Colours of the Cretaceous — telling historical stories through colour

March 15, 2022

Colours of the Cretaceous — telling historical stories through colour

Colours of the Cretaceous — telling historical stories through colour

Colour lives at the heart of this partnership to share creativity, inspiration and joy through colour across all Museum spaces.  

In celebration of our partnership and the Triceratops: Fate of the Dinosaurs, at Melbourne Museum, we have created a special edition collection of colours with Coloursmith – the Colours of the Cretaceous. 

Dr Erich Fitzgerald shares insights about how colour plays a role in understanding the environment of the period, as it helps convey stories in a way which creates a perspective of the Triceratops surroundings and their lived experience.

Explore the Colours of the Cretaceous and find out how to purchase here

How important is colour to being able to bring a specific prehistoric period to life?

Colour plays a big part in how we understand any environment. The quality of light depends on how far it is from the equator, the season and if it is inland, on the coast, mountain or plain, forest or desert. The same is true for environments in the past, with the added interest of animals and plants that are no longer around today. If we travelled back to the Cretaceous, we would be amazed by dinosaurs such as Triceratops. We know some dinosaurs were camouflaged and others had glossy black feathers, but the colour of Triceratops is up for debate. 

When creating museum spaces which tell stories of a time where there is minimal visual reference, where do you get your inspiration?

Museums Victoria’s palaeontologists recreate past environments based on research with fossil leaves, pollen, and fruits. The fossils provide a lot of information, but there are always gaps that must be filled in with imagination and by using our knowledge of environments today. Scientific artists work closely with palaeontologists to develop visual re-creations that are true to the science. 

There is an educational aspect to museum spaces – how important is using colour within the spaces to create an immersive experience to support learning?

Colour is significant in re-creating past environments and in storytelling. Exhibition designers of the Triceratops: Fate of the Dinosaurs exhibition at Melbourne Museum use colour as a key aspect of their work.  Colours help create evocative experiences and engage visitors emotions which is an important component in learning.

How do you think the Colours of the Cretaceous support the storytelling of the specific Triceratops experience?

Because living crocodiles and birds have colour vision, scientists are almost certain that non-bird dinosaurs like Triceratops saw the world in full colour. So, when visitors to the exhibition see the Cretaceous environment in full colour they are almost certainly seeing it just as Triceratops would have, just 67 million years later! 

We hope that visitors to the Triceratops exhibition will renew their appreciation of the amazing world we live in and its web of life over time. Colours of the Cretaceous is one way that they can carry that enthusiasm for dinosaurs and our living world, back home.

The new Triceratops Gallery will open at Melbourne Museum in March 2022.  Click here for more details. 

Colours of the Cretaceous – the collection 

Explore the Colours of the Cretaceous below: 


One of the most profound evolutions in the Cretaceous period was that of flowering plants -angiosperms. Although it is thought insects and bees had already evolved, their existence was increased with these plants.

Click here to order a test pot of Cretaceous Flowers.


Epoccipitalsis the name given to triangular bones on the edge of Ceratopsfrills. These bones give the frill their distinctive unevenness.

Click here to order a test pot of Epoccipitalsis Bones. 


It is believed that angiosperms, flowering plants, became dominant in the Cretaceous period. The earliest dated and accepted angiosperms are from this period.

Click here to order a test pot of Angiosperms Leaves. 


At the start of the Cretaceous period, gymnosperms, plants with cones such as conifer, were the dominant plants. The diets of herbivores at this time, such as the Triceratops, would have been made up mostly by conifers. During this time however, flowering plants are believed to evolve and became the dominant flora.

Click here to to order a test pot of Confier Green. 


The word Triceratops in Greek, means ‘three-horned face’. The name is combination of the Greek syllables tri-, meaning "three," kéras, meaning "horn," and ops, meaning "face." The distinctiveness of the three horns makes the Triceratops one of the most recognizable dinosuars.

Click here to to order a test pot of Trio of Horns. 


Tethys Ocean or Sea, ran east to west separated the two super continents during the early stages of the Cretaceous period. This body of salt water sat between Laurasia in the north and Gondwanain the south.

Click here to to order a test pot of Tethys Sea.


The name Cretaceous, given to the time period from 145 to 165 millions years ago, is derived from the Latin word creta meaning chalk. Most of the world’s chalk, type of white-grey limestone, was deposited at this period in time.

Click here to to order a test pot of Cretawhite.


The Triceratops skeleton soon to be displayed at Melbourne Museum was discovered in North America. During the Cretaceous period when the Triceratops was alive, North America was a part of the super continent – Laurasia.

Click here to to order a test pot of Laurasia.