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Solarized Color Theme for irssi

Initially created by huyz, this is a repository of themes for the irssi IRC chat client that support Ethan Schoonover’s Solarized color scheme.

Solarized Dark main screenshot

Visit the Solarized homepage

See the Solarized homepage for screenshots, details and color theme implementations for terminal emulators and other applications, such as Vim, Emacs, and Mutt.

Universal theme

The first irssi theme, called "universal", was designed to work best with both Solarized Dark and Light palettes, but also to work under default terminal colors. In other words, this theme was designed with a "fallback" scenario: if you happen to find yourself on a terminal where the Solarized palette has not been set up, you won't have elements become invisible or incrediby hard to read.

Thus, this theme was designed with these 4 palettes in mind:

  • Solarized Dark: the theme works best when the terminal emulator is set to this scheme
  • Solarized Light: the theme works, when the terminal emulator is set to this scheme, almost as well as with Solarized Dark (you probably won't notice the difference, but if you do, it could be optimized slightly by switching the theme's use of some of the Solarized base colors)
  • Default terminal ANSI Colors with a dark background
  • Default terminal ANSI Colors with a light background

This theme was designed to be clean and functional, starting from the default theme distributed with irssi. Colors are strictly used for functionality and the number of colors visible is minimized when possible. Colors were selected based on the characteristics of the text characters to be displayed:

  • Visibility generally follows importance, with an attempt to let unimportant text fade into the background (which is not always possible when simultaneously supporting dark and light backgrounds)
  • Loud colors are chosen to call attention to noteworthy messages

Supported Scripts

The following third-party scripts are supported:


This is how the "universal" theme for irssi looks under different palettes. Click images to see screenshots.

Solarized Dark (this example uses iTerm2 on OS X):

Solarized Dark

Solarized Light (this example uses iTerm2 on OS X):

Solarized Light

Default dark terminal colors (this example uses Apple's on OS X):

default dark

Default light terminal colors (this example uses iTerm on OS X):

default light


If you have come across these themes via the irssi-only repository on github, you may want to check the main Solarized repository to see if there is an official theme.

In the future, the irssi-only repository may be kept in sync with the main Solarized repository, but the irssi-only repository may be left separate for installation convenience and to include the latest improvements.

At this time, issues, bug reports, changelogs are to be reported at the irssi-only repository.


  1. Configure your terminal emulator (See the section "Understanding Solarized Colors in Terminals" for a detailed explanation behind these settings)

    1. Make sure that you have changed your terminal emulator's color settings to the Solarized palette.

    2. Make sure that bold text is displayed using bright colors. For example,

      • For iTerm2 on OS X, this means that Text Preferences must have the Draw bold text in bright colors checkbox selected.
      • For Apple's on OS X, this means that Text Settings must have the Use bright colors for bold text checkbox selected.
    3. It's recommended to turn off the display of bold typeface for bold text. For example,

      • For iTerm2 on OS X, this means that Text Preferences should have the Draw bold text in bold font checkbox unselected.

      • For Apple's on OS X, this means that Text Settings should have the Use bold fonts checkbox unselected.

      • For XTerm, this may mean setting the font and boldFont to be the same in your .Xresources or .Xdefaults, e.g.:

        xterm*font: fixed
        xterm*boldFont: fixed

    Example: for iTerm2, these are the correct settings:

    iTerm bold settings

  2. Obtain solarized-universal.theme

    a) Option A: Download solarized-universal.theme from irssi-only repository and place it in your ~/.irssi directory

    b) Option B: To always have the latest version, clone the git repository:

    $ git clone git://
    $ ln -s $PWD/irssi-colors-solarized/solarized-universal.theme ~/.irssi/.
  3. Change your ~/.irssi/config to include the following settings, while making sure to replace YOUR_NICKNAME with your IRC nickname:

    settings = {
        "fe-common/core" = {
            # Solarized
            theme = "solarized-universal";
            hilight_color = "= %R";
    hilights = (
            { text = "YOUR_NICKNAME"; color = "%M"; nick = "yes"; word = "yes"; }
    statusbar = {
        items = {
            # Solarized
            lag = "{sb Lag: %m$0-%n}";
            act = "{sb Act: $0-}";
            more = "%k%3-- more --%n";
  4. Optionally, if you have the or scripts installed, modify your ~/.irssi/config so that:

    settings = {
        "perl/core/scripts" = {
            ### For Solarized script
            awl_display_key_active = "%k%2[$Q=$N:$C]%n";
            awl_display_nokey_active = "%k%2[$N:$C]%n";
            awl_display_key = "[$Q:$H$C$S]";
            awl_display_nokey = "[$N:$H$C$S]";
            ### For Solarized script
            trackbar_style = "%B";

Understanding Solarized Colors in Terminals

Solarized Colors vs. ANSI Colors

8-color terminal programs such as irssi use color codes that correspond to the expected 8 normal ANSI colors. irssi additionally supports bold, which terminal emulators will usually display by using the bright versions of the 8 ANSI colors and/or by using a bold typeface with a heavier weight. (Note that different terminal emulators may have slightly different ideas of what color values to use when displaying the 16 ANSI color escape codes.)

In order to be displayed by 8-color terminal programs, which cannot specify RGB values, Solarized must replace the default ANSI colors. Since the Solarized palette uses 16 colors, not only must this color scheme replace the 8 normal colors but must also take over the 8 bright colors, for a total of 16 colors. This means that a Solarized terminal application loses the ability to bold text but gains 8 more Solarized colors.

About half of the Solarized palette is reminiscent of the original ANSI colors, e.g. Solarized red is close to ANSI red (or more precisely, the general consensus of what ANSI red should look like). But the rest of the Solarized colors do not correspond to any ANSI colors, e.g. there is no ANSI color that corresponds to Solarized orange or purple.

This means that, for example, if the irssi theme wants to display "green", a Solarized terminal will display something close to green, but if the theme wants to display "bold yellow" or "bright yellow", a Solarized terminal will not be able to display it. However, a Solarized theme will be able to display the new colors orange and purple and also several shades of gray. This is again thanks to the replacement of the ANSI bright colors; e.g. ANSI "bold red", which is usually displayed as "bright red", will now show as Solarized orange, while ANSI "bold blue", which is usually displayed as "bright blue", will now be a shade of gray.

Terminal Emulator

Because irssi is an ANSI 8-color terminal program, it is entirely dependent on the terminal emulator for the display of its colors. You cannot directly tell an irssi theme to display Solarized orange, e.g. by specifying an RGB value. Instead, the theme's colors must be chosen using the ANSI color codes with the expectation that the terminal emulator will display them as appropriate Solarized colors. For example, the irssi color format %R which normally would be "bold red" is expected to be displayed by the terminal emulator as Solarized orange.

So in order for irssi to display the Solarized palette, you have to set your Terminal emulator's color settings to the Solarized palette. The Solarized repository includes theme settings for some popular terminal emulators as well as Xresources; or you can download them from the official Solarized homepage. If you use the irssi themes without having changed your emulator's palette, you will get a strange selection of colors that may be hard to read.

Yes, this means that, to use the Solarized theme for irssi, you need to change color settings for not one but two different programs: your terminal emulator and irssi. The two sets of settings will work in concert to display Solarized colors appropriately.

Bold Settings

Historically, there has been a one-to-one correspondence between the bolded versions of the 8 default ANSI colors and the bright versions of the 8 default colors. Back in the day, when a color program demanded the display of bold text, it was probably just easier for terminal emulators to display a brighter version of whatever color the text was (and expect the user to interpret that as bold) than to display a typeface with a bold weight

Nowadays, it is easy for terminal emulators to display bold typefaces, so it doesn't make sense for bolded text to change color, but the confusing association remains. In fact, new terminal emulators allow users to break the correspondence between bold and bright and can simply change the font.

However, ANSI 8-color terminal applications such as irssi only have a conception of bold and don't know about the possibility of using up to 16 colors. So to use all 16 Solarized colors, we change the semantics of "bold" in the theme to mean that we want to access the 8 new Solarized colors, including the grays. Recall the example above, where we described that the irssi color format %R, which would have normally displayed bold red, is expected to show up as Solarized orange.

This is why it is important to not break the association between bold and bright colors. Many terminal emulators offer an option to disable the use of bright colors for bold, and you must not do so. Often, new users of Solarized will be confused when they change their terminal emulator's color palette to Solarized but haven't yet installed Solarized-specific color themes for all their terminal applications (e.g. mutt, ls's dircolors, irssi, and their colorized shell prompts). They will see texts that are hard to read or disappear entirely. The solution isn't to disable bright colors; the solution is to install Solarized color themes for all terminal applications and then you will have all 16 colors.

Also, because the semantics of "bold" are lost in favor of more colors, it also makes sense to disable the display of bold text as a bold typeface. It won't hurt to see bold typefaces wherever the new 8 Solarized colors are displayed but it doesn't make much sense anymore.

The Solarized Color Values

L*a*b values are canonical (White D65, Reference D50), other values are matched in sRGB space.

--------- ------- ---- -------  ----------- ---------- ----------- -----------
base03    #002b36  8/4 brblack  234 #1c1c1c 15 -12 -12   0  43  54 193 100  21
base02    #073642  0/4 black    235 #262626 20 -12 -12   7  54  66 192  90  26
base01    #586e75 10/7 brgreen  240 #4e4e4e 45 -07 -07  88 110 117 194  25  46
base00    #657b83 11/7 bryellow 241 #585858 50 -07 -07 101 123 131 195  23  51
base0     #839496 12/6 brblue   244 #808080 60 -06 -03 131 148 150 186  13  59
base1     #93a1a1 14/4 brcyan   245 #8a8a8a 65 -05 -02 147 161 161 180   9  63
base2     #eee8d5  7/7 white    254 #d7d7af 92 -00  10 238 232 213  44  11  93
base3     #fdf6e3 15/7 brwhite  230 #ffffd7 97  00  10 253 246 227  44  10  99
yellow    #b58900  3/3 yellow   136 #af8700 60  10  65 181 137   0  45 100  71
orange    #cb4b16  9/3 brred    166 #d75f00 50  50  55 203  75  22  18  89  80
red       #dc322f  1/1 red      160 #d70000 50  65  45 220  50  47   1  79  86
magenta   #d33682  5/5 magenta  125 #af005f 50  65 -05 211  54 130 331  74  83
violet    #6c71c4 13/5 brmagenta 61 #5f5faf 50  15 -45 108 113 196 237  45  77
blue      #268bd2  4/4 blue      33 #0087ff 55 -10 -45  38 139 210 205  82  82
cyan      #2aa198  6/6 cyan      37 #00afaf 60 -35 -05  42 161 152 175  74  63
green     #859900  2/2 green     64 #5f8700 60 -20  65 133 153   0  68 100  60