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The Zenburn colour theme ported to Emacs
Emacs Lisp
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License GPL 3 MELPA MELPA Stable Gratipay


Zenburn for Emacs is a direct port of the popular Zenburn theme for vim, developed by Jani Nurminen. It's my personal belief (and that of its many users I presume) that it's one of the best low contrast color themes out there and that it is exceptionally easy on the eyes.

This theme uses the new built-in theming support available starting with Emacs 24.



Download zenburn-theme.el to the directory ~/.emacs.d/themes/. Add this to your .emacs:

(add-to-list 'custom-theme-load-path "~/.emacs.d/themes/")

Now you can load the theme with the interactive function load-theme like this:

M-x load-theme RET zenburn


Zenburn is available in both MELPA Stable and MELPA.

You can install zenburn with the following command:

M-x package-install zenburn-theme

To load it automatically on Emacs startup add this to your init file:

(load-theme 'zenburn t)

Emacs Prelude

Zenburn for Emacs is already bundled into Emacs Prelude. If you're a Prelude user - you're probably already using Zenburn, since it's Prelude's default color theme. You can load Zenburn at any time by M-x load-theme zenburn.


If you'd like to tweak the theme by changing just a few colors, you can do so by defining new values in the zenburn-override-colors-alist variable before loading the theme.

For example, to customize just the lighter background colors, you could add to your init file:

(defvar zenburn-override-colors-alist
  '(("zenburn-bg+05" . "#282828")
    ("zenburn-bg+1"  . "#2F2F2F")
    ("zenburn-bg+2"  . "#3F3F3F")
    ("zenburn-bg+3"  . "#4F4F4F")))
(load-theme 'zenburn t)

To see the full list of color names you can override, consult the zenburn-theme.el source file.

Ugly colors in the terminal Emacs version

If your Emacs looks considerably uglier in a terminal (compared to the GUI version) try adding this to your .bashrc or .zshrc:

export TERM=xterm-256color

Source the .bashrc (or .zshrc) file and start Emacs again.

Bugs & Improvements

Please, report any problems that you find on the projects integrated issue tracker. If you've added some improvements and you want them included upstream don't hesitate to send me a patch or even better - a GitHub pull request. These contributors have done so.

You can support my work on Zenburn and all my other projects via gratipay.

Support via Gratipay

Cheers, Bozhidar

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