The angular and spectral reflectance of single scales of five different butterfly species was measured and related to the scale anatomy. The scales of the pierids Pieris rapae and Delias nigrina scatter white light randomly, in close agreement with Lambert’s cosine law, which can be well understood from the randomly organized beads on the scale crossribs. The reflectance of the iridescent blue scales of Morpho aega is determined by multilayer structures in the scale ridges, causing diffraction in approximately a plane. The purple scales in the dorsal wing tips of the male Colotis regina act similarly as the Morpho scale in the blue, due to multilayers in the ridges, but the scattering in the red occurs as in the Pieris scale, because the scales contain beads with pigment that does not absorb in the red wavelength range. The green–yellow scales of Urania fulgens backscatter light in a narrow spatial angle, because of a multilayer structure in the scale body.