Terran Trade Authority Spaceships

One of the most difficult decisions, when working on a spaceship for the cover of a science fiction novel, is deciding on a color scheme. Of course it is impossible to think of spacecraft color schemes without the spaceships of the Terran Trade Authority coming to mind. At least for a child of the late 70s and early 80s like me.

The TTA is the name of a universe invented as the backdrop for books such as Spacecraft 2000-2100 AD and SpaceWreck: Ghost Ships and Derelicts of Space. I owned one of the books from the series, the one called Starliners: Commercial Travel in 2200 AD. Each book was full of large color illustrations accompanied by spacecraft descriptions or short stories.


I have written, and am still writing a sci-fi series called Dark Galaxy that starts with Galaxy Dog. It is available to buy from Amazon.

Almost all of the art was reprints of art done for sci-fi book covers. As such, the TTA books collected the best science fiction art of their day, from the late 70s to the early 80s, including images by famous science fiction painters such as Peter Elson, Colin Hay, Robin Hiddon, Bob Layzell, Angus McKie, Chris Foss, and Trevor Webb.

These books are still held in very high regard today. Somebody has even made a video that brings the scenes painted in the TTA spaceship books to life. You can see that video here. It’s not Hollywood blockbuster standard but I enjoyed it immensely.

Anyway, the reason I’m talking about spaceship art from this period is because it was much more colorful than the drab spaceships artists imagine today. It seemed that each spaceship was a canvas for the artists to create colorful patterns and arresting visuals.

Even chunky and powerful-looking spaceships had prettily painted hulls. Common patterns are yellow and black bee stripes all up and down the hull, or a black and white checkerboard pattern in a patch on the back. These very bold paint jobs make the spaceships look sleek and dangerous, like insects.

Sometimes the artist will take the black and white bee stripes and add in a whole bunch of other stuff, like lilac patches, red chevrons, and enigmatic patterns, too. It is a kaleidoscope of colors, but still they look graceful. One I particularly like is all red, a huge crimson lump against a blue sky. There is also a flight of little yellow spaceships flying round it like pilot fish round a shark. Again it is a very bold choice of color, and the few black lines, edged in white, that are drawn across the surface of the hull are particularly snazzy. The design has a very nice “hammerhead” bridge right at the front, and the perspective of the huge tail and tiny head makes it look particularly imposing. It’s a lovely painting.

In the end, I usually wimp out and don’t choose such a bold use of color for my own book covers. I tend to go with a subdued and classy color scheme, like the one used on this perky little runabout. It is mostly white, but it has some nice blue details and a stark, black logo. The beauty of the program I use to create my covers, a 3D suite called Blender, is that I can update my color choices and make them braver at a later date... If I dare.