According to the bottom-up theory of attention, unconscious abrupt onsets are highly salient and capture attention via the Superior Colliculi (SC). Crucially, abrupt onsets increase the perceived contrast. In line with the SC hypothesis, unconscious abrupt-onset cues capture attention regardless of the cue color when participants search for abrupt-onset targets (Experiment 1). Also, stronger cueing effects occur for higher than lower contrast cues (Experiment 2) and for temporally, rather than nasally, presented stimuli (Experiment 3). However, in line with the known color-insensitivity of the SC, the SC pathway is shunted and unconscious abrupt-onset cues no longer capture attention when the participants have to search for color-defined targets (Experiment 4) or color-singleton targets (Experiment 5). When using color change cues instead of abrupt-onset cues, the cueing effect also vanishes (Experiment 6). Together the results support the assumption that unconscious cues can capture attention in different ways, depending on the exact task of the participants, but that one way is attentional capture via the SC. The present findings also offer a reconciliation of conflicting results in the domain of unconscious attention.