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Apprentice is a dark, low-contrast colorscheme for Vim based on the awesome Sorcerer by Jeet Sukumaran.

It is essentially a streamlined version of the original, with a reduced number of colors entirely taken from the default xterm palette to ensure a similar look in 256colors-ready terminal emulators and GUI Vim.

Some code in MacVim:


Some code in iTerm, with TERM=xterm-256color:


Some code in mintty, with TERM=xterm-256color:


Some code in iTerm, with TERM=xterm, using the Tango color palette:


Preparing your environment

Apprentice is designed first and foremost to look “good” in terminal emulators supporting 256 colors and in GUI Vim (GVim/MacVim). It supports lesser terminal emulators in the sense that it doesn’t break but it will definitely look “better” in more capable environments.


There is nothing to do for GVim/MacVim as GUI Vim supports “True Color” by default.

“True Color” terminal emulators

Since January 2016, Vim has been able to talk in “True Color” to terminal emulators supporting that feature. This means that it is now not only possible but also very easy to have the exact same colors in TUI Vim and GUI Vim.

In practice, this new development doesn't change much for Apprentice which uses the exact same colors in the GUI as it does in the TUI anyway. But you can still try “True Color” if your setup satisfies the requirements with the following command:

:set termguicolors

See this gist for more information and support status and, of course, :help 'termguicolors'.

256color-ready terminal emulators

Most terminal emulators in use nowadays can display 256 colors but most of them use a default TERM that tells Vim otherwise. Assuming your terminal emulator actually supports 256 colors, you must instruct it to brag about its terminal-hood by setting the correct TERM environment variable.

The “ideal” TERM usually includes the string 256color, like xterm-256color. The actual value is highly dependent on your terminal emulator and/or your terminal multiplexer, though, so you will have to refer to their manual.

Working with 8/16 colors

As an alternative to changing your default TERM to xterm-256color or similar, you can keep its default value (usually something like xterm or screen) and set your terminal emulator to use the Apprentice colorscheme instead of its default colors.

The table below contains a subset of Apprentice’s palette. You can use a color picker or copy/paste these values:

Intensity Normal Intensity Bright
0 #1C1C1C #1C1C1C 8 #444444 #444444
1 #AF5F5F #AF5F5F 9 #FF8700 #FF8700
2 #5F875F #5F875F 10 #87AF87 #87AF87
3 #87875F #87875F 11 #FFFFAF #FFFFAF
4 #5F87AF #5F87AF 12 #8FAFD7 #8FAFD7
5 #5F5F87 #5F5F87 13 #8787AF #8787AF
6 #5F8787 #5F8787 14 #5FAFAF #5FAFAF
7 #6C6C6C #6C6C6C 15 #FFFFFF #FFFFFF
Foreground color #BCBCBC #BCBCBC Background color #262626 #262626

Here is a sample ~/.Xresources for you Linux/BSD users. You can import this into to convert it to the appropriate color scheme format for your preferred terminal emulator:

*.foreground: #BCBCBC
*.background: #262626
*.color0:     #1C1C1C
*.color8:     #444444
*.color1:     #AF5F5F
*.color9:     #FF8700
*.color2:     #5F875F
*.color10:    #87AF87
*.color3:     #87875F
*.color11:    #FFFFAF
*.color4:     #5F87AF
*.color12:    #8FAFD7
*.color5:     #5F5F87
*.color13:    #8787AF
*.color6:     #5F8787
*.color14:    #5FAFAF
*.color7:     #6C6C6C
*.color15:    #FFFFFF

And a sample ~/.minttyrc for you Cygwin users:


Some code in iTerm, with TERM=xterm, using the color palette above:


Some code in the Windows console, with TERM=cygwin, using the color palette above:


All terminal emulators

I recommend adjusting your terminal's background color to the one used in Apprentice if you want to avoid having a “frame” around Vim:

Notation Value
xterm 235
hexadecimal #262626
rgb rgb(38,38,38)

Installing Apprentice

Colorschemes must be placed in a directory named colors that is somewhere in Vim’s runtimepath:

The canonical location is:


but it could be:

" with Pathogen


" with :help packages

or whatever works for you.

Arch users may be happy to hear that Apprentice has landed in AUR. To install it, use an AUR helper:

$ yaourt -S vim-apprentice

or download the PKGBUILD and do:

$ makepkg -i

Enabling Apprentice

To test Apprentice, just type this command from normal mode and hit Enter:

:colorscheme apprentice

If you like what you see and want to make Apprentice your default colorscheme, add this line to your vimrc, preferably near the end, after any syntax enable, syntax on, filetype ... on, call plug#end(), or call vundle#end() line:

colorscheme apprentice

Tweaking Apprentice

If you don't want to maintain your own fork of Apprentice you can add something like this to your vimrc, before colorscheme apprentice:

function! MyHighlights() abort
    highlight Comment ctermfg=245
    highlight NonText ctermbg=17

augroup MyColors
    autocmd ColorScheme * call MyHighlights()
augroup END

See this Gist for reference.

Hacking Apprentice

Apprentice now comes with the very template used to generate it: colors/apprentice.erb. The template, based on vim-rnb, is well maintained and documented.

If you feel like making a pull request, make sure you commit both the modified template and the modified colorscheme.

Lightline and Airline themes

I removed them from master but you can still find them in the "fancylines-and-neovim" branch.

Neovim terminal theme

I removed it from master but you can still find it in the "fancylines-and-neovim" branch.

What they say about Apprentice.

  • Vimgor, in #vim: “A colorscheme as subtle, gentle and pleasant as its creator isn't.”

  • Gfixler, in r/vim: “I've been enjoying Apprentice. It's the only color scheme so far that I haven't felt like modifying in any way.”

  • dddbbb, in r/vim: “Haha, you've been quoted in the readme. romainl is still with us in spirit! Apprentice looks nice, and it's great that seems simple to get it working in terminal (no t_co hacks).”

  • Gfixler again, in r/vim: “My favorite color scheme by far is Apprentice, but again, it's completely subjective. Pick something that makes you feel good while using it. I particularly love Apprentice's selection blue color. I select things all the time just to experience it. So pretty.”

  • lopid, in #vim: “waah waah”


Derivative works

  • If light colorschemes are more your thing, Disciple is an experimental and mostly unmaintained negative version of Apprentice.

  • On the same note, Lightning is a light fork of Apprentice worth considering.

  • Intern is an HexChat theme based on Apprentice.

  • This very enthusiastic fellow created a home for terminal emulator themes adapted from Apprentice.

  • A port of Apprentice is available for the IDEA platform. Check it out over there.

  • Elysian is a new very nice colorscheme for 256color terminal emulators inspired by Apprentice.

  • Apprentice-theme is a port to spacemacs.

  • Warlock is a brand new greyscale variant worth trying if Apprentice's already low contrast is still too much.

  • Apprentice-tmux is a tmux theme based on Apprentice.

  • Apprentice-kitty is a port for kitty.

  • Here is a port of Apprentice for Visual Studio Code.

Go team!

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