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License: MIT

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Light & Dark color schemes for terminal and GUI Vim awesome editor

Inspired by Google's Material Design. Improve code readability! Great for presentation!

It is optimized to load fast and support 4-bit, 8-bit and 24-bit color terminals or GUIs. For full color spectrum, any 8-bit (256-color) capable display is sufficient.

Plus: PaperColor is also a syntax highlighting framework for creating color themes, in which the PaperColor theme you see here is the default. If you want to create your own theme, consider creating on top of PaperColor to leverage 100% its functionality and still have your own specialization.



Why was this theme created? Read the background story

Inclusive support

🎨 Colors

Support True / GUI color (24-bit) and identical 256 color (8-bit) that the default theme is based on.

Also gracefully support down to 16 color (4-bit) terminal, which will use terminal native colors. You need to change the terminal colors to PaperColor palette.

In 8 color and 4 color terminals, they might lack the necessary variation of colors to express PaperColor look, but seriously let me know if you still use these kinds of terminals.

Default Theme Palette

Light Theme 8-bit 24-bit Dark Theme 8-bit 24-bit
0 #eeeeee 255 #eeeeee #1c1c1c 234 #1c1c1c
1 #af0000 124 #af0000 #af005f 125 #af005f
2 #008700 28 #008700 #5faf00 70 #5faf00
3 #5f8700 64 #5f8700 #d7af5f 179 #d7af5f
4 #0087af 31 #0087af #5fafd7 74 #5fafd7
5 #878787 102 #878787 #808080 244 #808080
6 #005f87 24 #005f87 #d7875f 173 #d7875f
7 #444444 238 #444444 #d0d0d0 252 #d0d0d0
8 #bcbcbc 250 #bcbcbc #585858 240 #585858
9 #d70000 160 #d70000 #5faf5f 71 #5faf5f
10 #d70087 162 #d70087 #afd700 148 #afd700
11 #8700af 91 #8700af #af87d7 140 #af87d7
12 #d75f00 166 #d75f00 #ffaf00 214 #ffaf00
13 #d75f00 166 #d75f00 #ff5faf 205 #ff5faf
14 #005faf 25 #005faf #00afaf 37 #00afaf
15 #005f87 24 #005f87 #5f8787 66 #5f8787

There are many more colors for many additional syntax groups, but they are designed to fall back to these base 16 colors strategically so that it can utilize the terminal native color palette (if configured like above), and also theme designers only need to provide 16 colors for a functional theme.

🚀 Languages

Currently designed for these languages:

  • Haskell, Erlang, Elixir, Clojure, Elm, Purescript, F#
  • C, C++, Golang, Rust, Java, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, Pascal, PHP, Perl, LUA
  • DTrace, SystemTap, SQL/MySQL, Octave/MATLAB, R, Lex/Flex & Yacc/Bison, ASN.1, Assembly (MIPS, GAS, NASM), Bash/Shell script, Sed, Awk, Vim script, Powershell script
  • Dockerfile, Makefile, CMake, NGINX, Cucumber, YAML, JSON, HTML, XML, Markdown, reStructuredText, PlantUML, Dosini, Mail, Git commit message
  • Ada, COBOL, Fortran, ALGOL, (what's your other favorite dinosaur?)

Other file types can still display well as long as your Vim is set up to recognize the language syntax even though that may not be the optimal experience. So, if the language you are working on isn't listed here, feel free to make a design request.

📚 Targeted plugins for additional syntax highlighting

vimdiff, netrw, NERDTree, tagbar, tabline, vim-airline, vim-indent-guides, vim-startify, Agit, vim-signify, nvim-dap-ui (PR), nvim-cmp (PR), vim-gitgutter

The below are programming language syntax highlighting plugins that enhances upon Vim built-in syntax highlighting.

🔌 Installation

Using a plugin manager

It's easy to use a plugin manager like Vundle (recommended for convenient :PluginUpdate). Add this to your .vimrc where Vundle is configured, and run :PluginInstall

Plugin 'NLKNguyen/papercolor-theme'

A newer and popular plugin manager is Plug that you can use as well. Similar setup like above; run :PlugInstall

Plug 'NLKNguyen/papercolor-theme'

To use vims built in package manager use this command

git clone ~/.vim/pack/colors/start/papercolor-theme


If you can't use a plugin manager (you should), then manually place PaperColor.vim file into colors folder within your Vim directory, e.g. ~/.vim/colors/

Configure .vimrc

Put this in your ~/.vimrc

set t_Co=256   " This is may or may not needed.

set background=light
colorscheme PaperColor

Or using the dark version:

set background=dark
colorscheme PaperColor

To switch to dark or light variant during session: :set background=dark or :set background=light

To quickly toggle between them, use vim-unimpaired's keymap cob

Optional: turn on line numbers and status bar

set number
set laststatus=2

🛠️ User Customization

This theme currently provides theme options and language-specific options. All config options can be stored in global variable g:PaperColor_Theme_Options which can be set in your .vimrc


  • This g:PaperColor_Theme_Options variable must be placed anywhere before color PaperColor command.
  • if the same option is provided in both a theme and a theme's variant, the value in the theme's variant options will take precedence.

Theme Options

Within section theme, options for each theme can be specified under the theme name. The original PaperColor theme is default. For example:

let g:PaperColor_Theme_Options = {
  \   'theme': {
  \     'default': {
  \       'transparent_background': 1
  \     }
  \   }
  \ }

Or if you want to specify options only for a variant (dark or light) of a theme, you can specify using this pattern [theme name].light or [theme name].dark. For example:

let g:PaperColor_Theme_Options = {
  \   'theme': {
  \     'default.dark': {
  \       'transparent_background': 1
  \     }
  \   }
  \ }

Color overriding

You can override any color of the theme of interest. This example is for default theme (original PaperColor Theme), but you can specify any other theme that is registered.

The overriding setting is placed in override key of g:PaperColor_Theme_Options variable that you set in .vimrc like this.

let g:PaperColor_Theme_Options = {
  \   'theme': {
  \     'default.dark': {
  \       'override' : {
  \         'color00' : ['#080808', '232'],
  \         'linenumber_bg' : ['#080808', '232']
  \       }
  \     }
  \   }
  \ }

See for more details and full list of color names.

Currently available theme options

option value default
transparent_background 1: use terminal background 0: use theme background
allow_bold 1: use bold for certain text, 0: not at all decided by the theme
allow_italic 1: use italics for certain text, 0: not at all decided by the theme
override dictionary of color key-value

Language-specific options

In general, for each language, built-in functions and constants are not highlighted. This is intentional; the vim syntax file often lags behind actual language development. To override the default behavior, optionally place a language section in g:PaperColor_Theme_Options. An example configuration is available below

let g:PaperColor_Theme_Options = {
  \   'language': {
  \     'python': {
  \       'highlight_builtins' : 1
  \     },
  \     'cpp': {
  \       'highlight_standard_library': 1
  \     },
  \     'c': {
  \       'highlight_builtins' : 1
  \     }
  \   }
  \ }

Currently available language options

language option value default
c highlight_builtins 1: enable 0: disable
cpp highlight_standard_library 1: enable 0: disable
python highlight_builtins 1: enable 0: disable

Vim-airline support

Vim-airline support

To set vim-airline theme:

let g:airline_theme='papercolor'

Note: to be able to use this theme, it is also necessary to install vim-airline-themes

To set lightline theme:

let g:lightline = { 'colorscheme': 'PaperColor' }

📺 Screenshots

Default Light

Sample Ruby code

Sample DTrace code

Sample MySQL code

Sample Assembly code

Sample Vimdiff w/ git tool

Default Dark

Sample Ruby code

Sample Go code

Sample JavaScript code

Sample C code

Sample Vimdiff w/ git tool

Have screenshots to contribute? Use this thread to upload images and get direct links to place here.

👋 Author

👤 Nikyle Nguyen

Twitter: NLKNguyen

🤝 Contributing

Give a ⭐️ if this color scheme helped you developing more comfortably!

Contributions, issues and feature requests are welcome! Feel free to check issues page.

🙇 Your support is very much appreciated

I create open-source projects on GitHub and continue to develop/maintain as they are helping others. You can integrate and use these projects in your applications for free! You are free to modify and redistribute anyway you like, even in commercial products.

I try to respond to users' feedback and feature requests as much as possible. Obviously, this takes a lot of time and efforts (speaking of mental context-switching between different projects and daily work). Therefore, if these projects help you in your work, and you want to encourage me to continue create, here are a few ways you can support me:

  • 💬 Following my blog and social profiles listed above to help me connect with your network
  • ⭐️ Starring this project and sharing with others as more users come, more great ideas arrive!
  • ☘️ Donating any amount is a great way to help me work on the projects more regularly!

Buy Me A Coffee

Thanks to all contributors who make PaperColor great! ❤️

🔮 Related projects based on PaperColor

Material iTerm theme by Christoph Hermann

Material Terminator (terminal emulator) theme by Marco Herrero

Terminal Theme by Fixles

PaperColor Light for iTerm2 by ASeom Han

PaperColor for by tomotargz

PaperColor Light for konsole by z2oh

PaperColor Light for konsole (some palette collisions resolved) by MaxG87

PaperColor Theme for Vis Editor by Jan Christoph Ebersbach

Airline PaperColor Theme for Emacs Powerline by Anthony DiGirolamo

Airline PaperColor Theme for Vim Lightline

Ninrod's vim + tmux + zsh dotfiles by Filipe Silva

PaperColor for Vscode by rozbo

PaperColor for Vscode Redux by mrworkman

PaperColor theme for Hyper by Rafael Rinaldi

PaperColor Theme for kitty by Cyril Raffatelli

PaperColor Light theme for several tools by stoerdebegga

PaperColor Light theme for Alacritty

Feel free to send a PR to add related projects here!

📝 License

Copyright © 2015 - 2020 Nikyle Nguyen

The project is MIT License