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Solarized Color Theme for GNU ls (as setup by GNU dircolors)

This is a repository of themes for GNU ls (configured via GNU dircolors) that support Ethan Schoonover’s Solarized color scheme.

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

Quick note for MacOS users: Your OS does not use GNU ls, so you can not use these themes. However, @logic provided something your can use in this issue. Another option (as proposed by @metamorfos) is to install GNU ls with homebrew (coreutils).

(Selected) Table of Contents



First, note that "256 colors" does not necessarily mean better than "ANSI". Read on for more details.

  1. "256dark" - Degraded Solarized Dark theme for terminal emulators and newer dircolors that both support 256 colors. This theme allows for the display of the approximate Solarized palette, but it's very easy to set up and allows for the use of many more colors beyond the 16 in Solarized. (By seebi)

    Note: In the future, it may be possible to change the approximate Solarized colors to the exact Solarized palette; and this theme would automatically improve. Work on an appropriate .Xresources has not yet started. (See 256-color remapping discussion.)

  2. "ansi-universal" - Universal theme for 16-color or 256-color terminal emulators and any version of dircolors. It is optimized for Solarized Dark and Light and acceptable with default ANSI colors. This theme allows for the display of the exact Solarized palette, but it requires the reconfiguration of the terminal emulator's ANSI color settings and limits you to the 16 Solarized colors. (By huyz)

    "ansi-dark" - Tweaked version of "ansi-universal", slightly more optimized for the Solarized Dark palette to the slight detriment of the Solarized Light palette.

    "ansi-light" - Tweaked version of "ansi-universal", slightly more optimized for the Solarized Light palette to the slight detriment of the Solarized Dark palette.

Theme #1: "256dark" (by seebi)

Features / Properties

  • Solarized :-)
  • Comment style for backup and log and cache files
  • Highlighted style for files of special interest (.tex, Makefiles, .ini ...)
  • Bold hierarchies:
    • archive = violet, compressed archive = violet + bold
    • audio = orange, video = orange + bold
  • Tested use-cases:
    • latex directories
    • source code directories
  • Special files (block devices, pipes, ...) are inverted using the solarized light palette for the background
  • Symbolic links bold and distinguishable from directories


Here is a screenshot of a prepared session which shows the content of the test-directory.tar.bz2. It is captured from an iterm2 using the dz-version of the awesome Inconsolata font (but you can use any terminal emulator supporting 256colors).


Some more screenshots are provided by andrew from

Theme #2: "ansi-\*" (by huyz)

This theme and its variants require that the terminal emulator be properly configured to display the Solarized palette instead of the 16 default ANSI colors.

Features / Properties

This theme called "ansi-universal" and its variants "ansi-dark" and "ansi-light", were designed to work best with both Solarized Dark and Light palettes, but also to work under terminals' default ANSI colors. In other words, these themes were 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, incrediby hard to read, or a boring gray.

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

  • Solarized Dark: "ansi-universal" works best when the terminal emulator is set to this scheme
  • Solarized Light: "ansi-universal" works best when the terminal emulator is set to this scheme
  • Default terminal ANSI Colors with a dark background
  • Default terminal ANSI Colors with a light background

The "ansi-dark" and "ansi-light" are slightly optimized versions of "ansi-universal" for Solarized Dark and Solarized Light, respectively, if you're willing to sacrifice a bit of universality.

Colors were selected based on the characteristics of the items to be displayed:

  • Visibility generally follows importance, with an attempt to let unimportant items 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 items


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

Solarized Dark]

To see what this theme looks like when the terminal emulator is set with different color palettes:



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

In the future, the dircolors-only repository may be kept in sync with the main Solarized repository, but the dircolors-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 dircolors-only repository.

If you want to access the latest improvements to a specific theme, then go to that theme's unique github directory:

General Instructions

The Solarized color themes are distributed as database files for GNU dircolors, which is the application that sets up colors for GNU ls. To use any of the database files, run this:

eval `dircolors /path/to/dircolorsdb`

To activate the theme for all future shell sessions, copy or link that file to ~/.dir_colors, and include the above command in your ~/.profile (for bash) or ~/.zshrc (for zsh).

For Ubuntu 14.04 it is sufficient to copy or link database file to ~/.dircolors. Statement in ~/.bashrc will take care about triggering eval command.

Additional Instructions for 256-color Solarized Themes, e.g. "256dark"

For the 256-color Solarized dircolors themes, such as "256dark", you need a 256-color terminal (e.g. gnome-terminal or urxvt) and a correct TERM variable, e.g.:

export TERM=xterm-256color        # for common 256 color terminals (e.g. gnome-terminal)
export TERM=screen-256color       # for a tmux -2 session (also for screen)
export TERM=rxvt-unicode-256color # for a colorful rxvt unicode session

Additional Instructions for ANSI Solarized Themes, e.g. "ansi-universal"

For the ANSI Solarized dircolors themes (which work with both 16-color and 256-color terminals) you must 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

Understanding Solarized Colors in Terminals

How Solarized works with ANSI-redefinition themes

8- or 256-color terminal programs such as dircolors use color codes that correspond to the expected 8 normal ANSI colors. dircolors 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- or 256-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 dircolors 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 dircolors is entirely dependent on the terminal emulator for the display of its colors, you cannot directly tell a dircolors theme to display Solarized orange, e.g. by specifying an RGB value. Instead, the theme's colors must be chosen using the available color codes (either ANSI or one of the 256 XTerm colors) with the expectation that the terminal emulator will display them as appropriate Solarized colors. For example, the dircolors color format 01;31 which normally would be "bold red" is expected to be displayed by the terminal emulator as Solarized orange.

So in order for dircolors to display the exact 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 16-color themes without having changed your emulator's palette, you will get a strange selection of colors that may be hard to read or gray.

Yes, this means that, to use the exact Solarized theme for dircolors, you need to change color settings for not one but two different programs: your terminal emulator and dircolors. 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 terminal applications such as older dircolors 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 dirco color format 01;31, 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.

How Solarized works with 256-color themes

Newer versions of dircolors, as well as modern terminal emulators, support 256 colors. Since 256 > 16, does this mean that 256-color dircolors themes are better than ANSI dircolors themes for displaying the Solarized palette? Not necessarily. Solarized is a 16-color palette with unique RGB values. 256-color terminal emulators have more colors than the ANSI palette but completely different RGB values. (See 8-bit color graphics.) The "256dark" theme was designed to use these standard fixed colors.

How Solarized could work with 256 colors without touching ANSI

There is ongoing discussion on how to reconfigure the approximate Solarized colors (the default 256 XTerm colors) to display the exact Solarized colors. The benefit of this approach is that the ANSI colors would not be messed with, and all the existing terminal applications (with non-Solarized-aware color themes) that expect ANSI colors would get ANSI colors; i.e. you would not see text accidentally disappear or turn gray on you as soon as you change your terminal emulator's ANSI color settings to Solarized.

The disadvantage of such a solution means that 8-color terminal applications such as irssi or older dircolors would not be able to display Solarized colors, no matter what theme they used.

Work on an official solution has not yet started but the discussion has presented some working solutions, at least for XTerm and possibly other Linux terminal emulators.

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


  • For "256-color" themes, the XTERM/HEX column lists the approximate Solarized colors that are used (note the RGB values in the XTERM/HEX column only approximates the RGB values in the HEX column).
  • For "ANSI" themes, the TERMCOL column lists the ANSI colors that are replaced with the Solarized colors listed under the HEX column.


This is a repository of themes for GNU ls (configured via GNU dircolors) that support Ethan Schoonover’s Solarized color scheme.




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