Discover otherworldly color from a galaxy far, far away with these 10 FREE cinematic sci-fi color palettes.
In honor of Star Wars Day on May 4, we’ve turned our attention to sci-fi classics and their dynamic use of color. Many of our best-loved science-fiction films feature carefully-constructed color palettes built into the cinematography. Whether it’s the moody neons of The Matrix or the ethereal pastels of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, sci-fi color schemes saturate the screen with an otherworldly atmosphere.
The sci-fi genre is broad, but sci-fi movies often feature common color elements that reflect an alien or futuristic setting. Dark, inky hues and neon accents can instantly situate a movie in the outer reaches of space, while pale, desert-inspired colors can give films an apocalyptic feel. With many sci-fi films hopping between inter-planetary locations, color can be an anchor to tie the cinematography together. Or, alternatively, it can help viewers realize a change in location by adjusting the color palette for different worlds.
The color palettes below pay tribute to some of the most iconic sci-fi movies of all time, featuring the color schemes that define the mood and feel of these films. Read on to discover cinematic color palettes for some of your favorite sci-fi classics, and save them to use in your own design projects to create an otherworldly atmosphere of your own.
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Each color palette below details the HEX code swatches that allow you to use your color palette for online designs. For creating print designs, you can simply convert these to CMYK swatches.
When you discover on a sci-fi color palette you love, simply right-click and save the image to your computer. Or, save to a mood board to come back to later.
But first! How color savvy are you? Take this quiz and find out:
1. Blade Runner
Both Blade Runner (1982) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017) are set in a dystopian future Los Angeles. The colors used in both films contrast between the moody neons of the city with the encroaching desert surrounding it. Play into the franchise’s film noir atmosphere with a high-contrast palette of neon magenta and deep purple, teamed with sand-blasted neutral tones.
Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) was one of the first films to fuse the sci-fi and horror genres, to unforgettable effect. The movie was so successful with cinema goers that a further five films in the franchise have since been made, bringing space-set terror to audiences for nearly five decades.
The setting of the spaceship, Nostromo, dictates many of the color choices used in the movie, with clinical white in the medical bay (the perfect contrast for blood splatter) and alien-concealing black and gray in the endless corridors. Against these neutral colors, neon green and mysterious teal hint at the alien nature of the terror picking off the crew members one by one.
No doubt a future sci-fi classic, blockbuster epic Dune (2021) is set on the desert planet Arrakis. The movie’s beautiful cinematography is complemented by a palette of dusty desert tones, with richer costume colors indicating the aristocratic status of the members of House Atreides.
This warm, elegant color scheme that combines pale sand, mink gray, and ruby red feels more historical than many other sci-fi color palettes, making it versatile for use in a wide range of projects.
4. Star Wars (Death Star)
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The Star Wars franchise has defined the look and feel of sci-fi cinema since the release of Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977. Throughout all of the Star Wars movies, color plays a dichotomous role, clearly defining good characters and settings from villainous ones. The Death Star’s ominous mood is heightened by its bleak color palette of charcoal black and concrete gray, with aggressive red defining the color of darksiders’ lightsabers and the glow of the Death Star’s endless, prisonlike corridors.
Choose the dark side with this Star Wars palette or scroll down to discover a lighter scheme inspired by the franchise’s desert environments.
5. The Matrix
The Matrix franchise is a haunting interpretation of cyber futurism, with hacker Neo drawn into the bleak underworld reality—the Matrix—which has been created by machines to keep humans under control in a virtual existence. When the first film was released in 1999, The Matrix had a huge impact on popular culture and fashion, and continues to be one of the most color-defined movie genres.
In the virtual world, characters are often depicted in drab gray suits or sleek black leather. Digital-inspired green and neon green contrast stylishly against these neutral colors, creating a simple and distinctive palette.
6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The 1977 sci-fi classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind is infused with a sense of magical mystery, with the final part of the film revealing an alien mothership making contact with humans through musical lights. Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters is notable for its near-religious themes and depiction of the aliens as a mysterious but not unfriendly presence.
The colors used throughout the movie are suitably ethereal as a result. Pastel colors dominate this palette used to create an atmosphere of wonder and magic.
7. Star Wars (Tatooine and Jakku)
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Star Wars fans will recognize Tatooine and Jakku as two of the planet locations featured in the franchise. This franchise often uses desert planets as the backdrop for some of the key character drama in the series. Tatooine is the home planet of original hero Luke Skywalker, which has thematic ties to later heroine Rey Skywalker’s home on desert planet Jakku.
As settings for Jedi warriors in the making, there is a strong association between desert colors and the good characters in the narratives. This Star Wars color palette brings together pale gold and sand tones with the peacemaking blue of the Jedi’s lightsabers.
8. Jurassic Park
This sci-fi classic is, surprisingly, not set on an interplanetary location but in a contemporary Costa Rica. The fictional island of Isla Nublar is the location of billionaire industrialist John Hammond’s Jurassic Park, a theme park of cloned dinosaurs just about to be opened to the public. A team of experts are invited to inspect the island’s safety measures after an unfortunate velociraptor incident. No spoilers for those yet to watch, but the park’s cloned residents have their own ideas about park safety…or lack thereof.
The original Jurassic Park (1993) film featured a suitably tropical color palette. Lush jungle green and dark khaki make a suitably prehistoric backdrop to blood-red scarlet, which is referenced in the park’s logo and the movie’s marketing. Use of red accents also hints at the sinister side to this tale of science gone awry.
9. The Fifth Element
Luc Besson’s surrealist cult movie The Fifth Element (1997) redefined the style of science-fiction cinema. The costumes, designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier, are notable for their distinctive steampunk-meets-futuristic aesthetic and bright color palette. Set on Earth in 2023, the plot of the movie follows Leeloo as she enlists the help of a cab driver to recover four mystical stones required to defend the planet against an imminent attack.
A bold, bright color palette is used throughout the film, with yellow, orange, white, and black as distinctive hues used to denote the intentions of characters. For example, both Leeloo and Korben (played by Milla Jovovich and Bruce Willis, respectively) wear white and orange costumes (as well as Leeloo’s distinctive orange hair), to signify their developing bond and shared purpose. Meanwhile, Gary Oldman’s villainous Zorg character is often pictured in wasplike black and yellow costumes and surroundings.
10. Back to the Future
The ultimate nostalgic sci-fi movie, Back to the Future (1985) follows teenager Marty McFly as he is sent 30 years into the past to 1955 in a time-traveling DeLorean car invented by his eccentric inventor friend Emmett “Doc” Brown. This decade-hopping caper is loved by fans for its cheerful take on both 1980s and 1950s style and pop culture.
The color palette of the movie is a tribute to the high school genre, with bright, primary tones and all-American denim blue. Marty’s red jacket and blue jeans are a constant throughout the film, making a nod to classic Americana style.
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