31 Retro Color Palettes for Throwback Designs

Retro color palettes illustration

In the digital world, plenty of designers choose color palettes that create an ultramodern, even futuristic feel. Whether it’s colorblocking with vivid shades or designing a sleek mosaic of whites and grays, designing with these palettes can be highly effective.

But there’s something to be said for retro colors — their muted warmth hearkens back to a simpler time, evoking pleasant memories and stirring your viewers’ emotions.

Check out these beautiful retro color palettes. Hex codes are included if you want to use the colors in your next design.

1. Warm Rainbow

Warm Rainbow color palette

Names: Oxford blue, Teal, Peach yellow, Sandy brown, Giants orange
Hex Codes: #01204E, #028391, #F6DCAC, #FAA968, #F85525

This charming blend of colors proves that “muted” doesn’t have to equal “dull.” If your website or other design could benefit from the influence of warmer colors, this palette gives you a chance to include them without overdoing it.

However, this rainbow-like range spans beautifully from vivid red-orange to deep, velvety navy. It’s the perfect way to introduce some real dynamism while still staying grounded. If you like the general aesthetic but want to avoid making things overly warm or overly cool, you can always build a palette around the middle three colors.

2. Distressed Earth

Distressed Earth color palette

Names: Fire engine red, Giants orange, Tangerine, Brown, Sepia
Hex Codes: #D52429, #F1602C, #EC8922, #915018, #6C3F18

If you’re a fan of 1970s design, this warm, autumnal selection is ideal. Of course, in any space, these five will need to be broken up with a softer neutral. A warm, parchment-like off-white (like the one in the example image) is a great option.

Each one of these shades is incredibly bold, so be sure to use them sparingly. Ideally, separate them with your background color. If you incorporate too much of each color here, it might be too much of a good thing!

3. 80s Colorslide

80s Colorslide color palette

Names: Jungle green, Celadon, Orange (web), Syracuse red orange, Burgundy
Hex Codes: #2BAF90, #A1D4B1, #F1A512, #DD4111, #8C0027

If you were already part of the design world between the 1970s and 1980s, you might remember how the colors of the 1980s became gradually brighter. This balanced palette is the perfect choice if you’re looking for something that’s bright and lively without being neon or technicolor. It retains much of the warmth of 1970s palettes but leans just a little brighter.

Thanks to the presence of two fabulous greens, this palette is ideal for an outdoor-focused brand or a project that’s somehow connected to nature. If you’re creating a seasonal ad or website, this is a color scheme that goes well with spring- or summer-focused designs.

4. Chocolate and Cream (With Color Between)

Chocolate and Cream (With Color Between) color palette

Names: Rusty red, Butterscotch, Cream, Zomp, Caput mortuum
Hex Codes: #D54751, #EF9A48, #FFFCC7, #4DA394, #59322B

As you can see in the example image, this is a palette that excels when used for signage. The rich cream color is ideal for vintage-style fonts, and the deep, chocolatey brown keeps everything grounded.

However, by themselves, these two colors might start to look a little plain. The other shades in the palette might seem like unlikely companions at first. But when you build a design around this lively collection, you get a palette that perfectly balances the understated with the unexpected.

5. Pop Art

Pop Art color palette

Names: Federal blue, Rebecca purple, Plum, Raspberry rose, Carrot orange
Hex Codes: #241965, #653993, #9F4094, #B73D6E, #F19406

Purple might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it makes frequent appearances in retro designs. Many retro palettes lean very warm, so this palette offers you a way to break free from that with a hefty dose of cooler purples.

However, thanks to shades like magenta and orange, this is a palette perfect for making designs that pop. As you can see in the photo, it’s a great choice for geometric or abstract designs. There’s plenty of nuance here, so feel free to play around!

6. Earth and Fire

Earth and Fire color palette

Names: Gamboge, Pumpkin, Flame, Russet, Kobicha
Hex Codes: #E9A131, #F67422, #E55017, #844926, #5F3822

This palette brings together two quintessential colors of 1970s design: brown and red-orange. It’s an especially warm combination that quickly draws the eye. If you often need to create seasonal designs, this is a great combination for autumn.

However, if you place these colors too near one another (especially in large quantities), you run the risk of creating a design that’s simply too garish. The example design keeps everything in balance with a pale neutral background.

7. Throwback Stripes

Throwback Stripes color palette

Names: Light orange, Pumpkin, Cornell red, Keppel, Cerulean
Hex Codes: #FBD0A6, #F37022, #B11016, #2ABA9E, #007096

You don’t have to use these colors in a striped design like the picture shows. But as you can see, the juxtaposition of warm and cool adds some much-needed freshness to this retro-inspired palette.

The welcoming, watery blue and green make it the perfect choice for beachy or summery designs. You can add some real energy by juxtaposing warm and cool shades!

8. California Skies

California Skies color palette

Names: Pumpkin, Mikado yellow, Bone, Verdigris, Caribbean current
Hex Codes: #F87523, #FFC31B, #E7DCC9, #1DB7B9, #126D68

It’s hard not to think of West Coast sunsets when you see this eclectic blend of warm and cool colors. This palette is ideal for the kind of stylized scenery you see in the picture, but it also works well in geometric designs or designs with a lot of shapes.

The single neutral might look a little out of place at first. However, most vintage palettes include at least one pale neutral. This sandy shade of pale beige is perfect for cultivating a surf-inspired vibe.

9. Cirrostratus

Cirrostratus color palette

Names: Dark slate gray, Blue (munsell), Tiffany blue, Scarlet, Burgundy
Hex Codes: #325A64, #44838F, #68D0BD, #F53F19, #891C29

Few things make us fondly remember the past like vintage aircraft. This retro palette is ideal if you want your design to make people think of the open sky. It’s also a solution for designers who like the general retro look but find most traditional retro palettes to be too heavy and warm.

In this color grouping, Scarlet gives you the option to create a focal point. But if you’d rather get a more subdued look, you can simply remove it and carry on with the rest of the colors.

10. 3D Movie

3D Movie color palette

Names: Engineering orange, Harvest gold, Moonstone, Lapis lazuli, Prussian blue
Hex Codes: #CA0B0B, #EAA109, #71A6AE, #18668C, #06394D

If you need a color palette that puts you right in the middle of a piece of pop art, this one is perfect. With colors ranging from rich red to near-navy, it works like a simplified rainbow. The lack of green makes it easier to create high-contrast designs.

Most design experts would advise you to select a couple of these shades as main colors and then incorporate the others as accent colors. However, as the example image illustrates, you don’t necessarily have to. If you’re working on a vibrant and chaotic design, it can work nicely with approximately equal amounts of each color.

11. Open Air

Open Air color palette

Names: Van dyke, Verdigris, Celeste, Orange (web), Cornell red
Hex Codes: #3D2C2C, #58ADAF, #B2E4E1, #FEAD0C, #BE011A

There’s nothing wrong with rich and earthy color palettes. But sometimes, you just need a light and airy color scheme instead. Whether you want to make audiences think of spring skies or cool blue water, this color palette is a great choice.

If you want to channel this cooler look, you might take some inspiration from the example image. Celeste makes a beautiful background color. From there, you can add accents of Van Dyke, Verdigris, Web Orange, and Cornell Red. That way, you get the benefit of retro warmth without making the whole color scheme warm.

12. Acid-Etched

Acid-Etched color palette

Names: Russet, Rust, Lemon chiffon, Orange peel, Dark cyan
Hex Codes: #774320, #B44819, #F5F3C7, #FD9A02, #01928B

Ever seen those glossy metal signs that always seem to have some rust around the edges? Many of these are porcelain enamel signs, and few things give off a more retro vibe.

This particular palette captures the charm of a vintage sign and breaks it down into its key colors. You can use them to impart an unmistakably retro characteristic to websites, advertisements, and other digital designs.

13. Intergalactic

Intergalactic color palette

Names: Gunmetal, Orange (crayola), Almond, Moonstone, Dark spring green
Hex Codes: #1D313C, #F6733A, #ECD6C3, #4FA3AB, #387654

“Retro” and “outer space” might not sound related, but old posters of outer space have some of the coolest color palettes around. The best thing about this palette is its unexpectedness — you probably wouldn’t expect to find Crayola Orange and Dark Spring Green in outer space, but they’re certainly at home in the example image.

This palette is also one of the most versatile ones on the list. Almond makes a fine background color, but if you want to create a design that really pops, you can use Gunmetal as your background instead.

14. Autumn Morning

Autumn Morning color palette

Names: Fire brick, Alloy orange, Hunyadi yellow, Chamoisee, Hooker’s green
Hex Codes: #B83729, #C46318, #DCA947, #947661, #557767

You can never really go wrong with an autumnal palette. This one is the perfect choice if you don’t want something too heavy — many autumn color palettes include multiple shades of dark brown and burnt orange. This one could best be described as an early autumn palette, as it captures the color of a forest when some leaves are still green.

You still get the benefit of grounding brown here. But Chamoisee is significantly lighter and softer than most shades of brown, so it won’t weigh down the rest of the palette. All in all, this is a vibrant color scheme sure to make your seasonal design stand out!

15. Tape Deck

Tape Deck color palette

Names: Jet, Mint, Dun, Atomic tangerine, Orange (crayola)
Hex Codes: #383431, #79C39E, #EAD1B5, #EE9B69, #E77843

Orange reigned supreme in the 70s, at least in the design world. But this palette presents it with a cool twist of mint. This particular Mint shade is almost complementary to orange, so it’s ideal for creating high-contrast designs.

Because this palette includes multiple shades of orange, it adds a dimensionality you don’t often see. You can use layers of Dun, Atomic Tangerine, and Crayola Orange to create shadow and 3D effects. Incorporating a little Jet will keep everything grounded.

16. 70s Sunshine

70s Sunshine color palette

Names: Tiffany blue, Sunset, Coral, Jasper, Bole
Hex Codes: #68C7C1, #FACA78, #F57F5B, #DD5341, #794A3A

Plenty of 1970s color palettes include shades of orange, brown, and yellow. This one sets itself apart with Tiffany Blue, a color that’s not quite turquoise.

Take a moment and picture the design above without Tiffany Blue. It would still look nice, but it would also look like just about every other 70s-inspired design out there. The inclusion of Tiffany Blue is subtle (there are only three blue rays), but it balances out the warmth just enough. Try it as an accent color in your design!

17. Coffee Shop

Coffee Shop color palette

Names: Café noir, Dark cyan, Beige, Hunyadi yellow, Syracuse red orange
Hex Codes: #503D2D, #1F9295, #F0ECC9, #E3AD43, #D44C1A

As you can see in the design above, this palette is perfect for colorblocking. It’s also a great way to give your design some cozy retro charm without making it suffocatingly warm.

What makes it work so well? Café Noir and Beige set the scene with an engaging neutral backdrop. Dark Cyan, Hunyadi Yellow, and Syracuse Red Orange make an especially balanced trio, as they effectively are variants of the three primary colors.

18. Highway Hypnosis

Highway Hypnosis color palette

Names: Seal brown, Engineering orange, Spanish orange, Orange (web), Navajo white
Hex Codes: #562717, #C21717, #E76219, #FEA712, #FDDCA9

If you have any familiarity with retro designs, you know that meandering paths of multicolored stripes are not unusual. This particular palette is great for creating these designs, especially if you’re looking for a warm-leaning color scheme.

However, it’s possible to overuse the rich, warm colors in color schemes like this. More often than not, that leads to an unbalanced design that looks overly heavy. You can avoid that effect by using enough of a lighter color — for instance, the example palette keeps things just light enough with Navajo White.

19. Space Odyssey

Space Odyssey color palette

Names: Gunmetal, Moonstone, Desert sand, Orange (crayola), Persian red
Hex Codes: #1D313C, #50A3AB, #FADAC1, #F6723A, #C43B39

Eye-catching palettes don’t have to be complicated, and this design is a great example. It primarily revolves around two shades: Gunmetal and Crayola Orange.

But whether you’re making a website or a billboard, a two-color design can start to look a little flat. Including a few accent colors is often more than enough to liven things up. In this case, Desert Sand offers much-needed contrast, and accents of Moonstone and Persian Red set the design apart.

20. Flower Child

Flower Child color palette

Names: Sienna, Cinnabar, Amber, Hooker’s green, Kobicha
Hex Codes: #8E2605, #E54B1F, #FDC018, #628A81, #5F3924

In the 1960s, the design landscape was full of pops of bright color. If you’re looking to create a design with an energetic palette, this decade is a great inspiration.

As you can see in the example design, a wide-ranging palette like this is perfect for making vivid, multicolor backdrops. But it also works well in simpler designs. To create something even more unexpected, try adding a few pops of pink!

21. Route 66

Route 66 color palette

Names: Burnt umber, Jasper, Sunset, Khaki, Black olive
Hex Codes: #8B322C, #DD5746, #EACEA7, #BFA784, #37342D

When it comes to digital design, red has its virtues — it’s energetic, eye-catching, and deeply connected to emotion. Too much of it can quickly overwhelm an audience, but there’s nothing wrong with using a red-heavy palette if you use it mindfully.

This particular palette exudes warmth that creates an unmistakable vintage vibe. The touches of Black Olive keep it grounded, but if you want to cool things down a little bit, a few blue or green accents can help.

22. Rainbow Connection

Rainbow Connection color palette

Names: Claret, Skobeloff, Xanthous, Orange (crayola), Fire engine red
Hex Codes: #811638, #0B7978, #FCB632, #F27238, #C32327

The rainbow includes seven colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. This color palette doesn’t include every single one of them, but it comes pretty close! It’s a great choice if you need something colorful and dynamic, and it’s an excellent grouping to use if your design requires a lot of colorblocking.

However, each one of these colors is highly saturated, and using them in high doses can overwhelm your audience. To dilute the impact while still keeping a retro aesthetic, use a warm white or beige as your backdrop color.

23. VHS Tape

VHS Tape color palette

Names: Mikado yellow, Giants orange, Red (cmyk), Red (ncs), Tyrian purple
Hex Codes: #FEC631, #F9591F, #F21E2C, #B21D3B, #6A1D41

The sunset-inspired color gradient in the photo has come to be representative of the 90s. Because it’s similar to the coloring found on 1990s VHS tapes, many people will make the connection even if it’s subconscious.

Using these colors in this classic gradient is the best way to keep the retro association. However, that doesn’t mean you should avoid playing around with different placements. As you can see in the example design, this palette does best when used alongside a warm white, sand, or beige. A little black will keep the design grounded.

24. Snapshot

Snapshot color palette

Names: Dark cyan, Pearl, Goldenrod, Sinopia, Café noir
Hex Codes: #0C8D90, #E8E3C3, #DEA937, #CE4A1C, #4E3B2B

Thus far, you’ve seen other palettes with similar trios of red-orange, yellow, and blue-green hues. If you use colors like Dark Cyan, Goldenrod, and Sinopia, the key to distinguishing your design is to choose your neutrals carefully. The neutral and near-neutral shades in the example might not be the first to jump out at you, but they have a significant impact on how your audience reacts to your design.

The inclusion of Pearl is no surprise here, as most retro palettes need a warm whitish shade. Café Noir adds some richness and balances the palette, and it’s less harsh than black. You can also include sage or a similar color — many shades of sage work almost like neutral colors, and they can add new dimensionality to any design.

25. Zipline

Zipline color palette

Names: Burnt sienna, Jasper, Tiffany blue, Bole, Sunset
Hex Codes: #F37D59, #DD5341, #68C7C1, #764838, #FACA78

This cheerful combination features Tiffany Blue, one of the most popular cool colors in retro designs. Putting it in the center of the design and flanking it with two colors on either side is an ideal way to draw a viewer’s eye.

For instance, if you needed to include important text or a graphic in the design above, keeping it very close to the Tiffany Blue in the middle will naturally capture a viewer’s attention.

26. Grandma’s Attic

Grandma's Attic color palette

Names: Vermilion, Orange (crayola), Light sea green, Rose taupe, Garnet
Hex Codes: #DC423A, #F97432, #02B7B4, #9B5C5A, #653B36

Nothing says “retro” like rich, leathery browns. Rose Taupe and Garnet are shades that offer a powerful base for the high-energy Crayola Orange and Vermilion. You might have noticed that the example image uses a similar strategy to other examples on the list — it centers a cool shade (in this case, Light Sea Green) to create a natural focal point.

However, this example also stands out in an important way. Many designs on the list this far have used a warm, whitish background color. This one’s background is closer to gray. Regardless of the palette you’re using, don’t be afraid to experiment with the background color!

27. Sun and Sky

Sun and Sky color palette

Names: Caribbean current, Earth yellow, Parchment, Persian red, Falu red
Hex Codes: #036977, #EAA44F, #FAF0D7, #CD3333, #72231C

This intriguing palette includes a handful of warm colors with a single cool one (Caribbean Current) to add some balance. And as you can see in the example design, it works nicely in a striped color scheme.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use these shades in larger blocks, of course. If you like the look of this combination but would rather use a three-color palette, choose Parchment and any two of the other shades used here!

28. Raspberry Road

Raspberry Road color palette

Names: Tyrian purple, Jasper, Cardinal, Jasmine, Myrtle green
Hex Codes: #552437, #D95B43, #C02942, #EBD077, #54777B

Purplish shades aren’t too common in retro designs. But if you want to mix things up a little bit, try out this color palette! It includes four lively shades over a strong backdrop of Tyrian purple.

However, you don’t need to feel like Tyrian purple is your only backdrop option. If you want a design that’s a bit brighter, you can always choose Jasmine as your backdrop and bring in accents of the other colors.

29. Tropical Vaporwave

Tropical Vaporwave color palette

Names: Orange (web), Jasper, Amaranth, Quinacridone magenta, Indigo
Hex Codes: #F7A93D, #DF6552, #CE4458, #962662, #590C68

The vaporwave design was everywhere in the 1980s. It might be less common today, but it remains just as eye-catching and intriguing now as it did then. If you need a design with easily recognizable retro charm, this palette is perfect.

Like the palette above, it’s also a great chance to include a little more purple in your design. And since there’s a gradient that moves smoothly from Web Orange to Indigo, this is an ideal color scheme to construct around sunrise- or sunset-inspired designs.

30. Sunday Diner

Sunday Diner color palette

Names: Dark slate gray, Verdigris, Champagne pink, Melon, Indian red
Hex Codes: #354E52, #69AFAD, #F9E5DA, #EFA5A6, #BA5E62

No list of retro palettes would be complete without this 1950s-inspired combination. As you can see in the example, this palette works beautifully in physical spaces. However, it still retains its retro character when you use it for websites, ads, and other forms of digital design.

Just like in the example design, this combination really centers around Verdigris and Melon. But if you use only these two, you run the risk of creating a one-dimensional design. By including a gradient of pink shades and a grounding, dark gray-green, this palette manages to be interesting without getting chaotic.

31. Butterscotch Blonde

Butterscotch Blonde color palette

Names: Wheat, Chocolate, Harvest gold, Engineering orange, Seal brown
Hex Codes: #FCE2BF, #813C01, #E18E04, #B92A18, #4C1D09

Here’s one last warm, 70s-inspired palette. The example design is a great illustration of how you can use it for statement wallpaper, but you can really apply it anywhere.

This color scheme is ideal for autumn-inspired designs, but make sure you use your colors wisely. A balance of light and dark is key. Note how in the example design, the two darkest shades — Chocolate and Seal Brown — are separated by layers of lighter color.

Using Retro Colors in Your Design

Most people enjoy the occasional trip down memory lane, and retro designs give you the ticket for that trip! In a world where ultramodern designs often come with super-saturated colors, the muted look of retro designs is a welcome change. If you use retro colors in your designs, you can easily stand out from your competitors.

Using retro colors also demonstrates imagination and ingenuity. There’s a reason people like so-called “fusion” restaurants — they take the character of a given cuisine and present it with a new and unexpected twist. When modern designers effectively use retro colors, it creates the same effect.

If you’re creating advertisements or product promotions, retro colors have another advantage. Plenty of people share the opinion that products were better made in the past. When you use retro-inspired colors, you suggest that your product or service has old-school quality.

Now you know the “why” of using retro-style colors in your design. But how do you go about doing so? Here are some tips to help you create your wonderfully retro design.

Select an Era

This is an important first step. Each era has its own alluring color trends, but you don’t want to start mixing your 50s pastels with your 70s earth tones! A mixed-era palette will just get confusing.

Find Some Inspiration

The above color palettes and example designs offer you some inspiration to help you get started. But if you need a little more, check out some authentic designs from the era you’ve chosen. Concert posters, album art, and newspaper/magazine advertisements can all be helpful.

Choose Your Fonts Carefully

The right font can bring a retro design together. The wrong font can create a clash that’s confusing for your viewer. For example, if you have an 80s-style vaporwave design, don’t include a rounded, flourish 1970s font.

Add Texture

Choosing your color palette and your font is important for any design. But so is selecting a texture. You don’t have to include texture in a retro design, but it’s a great way to add interest and authenticity.

Grainy or distressed textures can make your design look aged. You can even find streaky ink textures that will make your design look actually printed. TV glitch effects are also great for catching the eye.

Don’t Overlook the Importance of Patterns

The colors themselves aren’t the only important part of your design — choosing an era-appropriate pattern will also help you make sure your retro vibe is clear. The examples above include several retro patterns to choose from. Another way to find great patterns is to search for images of clothing, wallpaper, etc. from the relevant decade.

Create Retro Designs Worth Remembering

Retro colors have earned a spot in our collective consciousness. And when you use them in your own designs, you’re paying homage to the vibrancy of decades past. Don’t forget to add your own unique twist!

Find more design inspiration in this collection of 24 themed color palettes.