Writers and artists have been inspired and captivated by nature for millennia. And if you’re a designer who’s found yourself out of color ideas, the natural world might just hold the creative refresher you’ve been looking for.
If you’re ready to transform the way you look at color, take a look at some of these lively nature palettes.
Nature Color Palettes
Prepare to be inspired by these beautiful nature color palettes. Hex codes are included if you want to use the colors in your next design.
Names: Steel pink, Hot magenta, Fandango, Non photo blue, Bondi blue
Hex Codes: #B722B0, #E827CE, #BF19A2, #9DDCEB, #228DAF
Jellyfish are some of the ocean’s most colorful creatures. If you take a walk along the beach, you might see clear or red jellyfish washed up. But if you go further out into the water, you just might see brilliantly patterned jellyfish like the one in the picture.
The arrangement of color in the picture also offers a suggestion for how to use this palette in your own designs. Together, Steel Pink, Hot Magenta, and Fandango make a super-bright, dynamic combination. If you use these shades at the center of a design that’s mostly Non-Photo Blue and Bondi Blue, you can draw your audience’s eye and really make a statement.
Names: Argentinian blue, Baby blue, Snow, White smoke, Thistle
Hex Codes: #72B5EC, #94C2DE, #FBF9FB, #F7F6F3, #BDB6D3
This otherworldly landscape captures the peace that comes with still winter mornings. And its color palette is perfect for the designer who likes working with subtle color gradation. Baby Blue is a slightly shadowed version of Argentinian Blue. Likewise, White Smoke is a slightly tinted Snow.
This mixture of blues and whites is a fairly standard winter color palette. However, Thistle sets it apart. This smoky, lavender-like shade can add some depth and uniqueness to any design.
Names: Vermilion, Safety orange, Aureolin, Pear, Verdigris
Hex Codes: #E14536, #FD7A03, #FAE403, #BBDD30, #11B5C2
Toucans are some of nature’s most colorful birds. And now, you can use a color palette inspired by their bright beauty. Even if your design has nothing to do with birds at all, you might like that this palette closely parallels the colors of the rainbow.
Colors like these can certainly catch the eye of your audience. But because they’re so vivid, they can seem a little too bright if you don’t use them carefully. This palette’s example image offers a helpful suggestion for use. The toucans’ beaks and heads deliver a very concentrated burst of color. Their black bodies are a grounding influence, and the smooth, blurred background helps your audience quickly find the intended focal point.
Names: Pigment green, Pistachio, Orange (web), Heliotrope, Red (ncs)
Hex Codes: #50984A, #90C15A, #FEAC00, #C67CFB, #BC003F
The bright blooms in gardens can be striking. But there’s something special about the unkempt, vivid beauty of wildflowers. This color palette aims to capture some of that beauty.
It’s a great color palette if you want your design to include the brilliant energy of complementary colors. Web Orange is very close to yellow, and yellow and purple are complementary. Red and green are also complementary shades, so if you arrange your colors carefully, you can create an especially dynamic design!
5. Pink Sunrise
Names: Chinese violet, African violet, Thulian pink, Peach, Light red
Hex Codes: #785E81, #C88DC2, #DB6DA4, #FFC9A5, #FF898D
What’s prettier than a mountainside covered in wildflowers? Try that same scene with a pink sky above! This color palette captures the magical glow of the rising sun over a vast field of flowers. Even Peach, the sunniest shade of them all, has a little touch of pink.
The colors in this group are a bit more closely related than some of the other palettes on the list. But unlike many mostly-pink palettes, this one isn’t entirely warm. Thulian Pink, Peach, and Light Red are all warm shades, but cool, dusty Chinese Violet adds some balance.
Names: Licorice, Aureolin, Dark moss green, Burnt orange, Caput mortuum
Hex Codes: #231C17, #FAE315, #505D04, #C35908, #55362E
The cute little creature in the picture is a fire salamander. These lizards secrete toxic alkaloids, so they’re best admired from afar! If you want your current project to have a little more verve, you might take some inspiration from their bright, ultra-high-contrast coloring.
Black and yellow is a great color combination, but if you want a fully fleshed-out color palette, you need to add a few more shades to the mix. The earthy shades found in this palette come from the fire salamander’s habitat: European forests.
7. Mountain Stream
Names: Tufts blue, Sky blue, Columbia blue, Beaver, Asparagus
Hex Codes: #3491E4, #67BFE2, #C3E6F8, #8F7D6C, #669348
Few rocky mountain streams are as brilliantly blue as this one. You can recreate that same beautiful blue in your own design with a mix of Tufts Blue, Sky Blue, and Columbia Blue. These three make a beautiful monochromatic palette, but if you want to lean into the earthiness that you see in the example picture, you’ll want to include Beaver and Asparagus, too.
Names: Royal blue (web color), Azure, White, Dark pastel green, Brown sugar
Hex Codes: #0068ED, #0182FF, #FDFDFE, #02C13F, #B97E60
Peacocks are almost magical-looking birds. And the longer you look at them, the more beautiful details you’ll notice. This color palette aims to capture the incredible shades found on these birds, from eye-like rings on their tails to the deep, metallic blue of their heads and necks. The bold, impressive brightness of Royal Blue and Azure make this an ideal color palette for summer-focused designs.
Names: YInMn blue, Moonstone, Vanilla, Plum (web), Ultra violet
Hex Codes: #40536B, #60A6AC, #FEF5B7, #E494E7, #625197
Birds aren’t the only animals who often show spectacular iridescence. Many insects (like the one shown in the picture) also appear to glimmer in the sunlight.
But even without the metallic cast, the colors in this palette are striking enough to be used in a wide range of designs. This grouping is an interesting one — it has a generally springlike feel, but YInMn Blue and Ultra Violet are much darker shades than you typically see in spring-themed color palettes. If you’re working on a spring-themed design and want to make sure it stays grounded, this is definitely a palette worth considering.
10. Lavender Wings
Names: Brown sugar, Tangelo, Vanilla, Periwinkle, Royal purple
Hex Codes: #A67046, #F25110, #FEEFA8, #D6C4FE, #7257AA
Nature is brimming with unexpected color combinations. So if you’re feeling uninspired, you may only need to look out the window for a moment to find your next color scheme.
The unusual moth in the picture above is a striking example of the kind of inspiration you might find outdoors. Its wings are spotted with a dazzling array of colors. You might not think that brown, red, periwinkle, and soft yellow would look nice together, but the intricate pattern above proves otherwise!
11. Under the Sea
Names: Orange (pantone), Pumpkin, Bittersweet, Thulian pink, Blue green
Hex Codes: #FA6A1B, #FF7A31, #F46E61, #E674A5, #009CBD
If you’ve been fortunate enough to see a coral reef up close, you know just how brilliant their colors can be. Shades of vivid yellow, orange, pink, and purple seem to leap out from the surrounding blue.
This particular palette focuses on the relationship between near-complementary shades of blue and orange. Blue Green is the only cool shade in the palette, but if you choose it as a background color, it will really make the other shades pop.
Pantone Orange and Pumpkin come close to complementing it. Bittersweet is more reddish, but it can add depth and energy when you use it as a background color. Thulian Pink might not be complementary, but the high-contrast relationship between pink and blue still makes the Blue Green/Thulian Pink combination an energetic one.
Names: Chamoisee, Hunyadi yellow, Peach, Mountbatten pink, Cerulean
Hex Codes: #916F57, #E9B459, #ECC19D, #937E99, #357E9F
This earthy collection of colors also includes touches of calming, cool shades. And as you can see in the picture, the relative lightness of Peach makes it perfect for creating highlighted/shaded looks with Chamoisee and Hunyadi yellow.
However, these three are warmer-leaning neutrals. In many cases, you’ll find that your design looks more balanced if you also include a couple of deeper, cooler shades like Mountbatten Pink and Cerulean.
If you want to expand this palette, the example image also offers a couple of suggestions. The soft, glowing pink of the blossoms is one option. And if you want a dark shade to keep everything grounded, try a shade of black (like you see on the bird’s “mask”) or dark brown.
Names: Tangelo, Safety orange, Pigment green, Verdigris, Quinacridone magenta
Hex Codes: #FE4601, #FF7701, #01A852, #3ABFB7, #763456
Chameleons aren’t only green and brown! Some, like the one in the picture, have dazzling, jewel-like patterns. It would be a challenge to bring together every single shade you see on this colorful reptile, but the palette above does a solid job of capturing many of the most vivid ones. Even though it leans slightly cool, it’s an energetic color grouping that really lends itself to stripes, geometric patterns, and other eye-catching designs.
14. Autumn Flame
Names: Dark moss green, Copper, Selective yellow, Orange (wheel), Fire engine red
Hex Codes: #426214, #C3773F, #FAB802, #F97F01, #D40123
Lots of pictures of fall foliage capture the time when the changing leaves are at their peak. But there’s something to be said for the beauty of early autumn, when the first hints of yellow, red, and orange start to emerge.
This color palette’s example image captures that magical time. Similarly, if you situate Copper, Wheel Orange, Selective Yellow, and Fire Engine Red in a background that’s mostly Dark Moss Green, the cooler backdrop will only enhance the glow of these fiery shades.
Names: Yellow green, Spring bud, Jasmine, Moonstone, Folly
Hex Codes: #7ECB01, #B3E73B, #FBDA74, #4AA3BF, #FD4662
Shades of pink and light green are complementary (or close to it). And while you can often see this combination in nature, it’s rare to see a shade of green that’s as positively neon as the color of the dragonfly in the picture!
Keep in mind that even though these neon shades are technically “cool” colors, their brightness can quickly overwhelm a palette if you aren’t careful. The example image manages to be beautifully balanced despite being made up largely of neon green and bright pink. Folly takes up most of the picture, but the black outlining of Spring Bud and Yellow Green both sets them apart and keeps the image grounded.
16. Horsehead Cliffs
Names: Hunter green, Burnt sienna, Melon, Indian red, Caput mortuum
Hex Codes: #2F603A, #DD6646, #EEA594, #B9655A, #593330
It’s rare that you see a photo of seaside cliffs taken from this angle. But this aerial view gives you a clearer look at the beautiful pinkish, orangish sand. And of course, you also get hints of deep green foliage and dark brown rocks.
This color palette technically isn’t monochromatic. However, the close relationship between Burnt Sienna, Melon, Indian Red, and Caput Mortuum makes it ideal for creating soft lines and subtle gradations.
Names: Polynesian blue, Cerulean, Blue (ncs), Spanish orange, Murrey
Hex Codes: #154A83, #02789A, #028FCE, #E76E0A, #891C5C
Many birds have muted coloration that helps them blend into their surroundings. That’s not the case with this one! His bright blue body, deep blue head and wings, and striking orange cap all come together to make him a standout.
Even if your current project doesn’t have anything to do with birds at all, this color palette is still a great way to create a standout design. Try layering the shades of blue. For example, if you’re designing a logo, you might consider an NCS Blue backdrop with Polynesian Blue text/accents.
18. Meadow Bloom
Names: Shocking pink, Plum (web), Azure (web), Non photo blue, Yellow
Hex Codes: #E830C2, #FFABFD, #F5FEFE, #A3EDFF, #B0CB00
If you like springtime palettes that are so bright they look neon, this is definitely one worth considering. Web Plum and Yellow are more along the lines of traditional spring pastels. But Web Azure and (as the name suggests) Shocking Pink have an electric energy that will infuse even the quietest spring designs with a healthy dose of verve.
Names: Drab dark brown, Blue gray, Saffron, Apple green, Fern green
Hex Codes: #3F3929, #6C92B6, #EDC363, #A2A915, #547131
This aerial photo of a footpath through a vast expanse is enough to give anyone a sense of wanderlust. The gentle glow of the sunrise over the still ponds, mossy hillsides, and rocky vistas washes everything in a dreamy light.
No matter what your current project entails, you can borrow some of that energy with the corresponding color palette. Even without the accompanying image, these shades are evocative of green foliage, gray-brown rocks, blue sky, and yellow sun.
Names: Coquelicot, Selective yellow, Screamin green, Pacific cyan, Glaucous
Hex Codes: #FB4104, #FEBC01, #78FE91, #01B9D4, #4D76C6
This strikingly multicolored amphibian is what most people picture when they imagine a tree frog in the rainforest. It’s covered with nearly every color of the rainbow!
Thanks to the wide range of colors, this palette is perfect for colorblocked designs: the colors are different enough from one another that they will stand out even when used side by side.
For example, say you’re creating an infographic that emphasizes different features of a product. You could use a Glaucous background and then incorporate each feature into a circle, square, or triangle made of one of the other colors.
Names: Burnt sienna, Salmon, Melon, Fairy tale, Puce
Hex Codes: #C87563, #EE826A, #FDBCAA, #E6BBC5, #D596AB
The rich, pinkish-red coloration of canyons is only part of their beauty. They’re also marked by textured, undulating lines from centuries upon centuries of wind.
This palette beautifully captures the play of light and shadow throughout these brilliant geological wonders. Deep browns, clay-like oranges, and shadowy pinks come together to create an almost monochromatic palette ideal for almost any application.
Names: Aureolin, Icterine, Night, Princeton orange, French violet
Hex Codes: #FBF436, #FEFF80, #101010, #FF9501, #7A2ABE
The combination of black and yellow might make you think of a bumblebee. But bees aren’t the only insects that exhibit this high-contrast coloration. With two different shades of yellow, this palette offers you an opportunity to add some nuance to a classic blend of colors.
You might be surprised to see Princeton Orange and French Violet included here. These two shades are a bit Halloween-like, especially when you combine them with black. So if you need inspiration for a Halloween design, this is it!
23. Living Color
Names: Lime green, Amber, Beaver, Deep pink, Red (cmyk)
Hex Codes: #6FC83F, #FFBE0B, #9E846D, #FF0397, #F0201A
This color palette’s example image includes the beautiful sight of trees in fall foliage. But you might notice something unusual — one of the trees has hot pink leaves! Just like this hot pink tree adds some interest to the image, Deep Pink adds an unexpected burst of color to this palette. Earthy Beaver and golden-tinged Amber help to balance out the bright intensity of Lime Green, Deep Pink, and CMYK Red.
Names: Bole, Dartmouth green, Seasalt, Orange peel, Persian red
Hex Codes: #684037, #055F14, #F8F9F7, #FDA236, #CF2F2F
Mushrooms come in a whole range of colors and patterns. But few are as well-known as the pattern shown in the picture. As you can see on the mushroom cap, Orange Peel and Persian Red form a gradient that’s perfect for creating a sense of roundness.
Both of these shades are incredibly bright and energetic, so make sure you don’t overuse them. Just like the example photo, you might consider a background that emphasizes Bole and Dartmouth Green. When you use Persian Red and Orange Peel as accent colors, they still make a splash without overwhelming the design.
25. Ruddy Sunset
Names: Blue (ncs), Robin egg blue, Earth yellow, Brown sugar, Chestnut
Hex Codes: #028CBB, #63C2C3, #E2A954, #C46F41, #9F4234
The magnificently-colored birds in the picture are a species of bee-eater. Their patterning is reminiscent of a reddish sunset. While the palette alone might not make you think of a gradient, the way the birds’ colors blend together might give you an idea for your own design.
If you’re working on a retro-themed project, you might like the orange-browns in this color grouping — they’re reminiscent of the 1970s! For maximum vintage appeal, try incorporating them in the form of rainbow-like stripes.
Names: Picton blue, Yellow green, Aureolin, Orange (crayola), Amethyst
Hex Codes: #02ACFB, #98CD00, #FDF009, #FA7938, #A05BD7
Few natural phenomena are as colorful as tropical coral reefs. Between the otherworldly patterns on the fish and the bright shades of the corals themselves, reefs create underwater rainbows.
If you want to include one of these underwater rainbows in your own work, you might take some inspiration from the palette in the picture. Each of these shades is exceptionally bright and vivid. But despite that fact, this group of colors actually includes more cool shades than warm shades!
Names: Mountbatten pink, Blush, Light coral, Sunglow, Light blue
Hex Codes: #92748B, #D2557F, #EA8A91, #FFCF5F, #B0D8DD
Believe it or not, the mountain in the picture is actually real —it’s a mountain in Peru called Vinicunca. Some people simply call it “Rainbow Mountain.” Vinicunca’s colors developed because of the way the mountain formed. Different elements in the layers of soil create different colors. For example, green comes from ferromagnesium compounds and copper oxide, while pink comes from a mix of red clay, sand, and mudstone.
You can capture some of Vinicunca’s magic in your own designs when you use this palette. As you can see, this group of colors emphasizes the mountain’s warmer shades. But if you want to strike more of a warm/cool balance, you can include more of the uniquely earthy greens sometimes seen on the mountain.
Names: Russet, Brown, Cocoa brown, Butterscotch, Anti-flash white
Hex Codes: #8A4F25, #A33D0B, #D7711F, #E89A37, #F2F2F3
Red foxes are strikingly beautiful in all seasons, but there’s something almost magical about their coats against the snow. This color palette is reminiscent of that unforgettable sight.
As you might have guessed by looking at the example image, the various orangish shades in this palette are perfect for creating shading. You can use Brown, Cocoa Brown (which really looks more orangish here), and Butterscotch to create three-dimensional effects. The cool glow of Anti-Flash White is perfect for adding contrast.
29. Day Gecko
Names: Dark cyan, Dark pastel green, Pacific cyan, Russet, Walnut brown
Hex Codes: #078C85, #35B53D, #00B0D7, #914C2B, #554A44
Some reptiles are shades of nondescript brown and dark green. Others, like this little day gecko, have fantastically bright colors arranged in interesting patterns. When you capture this lizard’s shades of bright blue and green along with the deep browns of the background, you get a beautifully balanced palette.
Green and blue are both cool colors, but when they’re as bright as they are here, they’re often more energizing than calming. Dark Cyan exerts a calming influence, and Walnut Brown is dark enough to keep everything grounded.
30. Desert Dream
Names: Cinnabar, Pumpkin, Bole, Jasmine, Sky blue
Hex Codes: #E43D15, #FD813B, #884E46, #FCD783, #89BCCD
You might think of deserts as being wide stretches of emptiness. But as you can see in this picture, they sometimes are sources of vivid color. This palette captures the intensity of a desert sunset. Cinnabar and Pumpkin fade into Jasmine, a yellowish shade that seems to melt into Sky Blue. Cinnabar in particular is very bright and energetic, so make sure you use it with caution — too much can quickly overwhelm an audience.
Names: Red (cmyk), Lavender blush, Fuchsia, Veronica, Rebecca purple
Hex Codes: #FB111D, #FFF6FA, #FD00EC, #AF00F1, #4D31AC
Purple isn’t very common in the natural world. Electric shades of purple like Veronica are even rarer. So when you come across them, you notice!
The color palette above might not be what you picture when you think of a nature-inspired palette. But it’s a great option if you want to create highly dynamic designs. From baby-soft Lavender Blush to near-neon Fuchsia and deep Rebecca Purple, this color collection has plenty of range. A pop of CMYK Red can bring everything together.
32. Reflecting Pool
Names: Powder blue, Pink lavender, Sunset, Vanilla, Verdigris
Hex Codes: #ACABFD, #E7BBDA, #FDD790, #F1E8AC, #56B1B2
Sunrises and sunsets over water are some of nature’s most magnificent sights. Many are blazing rainbows of color. But others, like the one in the picture, are soft blends of pastel shades.
Even if your design doesn’t include an actual sunset, you might still find this palette useful. Like many pastel groupings, it has a springlike feel. However, it has a slight dustiness to it that gives it a little more gravity.
Names: Avocado, Yellow green, Apple green, Tea green, Cerise
Hex Codes: #5F8713, #A7D200, #99BC00, #CFE099, #F9015F
Looking for a mostly monochromatic color palette with a splash of vivid energy? This one is perfect. It captures the many layers of green you find in fields, forests, and beyond. The greens here are different enough that they stand out against one another, but they’re similar enough to keep things cohesive. If you feel like your design isn’t grounded enough, you can always add hints of black like you see on the caterpillar in the picture.
Using Nature Colors in Your Design
When you think of “natural” colors, you might imagine shades of brown and dull green. But as you saw above, the natural world is home to vivid neons, pastels, and deep jewel tones, too.
With a seemingly endless range of colors at your disposal, it can be hard to know where to begin. Here are some quick tips and ideas to help you get started.
Go Beyond Realism
Your design doesn’t have to include a forest to make your viewers think of a forest. There’s nothing wrong with including realistic depictions of nature in your designs, of course. But for instance, imagine that you’re tasked with creating a card with a simple border — no pictures or other elaborate design elements allowed.
If you want your audience to think of a forest against a blue sky, you might make the card a shade of pastel blue and include a dark green border. Or if you prefer a darker look overall, you could try a forest green card with a cocoa brown border.
Be Mindful of Associations
Whether you’re going for a peaceful, monochromatic design or want to create an intense, high-contrast project, keeping track of color associations can be helpful. For instance, if your design includes a lot of light green, bright yellow, and orange, your audience might feel energized and refreshed — these colors might make them think of citrus fruits. A palette of icy blues, cool whites, and pale grays might conjure memories of snowy days.
Keep Everything in Balance
The example images above include all kinds of beautiful colors. But each one also manages to keep things in balance. A picture of a snowy landscape and a pale sky can be grounded by a dark treeline. A photo of a bright yellow goldfinch becomes more dynamic if it includes a complementary purple flower.
As a designer, you likely already have a good eye for balance. But the natural world is always surprising us, so it doesn’t hurt to look out your window or take a walk outside for inspiration!
Capture the Endless Beauty of the Natural World
For anyone who works with color, nature is a gift that keeps on giving. And no matter what type of design you’re working on next, you’ll almost certainly find something in the natural world to inspire you. The palettes here are just the beginning!