Solarized – A Balanced Color Scheme for Text Editors

Colors schemes for text editors is just like the favorite editor itself a controversially discussed and often very personal matter. Speaking about colors often the personal taste is the main reason for a custom color scheme or why a special scheme was chosen. However the relation between different colors has been studied by artists for a very long time. Color theory with things like the triad, tetrad or complementary colors which was all related to the color circle has been the foundation designers worked on a daily basis.

Now these principles have been applied to color schemes in text editors. The arrangement of colors is called Solarized and can be found on the project’s homepage. Besides the color scheme itself, which is available for a wide range of editors, starting from VIM, Emacs to Netbeans, Xcode, SubEthaEdit or textmate, the author Ethan Schoonover also explains the principles of why the colors were chosen that way. The scheme is available in two variants: one for a light background and one for a black background.

What I like about this scheme is how the a good contrast between foreground and background is given without overdoing it. You can create the largest contrast by using a white text color on a black background. This however would tire your eyes very quickly, as the contrast is too high. Solarized in the dark background variant is using a dark grey as a background color and a very light grey as the text color. What I also like is that if syntax highlighting is activated comment blocks are shaded in a darker version of the text color to make your code more prominent which is great in heavily commented files.

So if you are looking for a new color scheme for your favorite editor or IDE, check out Solarized.


Chemist, Programmer, Mac and iPhone enthusiast. Likes coding in Python, Objective-C and other languages.

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