This page is about loud, colorful Emacs buffers – whether you like ‘em or not.

A Wash-Out from Alex

Some people, me (AlexSchroeder) for example, dislike the strong colour Emacs uses for font-lock by default. Some less polite people call this phenomenon “angry fruit salad”.

I use the following code in my InitFile to “wash out” the colours of the font-lock Faces. It should bring the colours closer to the colour of the default face. So that they differ from the default foreground colour only slightly.

‘font-lock-warning-face’, however, remains as bright and outstanding as before.

 (defun egoge-wash-out-colour (colour &optional degree)
  "Return a colour string specifying a washed-out version of COLOUR."
  (let ((basec (color-values
		(face-attribute 'default :foreground)))
	(col (color-values colour))
	(list nil))
    (unless degree (setq degree 2))
    (while col
      (push (/ (/ (+ (pop col) 
		     (* degree (pop basec)))
		  (1+ degree))
    (apply 'format "#%02x%02x%02x" (nreverse list))))
 (defun egoge-wash-out-face (face &optional degree)
   "Make the foreground colour of FACE appear a bit more pale."
   (let ((colour (face-attribute face :foreground)))
     (unless (eq colour 'unspecified)
       (set-face-attribute face nil
 			  :foreground (egoge-wash-out-colour colour degree)))))
 (defun egoge-find-faces (regexp)
   "Return a list of all faces whose names match REGEXP."
   (delq nil
 	(mapcar (lambda (face)
 		  (and (string-match regexp
 				     (symbol-name face))
 (defun egoge-wash-out-fontlock-faces (&optional degree)
   (mapc (lambda (elt) 
 	  (egoge-wash-out-face elt degree))
 	(delq 'font-lock-warning-face 
 	      (egoge-find-faces "^font-lock"))))
 (when (> (length (defined-colors)) 16)
   (egoge-wash-out-fontlock-faces 2))

Note that you can call ‘egoge-wash-out-fontlock-faces’ with a numeric argument. The higher the argument DEGREE, the more washed out will your font-lock faces appear.


A picture of my Emacs without washed colours (left), with ‘egoge-wash-out-fontlock-faces’ called with the argument 1 (middle), and with the argument 2 (this is what I use).


‘egoge-wash-out-fontlock-faces’ does not make the faces lighter. Instead it decreases the difference of the foreground colour between the font-lock faces and the default face. So it DTRT, if you use an unusual colour, like e. g. Slate Blue.


A Wash-Out (or In) from Drew

DoReMi provides commands (in library Lisp:doremi-frm.el) that let you wash out the colors used in various faces – ‘doremi-face-fg’, for instance. You just type ‘s’, for “saturation”, at the prompt. Decreasing the saturation washes a color out, making it less vibrant (“angry”). (You can do the same thing with frame backgrounds: ‘doremi-bg’.)

If you would like to make such changes generally, to all faces at the same time, you can use command ‘doremi-all-faces-fg’. If need be, you can then use ‘doremi-face-fg’ to go back and tweak a few faces individually.

DoReMi commands let you change face colors and other properties incrementally, using the arrow keys or mouse wheel, so you can see what you’re doing as you do it. Go too far? Just go backwards: up/down, until you get just the degree of angriness and fruitiness you like!

Feeling particularly angry or fruity today? Or not? It only takes a second to adjust all the Emacs faces and backgrounds to your mood… Have fun!


1. User option ‘doremi-wrap-color-flag’ controls what happens when a color component (such as saturation) reaches its maximum or minimum, when you are incrementing or decrementing it. If non-‘nil’, then the component goes from max to min, and vice versa. If ‘nil’, then the component’s value is pinned at the max or min, without wrapping around.
If you are trying to wash out all face colors at once, then you probably want to set ‘doremi-wrap-color-flag’ to ‘nil’ before using ‘doremi-all-faces-fg’. Command ‘doremi-toggle-wrap-color’ toggles this user option.
If ‘doremi-wrap-color-flag’ is non-‘nil’, then, as you incrementally change colors, whenever any color gets to one saturation limit (min or max), it cycles round to the other limit (max or min) again. So, after a color becomes completely unsaturated (washed-out), the next incremental change makes it completely saturated. That’s fine for changing an individual face, but, when you change all faces simultaneously, some will hit zero saturation before others (because they were already more washed-out), and then pass to complete saturation.
2. You might be a bit surprised if you wash out a color completely, and then try to resaturate it. Washing it out completely can change its hue, so when you resaturate, you are resaturating a different hue. This is due to the algorithm that converts RGB to and from HSV. – DrewAdams

Ridding Emacs of Colors Entirely

Don’t want colorization? Add the following to your ~/.emacs file.

;; Turn off all colors.
;;   To turn on invoke emacs with --color=auto.
(if (not (assoc 'tty-color-mode default-frame-alist))
    (push (cons 'tty-color-mode 'never) default-frame-alist))

If you decide you want colors for a particular session run:

emacs --color=auto

Note that if all you want is to disable syntax hilighting use instead:

(global-font-lock-mode 0)

It would be nice to be able to toggle colors off and on dynamically, e.g. to use syntax hilighting to get a quick syntax check. If you know how to do this please add to this entry.

(I just stick with fundamental-mode nearly all the time, going into a highlighting mode just once in a while. Doing this, it “toggles colors dynamically”, as you ask. TomBaker)

CategoryFaces CategoryFrames