Skip to content
Blog Home Business 5 Folk-Inspired Color Palettes
5 Folk-Inspired Color Palettes

5 Folk-Inspired Color Palettes

Consumers are drawn to the simplicity of the past and designs that have a timeless character. Here are five color palettes that speak to that trend.

Folk refers to the traditional culture, art, music, and practices of a particular group of people, usually living in rural areas. It is, in many ways, a catch-all term for anything considered to be pre-industrial.

In design, folk is having a moment, with the homespun aesthetic cropping up across interiors, runways, and more.

It’s no surprise that a simpler way of living holds nostalgic appeal during a global pandemic, with more consumers leaning towards products and design choices that feel comforting.

Front view of big old handmade craft mirror in wooden retro picture frame on vintage stucco wall in historic background of traditional country village home interior
License this image via Hotel Art Photography.

Cottagecore became an aesthetic trend over 2020, with young consumers finding escapist refuge in craft and domestic activities, such as crochet, gardening, and bread-making.

While some people saw the trend as a larger social protest against capitalism and climate change, others simply thought of a peasant dress or evening embroidery as a welcome distraction from the weirdest year in living memory. 

Cottagecore Embroidery with a woman doing flower pattern embroidery on a cloth
License this image via teatian.

Of course, the folk design trend has been building for quite some time now, taking from other related lifestyle trends such as hygge (the Danish word for a feeling of coziness), lagom (a Swedish word that means “not too much, not too little,” a philosophy that promotes a balanced, moderately-paced life), and the Contemporary Craft movement taking place in the furniture design industry. 

Rustic Cottagecore Living Room
Simple living and a folkloric aesthetic will be a major design and interiors trend in the year ahead. License this image via NMC2S.

Other design fields, including interior design and fashion, have been quick to respond to the surge in interest around craft and folk design. So, today, the most urban city-dweller can now furnish their apartment with folkloric textiles and hand-crafted ceramics, and purchase crocheted knitwear from main-street shops. 

Despite the commercialization of folk, an aesthetic that’s meant to be anti-modern, it hasn’t lost its integrity. Rather, it’s become a salve for our cultural anxieties.

And, designers are reimagining the folkloric aesthetic for this anxious audience with results that feel surprisingly contemporary.

Designer Isabel Marant, for instance, created a Fall 2021 collection that blended a folkloric aesthetic with sci-fi references, clashing high-shine fabrics, and cottagecore-worthy prints to create an unlikely but potent mix of nostalgia and futurism.

It seems we’re looking back as a way to look forward.

Medieval little girl wearing a VR headset
License this image via Shift Drive.

While the folk design trend signals a desire for consumers to return to honest, simple values, the upcoming iterations of folk are nonetheless distinctly modern.

Folk-Inspired Colors

Traditional folk colors are often sourced from natural vegetable or animal dyes, therefore giving them a rustic, retro character. They’re neither pastel nor primary.

Combine simple colors such as red, blue, yellow, and green with crisp white or deep black to create contrast in textiles, painted wood, or illustrations.

Young girl in rubber boots with flowers standing against the background of straw bales on country farm
Simple, natural, folk-inspired. License this image via Iryna Imago.

What’s more, floral or animal motifs combine with these rich colors to create fantastical woodland scenes. 

Folk Color Palettes
Cottagecore at its finest. License this image via I love photo.

Because folk colors were traditionally created using natural dyes, the colors are rich and deep. However, they don’t have the ultra-vivid brightness more common in digital designs.

Red and blue are probably the most common and distinctive colors used in folk-inspired color schemes.

The key to using folk colors successfully in designs is to balance both simplicity and playfulness. Don’t be afraid to combine several rich colors together, but anchor the scheme with neutral tones of white and black to give folk palettes their grounded personality.

In the meantime, check out five FREE color palettes inspired by folklore. . . .

5 Free Color Palettes Inspired by Folklore and Fairy Tales

Simplicity and coziness are at the heart of folk-inspired color schemes. Earthy undertones temper bold hues of red, blue, green, and yellow to make these colorful schemes surprisingly chic and versatile.

Traditional folk palettes are also often anchored with neutral tones of black, white, and gray, to create crisp contrast and highlight the shape of patterned illustrations or borders.

Palette 1: When You Go Down to the Woods

Folklore and fairy tales are often set in woodlands, mysterious places at the periphery of traditional villages that host a range of magical creatures—elves, trolls, giants, etc.

Woods Color Palette
License these images via Bee Bonnet, Ironika, and Bozena Milosevic.

This ethereal palette combines a mint green with a glowing pale green for a magical backdrop to the earthy quality of deep brown-red. Gray-white then creates freshness and contrast. 

Mint Green Color Palette
License this image via Denis Belitsky.

Palette 2: Nest Egg

An elegant and stylish take on the folk aesthetic, this palette looks to red and white—a common color combination used in folk textiles—to create a cozy, yet graphic, color scheme.

Red Color Palette
License these images via Max Topchii,, and frantic00.

Use this scheme in brand marketing materials, social media images, or poster designs to give your projects hygge-worthy style.

Hygge Color Palette
License this image via Editos foto.

Palette 3: Minimal Folklore

Folk schemes don’t have to be brightly colored. Humble, simple materials such as wood and metal form the backbone of many folk-inspired schemes.

Wood Color Palette
License these images via Jodie Johnson, bluehand, and NMC2S.

So, channel the style of contemporary craft with this relaxing and subtle color scheme. 

Metallic Color Palette
License this image via Jelena Shijak.

Palette 4: Patchwork Quilt

Cottagecore lives on through this cheerful interpretation of a folk color scheme. Inspired by the tonal colors of patchwork quilts, these rich hues help to evoke the mood of a perfectly cozy cottage.

Cottage Color Palette
License these images via AleksB59, Sergey Bezgodov, and Ann.and.Pen.

A perfect way to bring folkloric style into social media images or website banners, try this scheme to bring cozy color into your winter campaigns.

Cottage Color Palette
License this image via Vyacheslav Babak.

Palette 5: Canary Cabin

A Nordic-inspired color palette that’s perfect for the winter season, this yellow and blue scheme balances cool gray and charcoal black.

Yellow/Black Color Palettes
License these images via julius fekete, Yulia Ixanova, and Ground Picture.

This palette is a colorful and sophisticated way of bringing Scandi style into your winter design projects. 

Black/Yellow Color Palette featuring a cabin in the mountains
License this image via FOTOGRIN.

Not sure where to begin? Boost your creative flexibility with Shutterstock Flex! We’ve got you covered. With Shutterstock Flex, you’ll have all-in-one access to our massive library, plus the FLEXibility you need to select the perfect mix of assets every time.

Discover even more stylistic inspiration:

License this cover image via Bee Bonnet.

Recently viewed

Share this post

Recently viewed