The savannah tsetse flies, Glossina morsitans morsitans and G. pallidipes, are important vectors of Rhodesian human African trypanosomiasis and animal African trypanosomiasis in East and southern Africa. We tested in Zimbabwe whether robust, synthetic fabrics, and innovative fly’s-eye-view approaches to optimise fabric colour, can improve insecticide-treated targets employed for tsetse control. Flies were caught by electrocution at a standard target comprising a 1m x 1m black cotton cloth panel with 1m x 0.5m black polyester net panels on each side. Catches were subdivided by species and sex. Tsetse catches were unaffected by substitution of the black cotton with a blue polyester produced for riverine tsetse targets. Exchanging the net panels for phthalogen blue cotton to simulate the target routinely used in Zimbabwe significantly reduced catches of female G. m. morsitans (mean catch 0.7 times that at standard), with no effect on other tsetse catches. However, significantly greater proportions of the catch were intercepted at the central panel of the Zimbabwe (means 0.47–0.79) versus standard designs (0.11–0.29). We also engineered a new violet polyester cloth using models of tsetse attraction based upon fly photoreceptor responses. With and without odour lure, catches of females of both species at the violet target were significantly greater than those at standard (means 1.5–1.6 times those at standard), and typical blue polyester targets (means 0.9–1.3 times those at standard). Similar effects were observed for males under some combinations of species and odour treatment. The proportions of catch intercepted at the central panel of the violet target (means 0.08–0.18) were intermediate between those at standard and typical blue polyester. Further, the reflectance spectrum of violet polyester was more stable under field conditions than that of black cotton. Our results demonstrate the effectiveness of photoreceptor-based models as a novel means of improving targets to control tsetse and trypanosomiases.