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Chameleon Camouflage

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Just a thin line above true Invisibility, a character simply fades from sight by taking on the appearance (color and pattern) of the background behind them. Generally done by characters of supernatural leanings, but doesn't require actual possession of invisibility (cloak or otherwise).

See also Wallpaper Camouflage. Related to Visible Invisibility. Worth noting that most real chameleons can't actually do this, though a few other species (like some types of octopuses and cuttlefish) actually can.


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  • In a commercial for drunk-driving, a couple of cops hide this way while surveying some men staggering from the sidewalk to their cars.
  • An Ontario Toyota Dealers ad shows a young woman examining a Toyota Camry when a salesperson walks up to her. She then tries hiding from him by slamming herself against the car and morphing her body to turn into the car's coloration. The salesperson continues talking about the car's attributes, then makes it clear that her disguise isn't working.

    Anime and Manga 

    Asian Animation 
  • In Canimals, Leon the chameleon can change color or make himself invisible at will.

    Comic Books 
  • The British comic Cor!! once featured a two-page strip titled "Kid Chameleon". The title character was raised by lizards (!) in the Kalahari (with a little help from some local Bushmen), and wore a suit of chameleon scales to camouflage himself. Don't ask how he did it, but the background colours were allowed to show through his outline.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: The Saturnians' invisibility cloaks are more like camouflage suits, which is why they supplement them with telepathy to ensure they're not seen and why Di, who can No-Sell telepathic control and suggestions, still doesn't notice them at first when she has no reason to think there's anyone else around.

    Film — Animated 
  • Julius Caesar's spy in Asterix and Cleopatra. He can even shapeshift into building stones or other scenery elements.
  • How to Train Your Dragon: According to the "Book of Dragons", the Changewing can use its colorful scales to disappear into any environment.
  • In Monsters, Inc., this ability is Randall's signature. Depending on the canonicity of the Hilarious Outtakes, however, he may be unable to imitate human faces.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Bond's car can do this in Die Another Day by projecting the image on one side of the car from the other, presumably adjusting for any distance difference.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The "leap of faith" test to reach the Holy Grail involves this, with a bridge painted to look exactly like the rock face behind it, making it effectively invisible.
  • The Indominus Rex from Jurassic World has this ability thanks to being spliced with cuttlefish DNA.
  • Predator: The Predator's camouflage armor worked this way.
  • Griff, the bank robber in Project Power, initially seems to have full invisibility until the protagonist catches him at the right angle and realizes that it's this trope. Notably, it works much worse when on the move across varied scenery rather than standing still in the more monochromatic bank.
  • Played for laughs in Toys. Patrick is usually introduced to a scene dressed exactly like some part of the scenery.

  • Beetle in the Anthill: Used for humor when Abalkin explores a deserted planet, equipped with a suit that is supposed to give him whole-body camouflage. However, it malfunctions and doesn't actually do anything, so Abalkin takes off his helm for better vision. Then, just as he encounters the local Human Aliens, the suit suddenly powers up and presents him as a floating head, scaring the shit out of the locals to the point that they open fire.
  • The Book of Dragons: The chamo-dragons in "Camouflage" can alter their coloration to perfectly match their surroundings, becoming effectively invisible except for suggestions of movement or their open eyes.
  • Discworld: Susan Sto Helit, Granny Weatherwax and her apprentice Tiffany Aching have powers to do this. The young Vetinari learns this in Night Watch (to the point that he nearly fails his Camouflage class for nonattendance), and Vimes has an uncanny ability to blend neatly into shadows.
  • Young William Cabbage from the Goth Girl books has the natural ability to blend into backgrounds, which is called Chameleon Syndrome. He likes to take full advantage by walking around in the buff.
  • Hammerjack: Corporate Special Services soldiers wear armor which changes its color and pattern to match the surroundings, making them nearly invisible to the naked eye.
  • Harry Potter: The Disillusionment Charm has this effect, and if done well enough can confer actual invisibility. Putting it on a garment is one way to make an Invisibility Cloak, though the charm fades over time.
  • In The Immortals, dragons' scales change colour to match their emotional state. However, they are also capable of doing this.
  • The Lost World (1995): The Carnotaurus that stalk some of the group have this ability, able to seamlessly blend in with any surroundings. They are so effective at what they do that raptors are scared to cross through their territory at night.
  • Pump Six and Other Stories: Burson, the head of security for Lady Belari in "The Fluted Girl". It's not made explicitly clear what he is exactly (and if he ever was human, rather than Uplifted Animal or a trans-gen clone), but part of his extensive, military-purpose Bio-Augmentation is a skin that takes the colour of his surroundings and objects he touches, in very quick manner. He's a master of Stealth Hi/Bye, but on the flip side, he has zero control over the ability — it just happens without his control.
  • A magical version in The Spirit Thief. Eli's catsuit has threads of seven different colours. When he awakens their spirits, they move around as to make the entire suit blend in with its surroundings as closely as it's possible, though Eli notes that he'd need at least a hundred different colours for anything resembling perfect camouflage.
  • Sprawl Trilogy: Polycarbon changes colors to match its surroundings. In Neuromancer, Molly wears a suit made of the stuff, while in Count Zero, Turner flies a plane coated in polycarbon.
  • Spy School: This is the only thing Warren is really good at, with The Nicknamer dubbing him Chameleon. occasionally he takes it to far, such as when he puts on wood stained to blend in with wooden furniture and can’t get it off the next day, causing a professor to mistake him for a table and put a book on his head.
  • Sword of Truth has mriswith, lizard people capable of changing their color for a fairly good concealment. They also wear capes which do the same, but much better.
  • All adult Green Tree Pythons in Verdi are this.
  • Warders in The Wheel of Time series wear cloaks made of a material called fancloth which has this property. The effect is notably disconcerting when they have their hood down or are on a horse.
  • In the Wings of Fire series, the RainWing species of dragon can do this simply by concentrating.
    Warm bursts of sunlight nudged through the leafy canopy, making all their scales glow. Glory let her scales turn whatever colour they wanted. A shimmery beetle green spread all over her, touched here and there with curls of amber. She liked the feeling of matching the trees and sunbeams.
    She concentrated on the steady drip-drip of the swamp around them, staring down at the thick brown mud oozing through her claws. She imagined the fog winding around her wings, slipping into the cracks in her scales, and spreading like grey clouds rolling across the sky.
    "Aaaand she's gone," Tsunami said.
    "She's still there," Sunny piped up. She edged closer to Glory and bumped into one of her wings. "See? Right there."
  • The person responsible for the killings in The X-Files: Goblins has this ability, which is a result of a secret government project seeking to create the perfect spy/assassin who can blend into his/her surroundings.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 4400: In "Till We Have Built Jerusalem", Captain Aquino has the ability to camouflage himself and others by blending into the environment. They are effectively invisible except for a slight distortion. However, it only works if those being camouflaged remain still.
  • One episode of The Avengers (1960s) had a villain escape prison and attempt to murder John Steed with such a gimmick.
  • Doctor Who: The TARDIS' "chameleon circuit" takes its name from this. Ideally, it's supposed to "blend in" with its surroundings by changing its outer hull into something inconspicuous (e.g. a large boulder, a sedan chair, etc.) It just so happens that the Doctor's has a broken one, which stopped working when it took the shape of a London police box (it varies whether it stopped working at all and locked in that shape, or still works in everything except the "into something inconspicuous" and simply always takes the shape of a London police box).
  • Zhaan did this in an episode of Farscape when she turned invisible by blending with other foliage (she's a plant).
  • Eugene Bryant in the Fringe episode "Wallflower" has this ability, since he's been genetically modified to shift his pigment around like an octopus.
  • In From the Cold: Jenny alters her skin at one point to hide so she looks like the wall she stands against behind her.
  • This was Trent's unmorphed power in Power Rangers: Dino Thunder, although in practice it was identical to Tommy's invisibility.
  • The Jem'Hadar of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine have this ability, which is somewhat fitting as they look a bit like humanoid Jackson's chameleons.
  • A natural ability of Nestov and other Dessarians on Tracker (2001). They can both blend into any environment in a more general sense and literally disappear into the background of it.

    Multiple Media 

  • John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme: One sketch has a chameleon visiting friends, who are unusually keen to show off their new kitchen floor. He quickly figures out they just want to see him change colours, and is upset.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Fantasy Games Unlimited's Aftermath!, Blends are mutants who can change their skin to become the same color and pattern as any background they're standing next to. They are almost completely invisible when standing still, but have a higher chance of being spotted while moving.
  • BattleTech features "mimetic" stealth suits and battle armor, and rare, highly experimental, and of course top secret versions even exist for the setting's Humongous Mecha. Depending on unit type and exact system(s) used the camouflage may or may not be compatible with more "regular" stealth features due to space or armor type constraints.
  • In Iron Crown Enterprises' Cyberspace RPG, the C-Cloth (Chameleon Cloth) coverall can change colors to match its surroundings.
  • In the Dark Conspiracy supplement Darktek, the alien ETs have a Chameleon Suit which changes its colors to match the background.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Troglodytes have this as a racial ability, although it's mostly limited to blending with rocky surfaces such as cavern walls.
    • The 1st Edition Fiend Folio introduced the Skulk, a humanoid creature whose camouflage ability allowed them to blend into any background. They used this ability to sneak around stealing and murdering.
    • The Cloak of Elvenkind had chameleon-like abilities, allowing the wearer to be almost invisible in natural surroundings. The Ring of Chameleon Power had a similar effect.
    • 1st Edition Oriental Adventures supplement. The Chameleon spell granted this ability to the wu-jen casting it.
  • Eclipse Phase has the Chameleon Skin Bio-Augmentation, which comes standard in Ghost morphs.
  • Games Workshop games:
    • In Necromunda, the wings of Yeld Spyre suits, from the 1st and 2nd Edition Spyre hunter teams, were wired with crystalline circuitry that allowed them to change colour and blend into the surrounding environment, something that was represented in the game by a negative to hit modifier for anyone firing at a Yeld from long range. The chameleon cloaks worn by the veteran Spyrer Matriarchs in 2nd Edition used similar, but more sophisticated, technology to camouflage its wearer and gave her enemies a negative to hit modifier for all of their attacks.
    • Warhammer 40,000:
      • The skin and carapace of Tyranid Lictors is capable of changing colour to match their environment, allowing them to conceal themselves so completely that they can become practically invisible. In-game, the 8th Edition rules represent this with the Chameleonic Skin ability that makes them harder to hit and enhances the save bonus they gain for being in cover. The special Lictor known as Deathleaper is particularly infamous for its chameleonic abilities and is even harder to hit than a regular Lictor under the 8th Edition rules.
      • The scout units of some factions, such as Astartes Scouts and Aeldari Rangers, often wear special cloaks woven with advanced material that is capable of absorbing light and change colour so that they become can easily blend into cover. In the 8th Edition rules this is represented by an increase in their Armour Save bonus that they receive while in cover.
  • Gamma World: The Chameleon Powers mutation allowed its user to change its colors and blend into the surroundings.
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones O&R Recon armor can be upgraded with a chameleon display system, it's less effective while moving though.
  • The Hollow Earth Expedition supplement Secrets of the Surface World had a Chameleon Suit as a possible Weird Science gadget.
  • Staple technology in Infinity, where it's used by every faction to keep everything from snipers to repeater drones to Cutters concealed from enemy fire.
  • The Mutant Future RPG (which ripped off its list of mutations from Gamma World) had the Chameleon Epidermis mutation that worked the same way.
  • Shadowrun supplement Shadowtech. A chemical compound called ruthenium polymers could be used to change something's color (e.g. a stealth suit or vehicle) to match what was behind it, allowing it to blend in and disappear.
  • Terran Trade Authority RPG. The Camo Suit scanned the area around it and replicated it on the surface of the suit, causing it to blend into the surroundings. This rendered the wearer almost invisible in low light situations and partially camouflaged even in bright light.

    Video Games 
  • In Bloody Roar 3 and Primal Fury, Busuzima's beast form is that of a chameleon, which allows him to blend in with the arena; effectively making him invisible.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Throughout the series, games have "Chameleon" spells, enchantments, and potions that cause this effect. Unlike the standard Invisibility, which always makes you completely invisible but also wears off as soon as you perform an action, Chameleon comes in different levels of strength based on the percentage you become invisible, and the effect continues for the duration of the spell, allowing you to perform actions.
    • In the backstory, the Bosmer (Wood Elves) are said to possess this ability. It is so powerful that they "would sometimes walk into the shade of a single tree and vanish."
  • The Stealth Parasites can do this in Evolva.
  • Fallout 4 has a variant of the Deathclaw called "Chameleon Deathclaw" that can blend in with its environment to hunt stealthily.
  • Halo has the Spartan-IIIs who often wear Semi-Powered Infiltration (SPI) armor in the expanded fiction. Nowhere near as good of armor as the MJOLNIR worn by Spartan-IIs and some elite IIIs like Noble Team, but it does have photo-reactive paneling that is described as working similar to a chameleon. Halo also notably has Active Camouflage, but that falls more under the trope Visible Invisibility.
  • All Lizalfos species in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom can change color to blend into their environment, potentially enabling them to ambush unwitting players. The disguise isn't perfect, however, and a player attuned to a Lizalfos' anatomy can make them out against the landscape they're supposed to be blending into.
  • The arcade The Lost World: Jurassic Park game has a Carnotaurus as the fourth level's boss, which had chameleon DNA inserted into its genes. As a result, it has weird eyes and the ability to become invisible (which looks more like it cloaks itself like a Klingon ship instead of changing colors).
  • Cultists from Majesty, after leveling up a bit, get the Camouflage spell, which allows them to blend with the surroundings, as well as disappear from the minimap. With their battle style, this is definitely a given.
  • Metal Gear:
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, it's possible to kill The End during his introductory cinema. If you choose not to kill him, you'll have to track him across three massive areas using infrared vision since he can seamlessly blend in with the surrounding forest. Subverted to a degree, as he doesn't literally become invisible as the trope suggests — his camouflage is just that good.
    • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots features the OctoCamo suit worn by Snake, named after the octopus and designed to mimic its natural camouflage skills. With it, Snake can change the color and texture of his suit to match whatever he's pressed against in a matter of seconds. Later in the game this is partnered with FaceCamo, which normally looks like a sock draped over the wearer's head, but can also make a flawless disguise by mimicking someone else's face.
  • In Mighty No. 9, Mighty No. 8 Countershade is equipped with optical camouflage, allowing him to blend into his surroundings. This and the radar dish he wears as a hat help make Shade an effective Cold Sniper.
  • Monster Hunter:
    • Chameleos from Monster Hunter 2 (dos) is a huge chameleon dragon that can become completely invisible and spends much of its time in the state, notably not even bothering to take the initiative in attacking you (at least until Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, where it's evidently wised up and realized that an aggressive approach is more effective at fending off pesky hunters). The ability is said to be a result of the supernatural ability to refract light around its body as opposed to color changing, though, making it more justified. Fittingly, it's a massive troll, especially for an animal, as it starts messing with other creatures and pilfering their items either for a lark or to get them to sod off. Breaking the horn disables this ability.
    • The Nightcloak Malfestio, one of the Superboss deviants from Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, can refract light around its feathers to appear invisible. It's quite crafty with this little trick, either following it up with a burst of Confusion-inflicting dust or a highly damaging corkscrew dash. Breaking one ear turns it into Visible Invisibility, breaking both disables it entirely.
  • From the Mortal Kombat series, Reptile, who has this as a special in several games, and as his intro stance in 9. His introduction in 9's Story Mode is also done this way. Strangely, Khameleon and Chameleon, the bonus characters of Mortal Kombat Trilogy and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, don't have this power.
  • Pokémon: Kecleon, a chameleon Mon, has this ability, as well as any Pokemon that can learn the move Camouflage (in game it changes the type of the user to match the terrain, but in the anime and other adaptations it's used as this trope).
  • Rapid Reload has a boss fight against the Jungle's Guardian, a Chameleon mecha who honours this trope to the T, right down to using his stealth to sneak upon the players instantly and lash out from literally anywhere in the area.
  • In the Sonic the Hedgehog series, Espio the Chameleon has this ability, and in Sonic Heroes, it's required to pass certain stages.
  • The cloaking devices in Starsiege, when active, painted your mech the same color as the background terrain (which you could verify with the third-person camera).
  • The Camouflage bonus adrenaline combo in Unreal Tournament 2004 allows the user to become a piece of the level he's playing.
  • In the Warcraft universe, Night Elves can Shadowmeld, allowing them to turn invisible as long as they don't move by merging into the shadows. Also in World of Warcraft, rogues, druids and hunters all have some kind of stealth or camouflage ability that allows them to fuse with their surroundings and be partially or totally invisible.
  • This is how, according to the flavor text, the Mimetic Skin gene mod works in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The soldier with this gene mod gets concealed and essentially invisible to enemies by moving to full covernote  by mimicking the texture of the cover they're hiding next to. The effect is the same as the Invisibility Cloak of Ghost Armor and Ghost Grenade, but it lasts indefinitely, needs cover to work, and the soldier can't have sight on any enemies before they move into cover, else it won't activate. An additional downside is that a unit gene modded with Mimetic Skin cannot use the Ghost Armor's invisibility mode, and is not affected by Ghost Grenades.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: Agent Carolina's armor ability, where she can instantly change her armor's color to anything she needs.
  • RWBY: Ilia's animal trait is the ability for her skin, hair and eyes to change colors like a chameleon. Strong emotions can make her lose control of the transformation, but she can use the ability tactically as well. When she needs to be stealthy, she can change her skin and hair color to become the same color as night and shadow. Whenever she spies on Blake's house from the trees, she turns dark to blend with the night. Most Faunus, including Blake, have night vision; during the assassination attempt on Blake's parents, Ilia turns off the lights in the house and blackens to the same color as the shadows. She is so well camouflaged that not even Blake's night vision can see her.

    Web Comics 
  • The Whiteboard: In one arc Roger invented a chameleon suit based on "Predator" and used it in paintball, Bandit highlighted an obvious flaw by taping a "shoot me" sign to his back while they were setting up.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of The Family-Ness, it's revealed that Ferocious-Ness can change color at will. However, it's possible for him to get stuck on one color when he does this, as the episode shows.
  • In Futurama this is one of many instances of Bizarre Alien Biology used for a one-off gag; Kif has a "camouflage reflex" that's triggered when he's nervous. It's obviously a pretty primal feature, as it can't do anything about his clothes.
  • Zartan from G.I. Joe has this ability in addition to being a master of disguise. It came at a cost though using the ability caused him to develop a painful skin condition. In the comics, he eventually found a medicinal cure but had to keep taking it regularly.
  • Jamie's Got Tentacles!: Jamie can use this power to blend in with the walls, which he uses to play hide and seek in "Erwin Is An Alien".
  • In The Simpsons episode "Lemon of Troy", Milhouse has an Imagine Spot that while wearing camouflage he blends into the bushes completely.
  • This was the power of The Caped Chameleon in The Tick. But he couldn't do plaid.
  • Exactly the same gag is played in Merrie Melodies "Unnatural History", where the poor (animal) chameleon gets a Heroic BSoD before a Scottish plaid.

    Real Life 
  • The Smith's dwarf chameleon is the only chameleon species that changes color to match its surroundings.
  • Many cephalopods (specifically octopuses, squids and cuttlefish) do this, both to hunt prey and to hide from predators. They can do this by manipulating their chromatophores, pigment-containing cells in their skin. Some can even change the texture of their skin to match that of rocks or the ground.
  • If evolution counts as a (slow) method of disguise, then whole genera of stick insects, leaf bugs, mantises, a few spiders that look like flowers, caterpillars and more can be added.
  • Some animals in polar regions have white covering on their bodies to blend in with the snow. In the arctic, some of these animals change color seasonally so they can blend in with the snow in winter and with the grass in spring. Two examples are the snowshoe hare and the arctic fox.
  • Woodland animals tend to have brown coverings that blend in with the leaf litter to keep predators from seeing them.
  • This is one of the reasons female birds (especially ones that nest on the ground) are less brightly colored than male birds. Take the mallard, for example; while during the breeding season, the male is instantly recognisable thanks to his silver-grey body, bright bottle-green head and brown chest, the female is speckled brown and black all through the year, being fairly inconspicuous when moving through the undergrowth. Thanks to this adaptation, a mother mallard can keep herself and her young safe from predators simply by staying perfectly still.
  • The stripes or spots on certain cats serve this purpose, breaking up their outlines and allowing them to lie in wait for their prey unnoticed until just the right moment.
  • Modern military camouflage works on this principle. It doesn't exactly mimic the background but by having colors generally found in nature in random shapes and sizes it breaks up the outline of the wearer and causes them the blend into the background.
  • Fixed implements like bunkers routinely do this since they only will be viewed against one background.
  • Several videos exist that show a member of a football team (usually college-level) lying in the end-zone, with his uniform matching the paint-job of the end-zone during kick-off. This effectively hides the player during the chaotic action of the play.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Active Camouflage, Chameleonic Camouflage, Chameleonic Color Change, Chameleonic Colour Change


Indy's Leap of Faith

Indiana Jones walks across a bridge painted to perfectly blend in with the cave behind it.

How well does it match the trope?

4.93 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / ChameleonCamouflage

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