PICO-8 has 16 default colors (0-15) and another 16 hidden colors (128 to 143) but these are not easy to access.

Default Palette

Number Hex Color Name *
00 #000000 black
01 #1D2B53 dark blue
02 #7E2553 dark purple
03 #008751 dark green
04 #AB5236 brown
05 #5F574F dark gray
06 #C2C3C7 light gray
07 #FFF1E8 white
08 #FF004D red
09 #FFA300 orange
10 #FFFF27 yellow
11 #00E756 green
12 #29ADFF blue
13 #83769C indigo
14 #FF77A8 pink
15 #FFCCAA peach

* official names in manual

Hidden Palette

Number Hex color Name *
128 / -16 #291814 onyx
129 / -15 #111D35 midnight
130 / -14 #422136 plum
131 / -13 #125359 forest
132 / -12 #742F29 chocolate
133 / -11 #49333B eggplant
134 / -10 #A28879 beige
135 / -9 #F3EF7D lemon
136 / -8 #BE1250 burgundy
137 / -7 #FF6C24 pumpkin
138 / -6 #A8E72E lime
139 / -5 #00B543 jade
140 / -4 #065AB5 royal
141 / -3 #754665 mauve
142 / -2 #FF6E59 coral
143 / -1 #FF9D81 salmon

* unofficial names

Analysis of the Default Palette

If we take the full rainbow spectrum, which you might be familiar with when selecting a color in an image editing tool, and we shift all the many colors towards their closest PICO-8 equivalent, then we get this PICO-8 Palette Spectrum.

You can use this to study the palette. For example, if you choose a spot and move along vertically, you'll see many possible combinations of light and dark tones for shading and transitions. If you move horizontally, you will see which colors sit at around the same saturation level. High saturation colors (towards the top) are good for standing out in the foreground against low saturation colors (towards the bottom) in the background.

Another way to display and study this spectrum is as concentric circles, where the innermost center is white and the outermost shell is black. This can help you see gradients of light to dark by moving outward in different directions similar to moving down the above image. This also better visualizes the endless continuation around the spectrum if you move along the circle in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction, which can be helpful to build colorful shifting animations that loop through the colors more seamlessly.

Color Ramps of the Default Palette

Here are some examples of color ramps generated from studying these spectrums to create smooth shading combinations that you can use to improve your pixel art in PICO-8.

References for Mixed Palettes

Here are some helpful reference images you can use while drawing PICO-8 sprites, or choosing the custom palette for your game. You can swap out these colors anytime, with some limitations. It is more common however to set your own custom palette by selecting 16 colors from these 32 options. 

This is how the hidden palette lines up with the default palette, showing beautiful darker options to the originals. Also notice that this refers to the hidden palette as negative numbers. This is another, possibly easier, way to access them.

Here are some color ramps using a mix of both palettes, useful if you want to make an original gameboy looking game, or a grayscale game, or simply include more shades of an important color in your game.

This is another configuration of the two palettes merged together with the default palette on the outside and the hidden or secret palette on the inside.

Images in this Guide by NerdyTeachers is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0


4 Jun 2024