The Ultimate guide to Fall Colors

Decaying sycamore leaf, Bishops Wood Nature Reserve, Gower, South Wales © Chinch Gryniewicz  Bridgeman Images


As the harvest season slows down, fall colors become abundant. Nature amazes and enchants us with endless shades of red, orange and yellow. But it's not only nature that is preparing for a color change: the colors of autumn have inspired artists and writers around the world for centuries, and today they continue to amaze the public as they regularly appear in many of the products that accompany everyday life: fashion, make-up and even design offer new lines and collections that best embody the many facets of the color of the period. For this reason, the yearly Fall color trend should always be kept in mind, repeating as regularly as Christmas or Halloween and influencing publishers, designers and creators all around the world.

In this article, we'll provide an overview of fall colors, including an explanation of why they develop in nature on foliage, the process that generates them, how they affect our mood, how they inspired artists and some selections of images, color palettes, and ideas related to fall and its celebrations.


Autumn...the year's last, loveliest smile.

William Cullen Bryant


Colourful foliage in autumn; Indian Summer; Franconia Notch State Park; White Mountains National Forest; New Hampshire; New England; USA; North America © Stefan AuthImage Broker  Bridgeman Images




USA, Illinois, Chicago, skyscrapers and trees with autumn leaves in the Downtown Loop  Dorling Kindersley UIG  Bridgeman Images What is Fall?

The season Autumn is called Fall in the United States because leaves fall from the trees at this time of year. Fall is the period between the autumnal equinox (day and night equal in length) on September 22 or 23, and the winter solstice (year’s shortest day) on December 21 or 22. The hours of darkness become greater than those of light and the first cold weather begins to press at the doors. This season, which anticipates the grayness of winter, can give us breathtaking landscapes and colors. The concept of autumn, in North American and Europe, is deeply connected with the harvesting of crops; in many cultures Fall months have been marked by rites and festivals revolving around the season’s importance in food production and the preparation for Winter. Nowadays some of these rites have become part of popular culture and developed into festivities such as Halloween. 




Autumn Forest, 2018, (mixed media)  © Helen White  Bridgeman Images


What are Fall Colors?

Fall Colors or Autumn leaf color is a phenomenon that affects the green leaves of many trees and shrubs by which they take on shades of yellow, orange, red, purple, and brown. The phenomenon is commonly called fall colors, fall foliage, or simply foliage.

Around September and October (fall foliage peak times), in some areas of Canada and the United States, "leaf peeping" tourism is a major activity. 





Fall Colors in Nature: Leaf Pigments

A color palette needs pigments, and three types are involved in fall colors:

Long green things (mono print) 2020, © Sarah Thompson-Engels  Bridgeman Images  



Chlorophyll: Gives leaves a basic green color. It is necessary for photosynthesis: the chemical reaction that enables plants to use sunlight to produce nutrients in the form of sugars.





Hosta ventricosa © Paroli Galperti Cuboimages  Bridgeman Images



Carotenoids: Produces yellow, orange and brown colors. It can be found in large quantities in such things as corn, carrots, and daffodils, as well as rutabagas, buttercups, and bananas.




Duke Forest © Rachel Campbell  Bridgeman Images




Anthocyanin: This pigment gives color to wonderful things such as cranberries, red apples, grapes, blueberries, cherries, strawberries and plums. 






The changing colors of the foliage on the trees is their preparation for winter. 

The Lake, 2009 (gouachelinocut)  © Liz Somerville  Bridgeman Images

When chlorophyll is abundant in the leaf's cells, as during the growing season, the green color dominates and masks out the other colors present in the leaf. 

As fall approaches, daylight hours are shortening and temperatures are cooling, the veins are gradually closed off by a layer of cork cells that develops at the base of each leaf. During this time, the amount of chlorophyll in the leaf decreases. Often, the veins are still green after the tissues between them have almost completely changed color.





Detail of Plate 39 from Documents Decoratifs, 1902 (colour litho) Alphonse Mucha © Mucha Trust  Bridgeman Images



Discover more fall leaves images

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall." 

F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby






Fall Colors in paintings


Indian Sunset- Deer by a Lake, c.1880-90 (oil on canvas), Bierstadt, Albert (1830-1902)  Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT, USA  Bridgeman Images


'In autumn, don't go to jewellers to see gold; go to the parks!'

- Mehmet Murat Ildan 


 October Glow 2011 (oil on canvas) Landscape  © Lee Campbell  Bridgeman Images

Over the centuries, painters have been sensitive to the allure of September, October, November and December, and tried to recreate their unique hues on canvas. Nature provides rich golds, reds, yellows and browns which are an amazing gift for painters and artists. At the same time, the Fall months give a chance for artists to explore ideas like transition and decay, along with constancy and plenty. Harvest and the accompanying festivals suggest that Fall is the season in which the year’s work comes to glorious fruition that deserves a magnificent celebration. 




Discover more about Fall colors in painting in this blog post: Colours of Autumn, Paintings of the Season




Fall color trends and image selections:


Fall Colors - Orange Hydrangeas, 2019 (gouache on paper) © Lucy Innes Williams  Bridgeman Images


Robin, 1982 (wc & bodycolour on paper), Mary Fedden (1915-2012)  Private Collection  © Christies Images  Bridgeman Images



Fall Colors: Yellow Autumnal Feeling,  © Claire Huntley  Bridgeman Images


Fall, Pumpkins Special - Pumpkins and Squashes, 1996 (acrylic on board), © Galley  / Bridgeman Images


Read on the origins of Fall color names in this blog post:

Amber, Auburn, Crimson and Other Colorful Words for Autumn Foliage



Fall colors and how they stimulate our senses


A Friend is Coming, 2019, (digital collage)  © Trygve Skogrand  Bridgeman ImagesDuring Fall, nature stimulates our vision by surrounding us with landscapes of warm tones, from the darkest brown and dark green to the most intense orange and yellow, passing through almost all shades of red. 

Fall also suggestively influences our sense of smell: think of the scent of undergrowth after a storm, the taste of chestnuts, mushrooms, pumpkins, the wonderful colors of the woods that are preparing for the winter rest.

The main colors of this season are red, yellow, brown and orange, warm colors often used in color therapy for their energizing effect.

Looking at these colors provokes physical reactions related to the sphere of energy, let's see below what are the main effects of the vision of these tonalities. 


Autumn, 1912 (oil on canvas) Franz Dvorak (1862-1927)   © Whitford & Hughes, London, UK  / Bridgeman Images


Fall color - Ochre

Ochre is the transitional shade between light brown and golden yellow and has always had a meaning of strength and royalty. 

In fact, at the time of the Egyptians, it was used to decorate sacred monuments, in ancient Rome, it was used for the dresses of the most important weddings, while in the Middle Ages it was a true symbol of prestige and power.

Used in the home or office transmits warmth and vitality, brightening the environment with a touch of elegance. 





Autumnal leaves and waterfalls, Private Collection  © Hiroyuki Izutsu  Bridgeman ImagesFall color - Red

Red, with its many shades, from purple to vermilion, from burgundy to scarlet, is perhaps the main color of autumn it is found in the leaves still on the trees, on those already fallen, or in some typical fruits of the season as the pomegranate. 

Always used as a symbol of power and magnificence, is the color that most of all symbolize life, strength, energy. 

In its darker shades can give environments a solemn aspect, while its brighter shades, used in a measured manner, help to warm the environment and give it energy. 

On the one hand, the vision of red, especially in those who suffer from low blood pressure, accelerating blood pressure, can have benefits on circulation and motivate to action, but in lively people can trigger aggressive attitudes. 



Reveries, 1913 (oil on canvas) Maxfield Frederick Parrish (1870-1966)  Private Collection / Photo © Christies Images  Bridgeman ImagesFall color - Yellow

Fall offers shades of intense and warm yellow, such as amber, or strong and bold, such as mustard or citrine, but never too bright. 

It is the color associated with the sun and life, and from the psychological point of view represents knowledge and reason, but it should be enjoyed in the right measure, because excessive exposure to yellow can transmit too many stimuli that, instead of turning into positive energy and willing to do, risk turning into nervousness and anxiety



Autumn, 2016 (mixed media on panel), Neil Canning  (b.196)  Private Collection  Bridgeman Images


Fall color - Orange

Chromatically placed between red and yellow, inherits the main features of these colors. It is the perfect synthesis of energy and serenity. Ideal to address and react to stress, in oriental cultures it is used as a symbol of good wishes for abundance, prosperity, and happiness. 

Its duller shades give a sense of calm and welcoming, while the brighter shades make the environment sparkling and energetic.

Orange is the color of all Halloween celebrations and influences few Halloween costumes.


You may want to check out this post on How to use images on Halloween

To get inspiration for your Halloween costumes read our blog post: Halloween Costume Inspiration 



California, USA, November 6, 2012: A moonlit autumn night at the shore of Merced river in the Yosemite National Park, with golden aspen trees, Populus species, Bright star Sirius and constelllation Orion appear in the sky / Photo © B.A.Tafreshi / Novapix / Bridgeman Images

Fall color - Brown

Brown is the color that most easily makes us think of the earth and the trunk of trees: it represents respect for our roots, security, vision and willpower.

Inserting some brown elements in the furniture, combined with the various shades of red, orange and yellow, means virtually recreating a small corner of the woods, comfortable and reassuring. 






Discover more on Fall Colors from the Bridgeman Images archive


Autumn light Sadirac France © Godong / Bridgeman Images



Bundle up, maybe grab a mug of hot cider, and enjoy this batch of recent fall images where everything pays homage to the Fall season, to its Intimate atmospheres, the sense of protection from the weather, cuddles with hot drinks and tasty sweets.


 For even more autumnal goodness, check out this selection of vintage (and not) fall season greetings images for ideas or how the Fall season is depicted in Japanese art and culture


At the Fall of Leaf, Arundel Park, Sussex (Woodland Scene in Autumn), 1883 (oil on canvas) William Samuel Jay (c.1843-c.1933)  Nottingham City Museums and Galleries (Nottingham Castle)  Bridgeman Images



You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
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