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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 real chameleons can't actually do this.


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Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • 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.
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    Comic Books 
  • 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.

    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 Change-wing can use its colorful scales to disappear into any environment.
  • In Monsters, Inc., Randall is able to do this.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • One of the Ursa's abilities in After Earth.
  • 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.
  • Dumb and Dumber To: Captain Lippencott does this twice.
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: The Joes' stealth suit.
  • Weeman does this in Jackass 3.5.
  • 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.
  • Played for laughs in Toys. Patrick is usually introduced to a scene dressed exactly like some part of the scenery.

    Literature 
  • Deconstructed in Beetle in the Anthill, 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 where they open fire).
  • From 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.
  • Being raised by ghosts, Bod does it very well in The Graveyard Book.
  • In 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 Hyperion Cantos, military Power Armor works that way.
  • Idlewild has a suit of future-military-surplus armor that performs this function.
  • InCryptid: The Sleestaks, as well as several other cryptids.
  • In 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.
  • In the Redwall novel Marlfox, this is the ability that marks the eponymous Marlfoxes.
  • 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.
  • Polycarbon in William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy 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.
  • The 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.
  • Tortall Universe: In The Immortals, dragons' scales change colour to match their emotional state. However, they are also capable of doing this.
  • All adult Green Tree Pythons in the book 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 novel Goblins has this ability, which is a result of a secret government project that is 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. They can both blend into any environment in a more general sense and literally disappear into the background of it.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • 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.
  • Iron Crown Enterprises' Cyberspace RPG. The C-Cloth (Chameleon Cloth) coverall could change colors to match its surroundings.
  • Dark Conspiracy supplement Darktek. The alien ET's had a Chameleon Suit which changed its colors to match the background.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Maormer (Sea Elves) are said to possess this ability. It is so powerful that they can "disappear by walking into the shade of a single tree."
  • 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.
  • The arcade The Lost World: Jurassic Park game has a Canotaurus as the fourth level's boss, which had chameleon DNA inserted into its genes. As a result it has the weird eyes and the ability to become invisible (which looks more like it cloaks itself like a Klingon ship instead of changing colors).
  • Metal Gear:
  • 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.
  • In Mighty No. 9, Mighty No. 8 Countershade is equipped with optical camouflage, allowing him to blend into his surrondings. This and the radar dish he wears as a Nice Hat help make Shade an effective Cold Sniper.
  • 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).
  • 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.

    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.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • Actual chameleons may not do this, but several species of octopus and cuttlefish do, both to hunt prey and to hide from predators.
  • If evolution counts as a (slow) method of disguise, then whole genera of stick insects, leaf bugs, mantis, 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.
  • 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; with less flamboyant plumage, a mother bird 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.


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

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