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Information for contribution/development


The main intent of this section is to help contributors decide on how to use colors and looks when making contribution.

In a simplified sense it's might be beneficial to imagine the light theme as being as close as possible to writing written text on paper with a few tools like markers and coloured pencils at hand to highlight exceptional circumstances.

This is not meant to be a strict guide but it can probably be follwed in most situations.

Upstream Solarized palette usage documentation

The base Solarized colors have a canonical usage documentation

When referring to colors, the convention is to use the dark theme's base color names directly, e.g. (:foreground ,base0). They will switch to their counterparts automatically in the light theme.

Usage table for the automatic dark/light base colors:

  • ,base1 - optional emphasized content
  • ,base0 - body text / default code / primary content
  • ,base00 - unspecified (it's a separator)
  • ,base01 - comments / secondary content
  • ,base02 - background highlights
  • ,base03 - background

Basic strategy for selecting colors

The most important general rule is to avoid color pasta.


  • Try to start by not using accent colors at all. It's common to get a good enough visual separation by just using the baseXX colors.
  • Avoid having several accent colors grouped in a small space
  • Avoid having accent colors that are cycled or striped repeatedly.
  • It's sometimes even preferable to hide information by reusing colors rather than creating more visual noise. It's hard to decide (for other people) what to simplify/reduce away but it leads to a better reading experience.
  • For things small spaces like indicators, the baseXX are usually enough. The indicator symbols themselves are probably good enough carriers of information.

Accent colors that are used in special ways

(Draft note: This is a simplified list written i haste, needs much more details. In worst case scenario it's even wrong, probably not though. Some of the bullet points lacks explanation right now)

Generally I try to only use the most basic colors which I guess is cyan/blue/green/yellow (again, if possible).

Some specific color information:

  • magenta is used as a temporary highlight color, in most cases it matches direct user input actions such as isearch matches, ...
  • red is used to indicate errors only.
    • Exception: In buffers displaying only or mostly a diff, red is ok for indicating "removed".
  • orange is used to indicate errors only but be a little more relaxed with that rule as opposed to red.
  • violet is very rarely used at all
  • blue / green / red can be used for diff like things indicating modified/added/removed

Block highlighting colors

These colors can probably be avoided for more or less everything that isn't a diff.

There are 4 additional variants for all accent colors that are meant to be used in pairs as two levels of soft and harder highlight.

  • green-1bg + green-1fg are used together to form a soft highlighed section (useful for diffs)
  • green-2bg + green-2fg are used together to form a more pronounced highlighed section (useful for diffs hunk highlight)

Using blue-1fg on anything other than blue-1bg is currently considered an undefined result and might break visibility/contrast/lightness rules and might break even more with later tweaks to the color generation changes.

Additional accent color variants

Avoid using these at all, they might be even phased out completley

There are also variants of each color suffixed -d (dark), -l (light), -lc (low contrast), -hc (high contrast).

These colors were designed with almost the same intent as the block highlight colors but they are considerably less solarized looking. Can probably be avoided alltogether.

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