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Blog Home Design 10 Vintage Decade-Inspired Color Palettes
10 Vintage Decade-Inspired Color Palettes

10 Vintage Decade-Inspired Color Palettes

Turn back the clock with retro color palettes that take their creative inspiration from each decade of the 20th century.

Every era has its defining colors—the conservative khakis and browns of the 1940s, the earthy mustards and oranges of the 1970s, etc. These ten free color palettes will transport you to eras like the Summer of Love or the Jazz Age in an instant, featuring color combinations that characterized the fashion and styles of the time. Use these vintage schemes for nostalgic designs that pack a contemporary punch.

Read on to find color palettes with a distinctively retro flavor. Discover their colorful contexts, including why pale green was so popular in 1910, the industrial reasons behind the cheerful pastels of the 1950s, and so much more.

Three color palettes including a vintage pastel diner sign, a vintage Mexican food diner sign, and an Englishman from the '50s smoking a cigarette
The 1950s were a bright, pastel-hued decade, influenced by Technicolor movies and brighter dyes available for products and clothing. License these images via Liz Tracy Photography, cdrin, and seeshooteatrepeat.

The 20th Century in Color: A Palette for Every Decade

Your free palettes can be used to bring color to designs for print or online, including social media posts, web banners, or emails.

Simply right-click and save a palette to your computer, or pin to a mood board for inspiration later.

Each vintage palette includes HEX codes that can be applied instantly to digital designs, or easily convert your swatches to CMYK for use on print designs.

1. 1910s: Art Nouveau

The early 1910s mark the tail end of the Belle Epoque era. This was defined aesthetically by Art Nouveau, an ornate and naturalistic design style.

Although the First World War spelled the end of Art Nouveau, which by that point appeared out of sync with the dramatic and brutal modernization of warfare, it was still a prominent design style at the outset of the decade across Europe.

This palette takes its inspiration from Art Nouveau, with naturalistic green and romantic rich red. Ornate gilding was a common feature of the Art Nouveau style, which is why verdigris copper green and metallic gold were such prominent and popular colors in this period.

Three color palettes including a vintage wall with gold accents, a pale green Parisian lamp post, and a circa 1914 vintage postcard with a Victorian woman posing
License these images via Kiev.Victor, Nimai, and Sergey Goryachev.
Gold color palette with female model holding gold folliage
License this image via ullision.

2. 1920s: Art Deco

After the end of the First World War, consumers were hungry for a completely fresh start and a new aesthetic style to go with it.

Art Deco emerged as an internationally popular style, which featured geometric designs, jewel-like colors, and ornate details.

The style was associated with the boom period in America, and still remains a byword for glamor and luxury today.

The color palette below pays tribute to the Art Deco style of the Jazz Age, with jewel-like teal blue, moody midnight blue, antique gold, and copper evoking a speakeasy setting.

Three color palettes including two creme de menthe martinis on a tray, a 1920s flapper dancing in a hip gold dress with fringe, and a gold tropical leaf
License these images via Maurese, Olena Zaskochenko, and colnihko.
Gold-colored mosaic in arches with blue and brown
License this image via De Jongh Photography.

3. 1930s: The Great Depression

Following the stock market crash in 1929, a worldwide economic depression set in for a ten-year period. This era was a sharp contrast with the boom years of the 1920s.

Aesthetics and colors followed the subdued social mood over this period, with a more muted take on the Art Deco style emerging over the 1930s.

This wasn’t to say that the colors of the 1930s are not worth a look. They’re beautiful in their own muted method.

Bottle green, brick red, and dark woods became hallmarks of the country club style, which is still considered aspirational and quietly luxurious now.

Three color palettes including a dark retro chair against green wall, business man in 1930s style suit and hat against dark wall, and textured square shabby yellow ceramic tiles of the 1930s with inserts of red diamond-shaped tiles nested on the floor
License these images via Nelia L, Ysbrand Cosijn, and Dmytro Falkowskyi.
Old English retro vintage car in Bermondsey district, London
License this image via matt_tgr.

4. 1940s: The World at War

When war erupted once again in 1939, daily life changed for most individuals across the globe. Military aspects trickled down into many facets of everyday existence. Even the colors that define this era are reflective of wartime influence.

Practical khaki green and flag-worthy red were notable colors of this decade. Muted pastels were also popular for home decor and products.

Buttermilk yellow and pale mint green lend a lighter mood to otherwise militaristic hues.

Three color palettes including top down view of vintage stair well with deep red accents, a retro 1940s electric fan, and a female soldier from the '40s with her back to the camera
License these images via Marbury, Smiler99, and Verina Marina Valerevna.
1940s vintage typewriter next to orange tea kettle placed on a desk
License this image via D M Smith Images.

5. 1950s: Americana

In the post-war period, a huge color revolution was underway. Hollywood started using Technicolor technology more widely, bringing ultra-colorful cinema to American audiences.

Meanwhile, massive industrial advances in the plastics and manufacturing industries made rainbow-hued domestic products available.

In this decade, optimistic color palettes helped to shape a new forward-looking America. Paintbox brights and saccharine pastels contributed to this cheerful Mid-Century palette for clothing, cars, and diners.

Three color palettes including a vintage pastel diner sign, a vintage Mexican food diner sign, and an Englishman from the '50s smoking a cigarette
License these images via Liz Tracy Photography, cdrin, and seeshooteatrepeat.
Side view of 1950s orange car and tire
License this image via Anna Diederich.

6. 1960s: Psychedelia

The early 1960s still clung to the tail-end of Mid-Century Modern interior design and products. By the mid-1960s, a radically different style was gathering pace.

Psychedelia was inspired by the mind-tripping experience of taking hallucinogenic drugs, but became much more than an acid trip.

Heavily inspired by the liberal and free-thinking music scene that was emerging through the likes of The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, psychedelic design used neon colors, swirling patterns, trippy cartoonish illustrations, and stylistic references to Art Nouveau.

Transport your viewers to the Summer of Love with this psychedelic scheme, which merges yellow, orange, rhodamine red, and vivid turquoise blue into a free-spirited tribute to the Swinging Sixties.

1960s color palette with vintage orange couch in hotel, painting of swirling neon purples, blues, oranges and reds, and hippie bus with surfboard on top
License these images via Atosan, Dmitri Gomon, and Carlos Caetano.
Fluid psychedelic soap bubbles on a canvas
License this image via 24K-Production.

7. 1970s: The Hippie Trail

By the 1970s, a more muted and grounded color palette was in vogue for fashion and decor. Influenced by the hippie movement, and in particular the Hippie Trail—a pan-Asian travel route taken by many young people over this period—this decade popularized nature-inspired tones.

Mustard yellow and burnt orange were hallmark colors of this era. These were inherited from the late ’60s. They can be teamed with teal blue and pistachio green for a relaxed and earthy ’70s palette.

1970s color palette including facade of vintage apartment building, closeup of vintage cloth pattern, and a hippie girl smiling
License these images via Klaus Ulrich Mueller, Visun Khankasem, and michelangeloop.
Retro styled image of an old audio compact cassette
License this image via Martin Bergsma.

8. 1980s: Club Life

The era of home workouts, power shoulders, and VHS tapes, the 1980s was a decade of brash excess and even brasher color schemes.

Purple, pink, and aqua blue was a particularly favorable color combination in this decade, adorning tracksuits and blazer suits alike.

This palette lends a club-ready flavor to any design. It’s an instant way to make designs feel more optimistic and fun.

1980s color palette including a old VHS tape, pastel lollipops scattered across pink background, and portrait of African American model with neon accents
License these images via fotostoker, Adela Belovodjanin, and HighStock.
Close up female hand holding a martini glass on neon blue background
License this image via Master1305.

9. 1990s: Smells Like Teen Spirit

The extreme flashiness of the 1980s had reached exhaustion point by the early 1990s. In music and fashion, a new aesthetic was emerging.

Grunge was authentic, earthy, and undeniably cool. It was a reaction to the artificiality of the decade before.

Spearheaded by grunge rock band Nirvana, the new penchant for grime-y, post-punk grunge trickled across into fashion, pop culture, and design.

This palette pays tribute to the gritty aesthetic of the grunge era. Its subdued colors have a brown or gray undertone, including faded blue and muddy mauve.

1990s color palette including closeup of singer Kurt Kobain, urban collage background, and yellow flowers against a brick wall
License these images via mamex4, Diego Schtutman, and Nekrasov Eugene.
Torn photo of a man in a blue coat
License this image Krasovski Dmitri.

10. 2000s: McBling

In the endless cycle of boom and recession, a cultural style overhaul is never far away. In the 2000s, often coined “The Noughties” or “The Aughts,” a slow-burning recession was brewing.

However, this decade in decline produced one of the most overt counter-reactions to a recession, in terms of design and popular culture.

McBling is a term used to describe the flashy, money-centric aesthetic that dominated music videos and television shows between 2003 and 2008. Think Paris Hilton, Juicy Couture tracksuits, flip phones, and an embarrassing excess of pink and rhinestones.

This flamboyant palette takes its cues from the McBling era, with hot pink, baby pink, aqua blue, and coral blue teaming up to create a scheme Regina George would be proud of.

2000s bling color palette including retro flip phone on hot pink backgrounf, woman in a mirror painting her nails, and pink and gold glitter
License these images via F-Stop boy, Natali9701, and tomertu.
Cute Chihuahua dressed in pink attire on white background
License this image via Eric Isselee.

License this cover image via Maurese.

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