periodically seem to come back in style. And against deeper shades like Persian Indigo and Federal Blue, Purple looks positively electric!

This palette works nicely in stylishly abstract designs like the example, but it also looks good in softer, blended pictures. Try an illustration of clouds shaded by this gradient palette.

20. Haunted Forest

Haunted Forest color palette

Names: Payne’s gray, Charcoal, Gunmetal, Eerie black, Rich black
Hex Codes: #56666F, #314048, #232E30, #162022, #0E161B

This example image (and its associated palette) is elegant in an eerie sort of way. At first glance, you might simply describe the picture as being black and white. But when you look closely, you’ll see that it’s made of many different variants of black and gray.

But these shades don’t only exist on a continuum between black and white. As the palette illustrates, they have rich undercurrents of cool forest green and deep blue. Payne’s Gray and Charcoal are two shades of bluish gray, and Gunmetal and Eerie Black are tinged with green.

21. Violet Night

Violet Night color palette

Names: Rich black, Russian violet, Penn blue, Midnight blue, Marian blue
Hex Codes: #0E0F18, #130F41, #24225D, #322C74, #424081

This purple-hued palette has a cool, futuristic feel. Some shades of purple (like royal purple) have a good bit of red, creating a relatively warm look. Other shades, like the shades in this palette, are made of more blue. Despite the names, Midnight Blue and Marian Blue look decidedly like shades of blue violet.

22. Redwood

Redwood color palette

Names: Coffee, Licorice, Black bean, Seal brown, Bole
Hex Codes: #604030, #1E0A04, #351808, #4E2D1C, #6E4331

Some people might see brown as dull and uninteresting. But when you gather a collection of rich shades, you’ll find that brown is more beautiful than you may have thought. Many of the shades in this palette are named after striking natural brown things: coffee, black beans, seals, and clay.

These colors can also be arranged to form a gradient. That makes it ideal for 3D shading. Take a look at the example image — the delicate shading on the pillars and along the roof is what elevates this illustration to extraordinary.

23. Bayside

Bayside color palette

Names: Blue jay, Indigo dye, Gunmetal, Rich black, Bole
Hex Codes: #2E4E7F, #26436B, #263041, #121E2C, #80463A

When you think of water-inspired color palettes, you might imagine bright, crystalline blues. But color schemes inspired by darker water can be equally captivating. This example image captures the breathtaking sight of the sun setting over water. In the falling light, that water looks surprisingly dark — it’s a mixture of Gunmetal and Rich Black.

This palette also includes some of the colors of the sky and clouds. But if you want to add some contrast and a bit more energy, you might consider including the intense yellow and orange colors of the sunset, too.

24. Oxblood

Oxblood color palette

Names: Black bean, Dried blood, Rosewood, Blood red, Red oxide
Hex Codes: #320001, #4B0000, #590001, #640000, #700100

This intriguing color palette combines several shades of rich, velvety red. These colors are so closely related that you might not be sure how to use them. But the example image offers an idea: these colors really lend themselves to use in soft, marbled palettes.

If you want to do something a little less monochromatic, you always have the option of introducing another color. For example, if you’re creating stationery, you could take the example image and use it to create a border around a rectangle of warm white. You could even use that same pattern of marbled red to add a monogram.

25. Walking at Night

Walking at Night color palette

Names: Dim gray, Van dyke, Rich black, Gunmetal, Payne’s gray
Hex Codes: #7B6D62, #423A37, #0E191F, #2B3C43, #597276

There’s something truly alluring about city streets after dark on a pleasant night. This example image captures the peace of a late-night stroll. Fittingly, the palette is full of blue and blue-adjacent shades, with a couple of cool browns to round it out.

Blue and brown are high-contrast shades that work nicely in colorblocked designs. But with this color scheme, the real magic happens with careful blending. As you see in the example image, blurring the boundaries between these shades can help you create a dreamy look. Adding a few points of white can create the illusion of light.

26. Auburn

Auburn color palette

Names: Raw umber, Kobicha, Seal brown, Black bean, Licorice
Hex Codes: #94654B, #6A3B23, #45210E, #341304, #130101

Gradients can be a great way to breathe some life into neutral palettes. And as gradients go, this one covers a lot of ground. Soft, warm Raw Umber darkens into Kobicha, which darkens into Seal Brown, which turns to Black Bean, and then Licorice.

This wide-ranging color scheme is ideal for creating depth and shadow. You might use it to create a close-up of auburn hair, an intricate woodgrain pattern, or even an illustration of chocolates!

27. Onyx

Onyx color palette

Names: Davy’s gray, Jet, Raisin black, Eerie black, Night
Hex Codes: #4C4C4E, #38383A, #29292B, #18181A, #0C0C0F

When you look at this example image, what color do you see? Most people would say black. But thanks to all the light and shadow in the image, it actually includes a whole range of shades from pale gray to deep black.

This palette offers you a helpful template if you’re creating a monochromatic black design. The various related shades can help you create the illusion of light playing over an all-black or mostly black surface.

28. Blackstone

Blackstone color palette

Names: Dim gray, Shadow gray, Eerie black, Van dyke, Umber
Hex Codes: #797167, #4E4943, #1D1E1C, #43352C, #594739

If you’ve done any work with interior design, you might be intrigued by this example image. It brings together the bare-brick walls and scarred wood floors of industrial design and the sleek wall hangings and backlit cabinets of modern design. Even if you aren’t designing an interior, you can still let this room’s color palette inspire your digital designs.

This color scheme leans dark, but it includes a wide array of neutrals. These colors look nice on their own, but you can add a little more space and light with cool whites and leafy greens.

29. Electric Night

Electric Night color palette

Names: Marian blue, Delft blue, Prussian blue, Tekhelet, Ultra violet
Hex Codes: #384589, #2D3B6A, #1D2D46, #47366D, #5A4485

If you’re stuck in a design rut or just feeling a little uninspired, color palettes can just look like flat stretches of paint chips. But images like the one above show you new and dynamic ways to use even run-of-the-mill palettes.

This group of colors includes two purplish blues, a deep, near-black blue, and two slightly warmer purples. They’re related enough to form cohesive designs, but not so closely related that those designs appear dull. That makes this palette the ideal choice for abstract, geometric designs like the one in the example image.

30. Moonlit Stroll

Moonlit Stroll color palette

Names: Midnight green, Caribbean current, Slate gray, Berkeley blue, Oxford blue
Hex Codes: #004955, #105E60, #6B7D7F, #14365C, #10284E

Moonlight seems to bathe everything it illuminates in a bluish light, and this color palette captures that effect perfectly. Midnight Green and Caribbean Current are almost exactly the shade of foliage at night, and Berkeley Blue and Oxford Blue look like the night sky. Slate Gray is just about the color of the craters on the moon.

Even if you aren’t creating a nighttime-inspired design, this color palette can prove to be very useful. Shades of deep blue, deep green, and gray have classic appeal, and these colors might work well for a professional website. They’re cool and grounding, so they’re ideal for a business that needs to inspire trust and confidence in its customers.

31. Ultraviolet

Ultraviolet color palette

Names: Tekhelet, Russian violet, Penn blue, Berkeley blue, Indigo dye
Hex Codes: #522377, #36195B, #080B38, #133155, #254D70

Last on the list is this striking color palette. The leaves in the example image glow with otherworldly iridescence, much like the color-changing finishes you sometimes see on cars. You, too, can accomplish that iridescent look when you use the subtle gradients in this color scheme. As a bonus, this collection of colors is also a subtle nod to the popular purple-and-teal color schemes of the 1990s.

Using Dark Colors in Your Design

Now you’ve seen a sampling of dark color palettes you can use in your designs. But the right colors are merely a tool. You can have a beautiful, high-end car, but if you don’t know how to drive, it’s not going to do you much good. Likewise, if you don’t have a plan for the palette you choose, you might not end up with the perfect design you’re envisioning. Here are a few tips to help you get started using dark colors.

Find Your Reason

As a designer, you know that there should always be a reason behind every color choice you make. And just like you carefully select individual colors, you should also think carefully before you choose a particular type of color palette.

Before settling on a darker color palette, ask yourself why. There are several reasons designers choose darker palettes. Here are some of the main ones:

  • In a user interface, a darker background can guide users through steps or draw their attention to key areas of text.
  • In branding and advertising, darker colors communicate a sense of luxury and exclusivity.
  • In any type of design, darker shades create striking, commanding visuals.
  • Darker colors give you an opportunity to create contrast-heavy designs — they’re great backdrops for lighter, brighter colors.

Your reason doesn’t have to be one of these. The most important thing is to make sure you’re creating a color scheme with intentionality.

Consider Shading

A darker color palette can certainly command attention. But if your design is just a blend of equally dark colors, it might fall flat. You can add interest and dimensionality with careful shading.

One way to do this is by using color gradients. Say you want to include a dark purple cube in your design. The upward-facing side of the cube would be a lighter shade of purple, but the sides closest to the ground would need to be a little darker. You could finish off the look with a deep purple shadow. Similarly, shading around dark-colored text can give it a 3D effect.

However, shading can do more than just create 3D effects. If you want to use darker colors but are worried about making your design too dark, an ombre design might work well. You can start with a darker color and gradually fade to a lighter one (or vice versa).

Keep Everything in Balance

As the palettes above illustrate, it’s possible to create a beautiful design with all dark colors. But in many cases, an image that only includes dark shades can start to seem out of balance.

To avoid this potential issue, consider incorporating lighter colors and/or neutrals. For some designs, just a touch will do. Other designs do well with a large amount of lighter or neutral colors. Consider the dark purple cube mentioned above. Would it be more visually striking on a navy blue background or a stark white one?

Discover the Dramatic With Darker Palettes

Revitalizing your designs doesn’t have to mean incorporating neon or other bright colors. When used in the right context, darker shades can really transform a project. If you’re looking for new inspiration, don’t be afraid to check out the dark side!