Windows 10 has made life of those with light sensitivity and computer eye strain issues more difficult. In terms of text and background color adaptability to specific visual needs it is a step back when compared to Windows 7. But you can still have it your way. Below you may find detailed instructions on how to fully personalize your Windows 10 screen’s appearance to your, eye-friendly colors (anything, to any color). The instructions should also work in Windows 8.
This post is an update of the post 10 ways to change background color & reduce screen brightness which shows how to change text and background colors in Windows 7, PDF/Adobe Reader, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, and suggests a few apps which might help you decrease your screen’s brightness and glare.
Also, if you need some guidance in terms of picking the most comfortable colors for you (for example by using colors with minimal blue light content) see this post.
Disclaimer: My interest in computer screen colors comes from my problems with light sensitivity (photophobia), discomfort glare, and computer eye strain.
Disclosure: You can help sustain GLARminY – at no additional cost to you by “donating” a small percentage of anything you buy from Amazon by accessing Amazon through this link (commission link). Thanks!
Windows 10: How to change text and background colors
The intention of this post is to enable you to change the color of all the fields displayed by your Windows 10 screen (there will always be exceptions – icons, images, etc. – but they should be of minor importance). Moreover it should enable you to choose any color you like. You should be able to customize your visuals to the same extent as in Windows 7.
If you can live with the Windows 10 default options – changing most but not all fields to one of the 20 colors available:
you can find detailed instructions in this, or this tutorial, or follow these brief instructions:
Click on Windows icon in your task bar > Settings > Personalization > Colors > scroll down to the bottom and click High Contrast Themes > choose one of the High Contrast Themes from the Choose a theme drop down menu. Then click on appropriate color fields and choose your colors.
The instructions below assume you are currently using one of the Windows Default Themes. If you are already using a High Contrast Theme then you can skip to Step 5.
Step 1: Right click on desktop and select Personalize at the bottom of the drop down menu
Step 2: In the PERSONALIZATION window that opens up click on Themes (left column)
Step 3: Click Theme settings (in the right column – image above) to open another Personalization window (below)
IMPORTANT: review all the themes available in this Personalization window and remember which is currently highlighted (e.g. the Windows theme in the image above). That is your current theme. You need to know this in case you want to go back to your current color settings.
Windows Default Themes allow only very limited changes to the colors displayed on your screen. To gain access to the full range of colors you must first set your visuals to a High Contrast color theme.
Step 4: Click on any of the four High Contrast themes (marked in a red square in the image above)
This action will change the colors that appear on your screen. Depending on the theme selected your screen might now look something like this
Don’t get distressed when you see a radical change in your colors when you select a high-contrast theme. This is only your starting point. You will be able to change all of the colors so that in the end it won’t be a high-contrast theme if you don’t like that. You can only make deeper adjustments to the colors by starting with a high-contrast theme.
IMPORTANT: If at any time you want to return to your initial (default) theme, just click on it (in the Personalization window) and the colors will immediately change back to the initial ones.
You are now ready to really start personalizing the colors on your screen.
Step 5: Press Win+R on your keyboard
to open the Run command window:
Step 6: Type control color (as in the image above) and click OK
This opens up the following Color and Appearance window (click to enlarge):
As you can see Color and Appearance window allows you to choose colors of windows background, text, hyperlinked text, disabled text; and both foregrounds and backgrounds of selected text, active window titles, inactive window titles and buttons.
Step 7: Click on the corresponding button (second or third column) to get the following Color window:
Step 8: Select one of the 48 basic colors or find your favorite color by clicking on it in the square color palette to the right
If you know the codes of your favorite colors you can type them in the appropriate text boxes (bottom right).
Step 9: Click OK
Repeat Steps 7 to 9 until you are fully happy with the colors of your new theme
Step 10: Click Apply in the Color and Appearance window
This will apply the changes to all or most of the applications you currently have running (some browsers require you to reload the pages to make color changes effective – you can also disable your browser from adopting the system colors, i.e. the colors of your visual themes).
If you are not completely satisfied with what you see, continue making changes (Steps 7 – 9).
Step 11: Click Save Changes
When you’ve clicked on Save Changes in the Color and Appearance window, your new theme should appear at the top of your Personalization window, under the My Themes heading as the Unsaved Theme.
Until you give the Unsaved Theme another name you can continue making changes to it: the Unsaved Theme should be highlighted, if not click on it and proceeding from the Step 5 above.
Step 12: Name and Save your Unsaved Theme
To name and save the Unsaved Theme it should be highlighted (if not click on it).
Next, right-click on the Unsaved Theme and choose Save theme from the drop down menu. In the window that appears, name the new theme and click Save.
After this point you can’t change this Theme any longer (you can only delete it – right-click on it when not highlighted and click Delete Theme).
However, you can still use a named and saved theme as the basis for further modifications: in Step 4 click on the theme you want to use as a starting point (if the system is already using that theme you don’t need to click on it first). Then follow the above described procedure from Step 5.
Note: when you save your modified theme it will appear in Personalization/My Themes as the new Unsaved Theme, overwriting the previous Unsaved Theme (if there was one), but leaving the theme from which you started unchanged.
Changing the desktop color
If you want to change the color of (or put an image on) your desktop:
Right-click on your desktop, from the drop-down menu select Personalize to open PERSONALIZATION window.
In the left column Background should be highlighted. If not, click on it.
Select the image(s) you want to appear on your desktop, or (if you prefer solid color background) one of the following 24 default color options offered by Windows 10:
If you are not happy with the color options offered by Windows 10:
Press Win+R (as in Step 5 above) to open Run window.
control /name Microsoft.Personalization /page pageWallpaper
into the available text-box (as shown in the image below – Important: part of the above command is cut off in the image due to space limitation of the text-box – make sure you copy and paste entire command as specified above).
Press OK to open the following Desktop Background window:
To choose any color you want click on the More… (see it marked red in the image above). It will open the Color window (below), where you can select the color that is most comfortable for your eyes – or taste :).
Switching between different color themes is easy: once you’ve saved your customized theme you simply click on the theme you want in the Personalization window (see in the window on the right of the three Screenshots in the next section).
IMPORTANT: switching from one theme to another affects only what you see on your screen but not the colors of the saved documents. Note that in the Screenshots below the same MS Word and Excel documents are displayed in different colors depending on the theme in use.
To give another example: if someone sends you a black text on white background document and you open it, to you the document will look as specified by the theme you are currently using. (If you want to see its original colors you have to switch to one of Windows Default themes).
Also, reagardless of the theme you are using, if you make any changes to the text of that document, save it, and send it back to the author, it will still appear black on white to them (unless they’ve changed the visuals theme in the meanwhile).
The effects and limitations of changing color settings in Windows 10
With the above described procedure you can change nearly all of the colors displayed on your screen.
The images below show “milestone” screenshots of the above described color change process:
a Windows 10 Default Them (starting point)
a High Contrast Black Theme (at this point you would have completed Step 4)
a fully personalized theme – within Windows 10 possibilities – (Step 12 completed)
Overcoming the deficiencies of Windows 10 with Windows 7
If you compare the last two images above you can identify the areas that one cannot change in Windows 10. Principally it has to do with the background around the “paper” (MS Word) and the Menu bars (MS Word and Excel). If you know of the way to do it within Windows 10, please, let me know!
The colors of these fields can also be changed. But you need Windows 7 to create the theme, save it for sharing and then open/install it in Windows 10. (I haven’t tested this thoroughly, but it seems that with this procedure you can transfer to Windows 10 and make effective any change that is possible in Windows 7.
Don’t worry if you don’t have access to a computer running on Windows 7: I’d be happy to help you out. You just need to let me know the colors (RGB or a Print Screen/Snippet) you wish for your menu bars and the space “around the paper” and you’ll have the theme as soon as possible. You should be able to change the rest by following the above instructions.
If you have access to Windows 7
You might already have a theme that works well for you in Windows 7. In that case skip to Saving your theme for sharing. If not:
Use a Widows 7 machine to change the colors of your display following the instructions for Windows 7 but MAKE SURE YOU USE ONE OF THE HIGH CONTRAST THEMES AS YOUR STARTING POINT, or you won’t be able to change all the colors.
In the Items section of Window Color and Appearance pay particular attention to the colors of 3D Objects and Menu (see red arrows in the image below), because changes in:
- 3D Objects affect the color of the space around the “paper” in MS Word Print layout view
- Menu affect the colors of menu bars
Saving your theme for sharing
When you are happy with the theme save it for sharing as a Theme Pack (*.themepack) file. In the Personalization window (of your Windows 7):
- click on the theme you want to save for sharing
- right-click on it and select Save theme for sharing from the drop down menu
- give it a name
- select where** you want to save it, and
- click Save
** You’ll need to access this file from Windows 10 so save it on a portable storage device, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. or just anywhere on your Windows 7 computer and send it to your Windows 10 machine via e-mail.
Next, go to your Windows 10 machine, find the Theme Pack file and open it (double-click). This will automatically install the theme in Personalization/My Themes of your Windows 10 computer and simultaneously also change the color settings of your Windows 10 screen to the ones specified by the theme you just opened & saved.
If you’d like to try out how it works and what you will get, open in Windows 10 this theme (created and saved for sharing in Windows 7). It should make the colors on your screen in Windows 10 look something like this:
That’s all. Following the instructions above you should be able to change all the colors displayed by your screen (except the color of the icons, images and perhaps some other minor objects). If I’ve missed something important, please do let me know, so I can fix it.
Closing remarks: In case you are interested in my Windows 10 experience
I upgraded my laptop to Windows 10 and kept everything else as before:
- the same color theme as before (orange text on black background) that had worked well for me with Windows 7
- the same anti eye strain breaks, exercises, and total exposure routines I’d had, and
- the same lighting setup.
Hence, the only thing that changed was the operating system, yet my vision and visual stress deteriorated quickly and significantly:
- dry eyes – after a few days my eyes started feeling worse and worse
- focusing – about two weeks into working with Windows 10 I started having difficulties (was OK at the start of the day but progressively worse after each hour of exposure to the point I started thinking about glasses)
- general exhaustion – I also started feeling more tired after the usual daily computer screen exposure.
Downgrading to Windows 7. Within minutes of switching back to Win7 I knew it was a good choice by how my eyes felt. In a few days the above described symptoms improved.
Windows 10 issues with eye strain
I noticed a couple of issues that must be associated with eye strain:
- when opening a new document/application the screen first flashes white (this was particularly disturbing because I normally work with black background)
- f.lux blue light filter was disabled each time the screen is turned off and back on (this issue may have been fixed since or it is specific to some machines – I’ve installed Windows 10 on my other laptop to prepare this post and I haven’t noticed it there).
I find it difficult to believe there is nothing else to it!? If you’ve discovered any other issues that could be associated with eye strain, do let me know in comments or by writing directly to me.
Ps: If you found the post How to change text and background color: Windows 10 update useful, please consider LIKING, REBLOGGING, and/or SHARING it below.
56 thoughts on “How to change text and background color in Windows 10”
Is there a program, utility, or a registry key that lets you selectively change the icon label color like the Mac people used to be able to do?
This would be especially useful if you use a photograph for a desktop pattern to help increase the contrast between the icon label and the icon label text.
I also miss the Mac’s ability to sort files and folders by icon label color, which helps with project management.
Here is a reply from Quora, you might find useful (but be careful):
You have to use the registry editor (sigh).
Here are the values from my PC for reference:
Also, here are a couple more useful links:
How to open registry editor
How to Add, Change, & Delete Registry Keys & Values
And let us know if you managed to make it work for you!
this doesn’t work with windows 10.. have the menus you mention are not present!
testfered, thanks for letting me know. As suggested in the update near the top of the post, the instructions worked up to version 1607 of Windows 10.
There are new instructions for version 1703 (also linked above). Based on the feedback, these instructions also work with version 1709, though not perfectly, so another set of instructions is necessary. No feedback on 1803 as of today.
Sorry for the disappointment.
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Windows 10 is a terrible OS as it is a serious step back in the ability for the user to CONTROL it. Less options everywhere and it get worse with each new big updates, and so we get annoyances like eye strain issue. So… I wasted dozens of hours to find a DECENT solution. High-Contrast themes are a good one but it screws up many elements of the global interface
I finally resolved myself to install third-party software to change nearly everything without doing too much compromises.
If you use Anniversary Update or LTSB 2016 (they are the same base), you can install the UXSTYLE software ( http://uxstyle.com/ , require VC++ 2013/2015) and I use this theme :
It gives a better feeling. There are many others themes, but I use this one.
The advantage of UXStyle is that he is updates-compliant. Unfortunately, it won’t work with Creators Update and later, so it can be used only with Anniversary/LTSB 2016.
For “Creators” Update (pfff) and later, UltraUXThemePatcher ( https://www.syssel.net/hoefs/software_uxtheme.php?lang=en ) sounds mandatory. Problem : when there are some windows updates, you will need to download the new version and install it. A way to avoid that is to block Windows Update or disable the service… which is difficult since this month, as Microsoft made sure than the service is restarted even if the user voluntarily disable it.
Less control at each release.
TKMankindv2, thanks a lot for this – it might help many others! 🙂
it is not convenient to enable high contrast to only change the font colour.
mohammed, I agree with you – it is very inconvenient :(.
You can only change your text color (see top of the article) if you are happy with one of the 20 default colors that Windows 10 offers.
If you want a more specific color for your text, you have to go to high contrast, change text color and also change everything else to how you want it (which, in your case, appears to be just the way you already have it :(:
(At least that is how it was about a year and a half ago, when I used Windows 10 for the last time). Have they changed anything for the better in the meanwhile?
Maaate Thanks you so Much I have just been able to make a perfect theme 9forme) finally got a pale grey screen with green and grey highlights and black text it is so restful on my eyes from the lightning laser glare of stark white. Have a great Xmas and New year You have certainly given me a great gift 😀
Fly, thanks! Best wishes to you too!
Wow! Wow! Wow!
Thank you so very much for posting this VERY, VERY Helpful Guide !!!
In Windows 7, All of my Documents (I’m a writer) had a wonderfully comforting & lovely Light-Aqua Color. Then, when I recently upgraded to Win10, I Looked & Looked & Looked for how I could get my Text Background Back .. & thought: “Well, maybe I’m just STUCK with STARK White”! . . . . That is, Until I found your Excellent, Clear & Most Helpful Guide on This Page!!
I appreciate it GREATLY!!
Chuck, thanks for your kind words. It makes me happy to hear my work is helpful 🙂
thank you!!!! i hate orange!
Fantastic. Well researched. Easy to follow. Thanks so much for posting this.
Just one question. Is there a way to change the color of desktop icon label text. Windows 10 seems to select either white or black only. The photo I use for a background has both black and white areas, making the white, or alternatively black, text invisible. Is it possible to change the color of desktop icon text?
Tom hi. Thanks for writing.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a way of changing icon text color (that is something that already Windows 7 doesn’t facilitate :(.
This article gives some hope with third-party programs that might help you achieve what you want – take a look and if you try it (or have already tried) let us know if it worked for you!
You can reduce eyestrain by decreasing the brightness of your monitor. My Samsungs can be very very bright. I have the brightness at 17% for my main monitor. It’s still bright. It is not dim.
I have the brightness of my secondary monitor set at 30%. Still bright enough.
Try it and you will like it. I look at monitors 10 hours a day without eyestrain.
Steve, thanks for stopping by and for your comment!
You are right! In most cases it will make sense to use the monitor’s feature to decrease brightness.
For those sensitive to flicker that might not be such a good idea, because many/most monitors use pulse width modulation (PWM) – i.e. make flicker of the screen more noticeable – to reduce its brightness. (Those people should rather try the dimming function in Iris or f.lux apps).
Thanks also for reminding me that I should comment on this in this and the previous post on this topic.
However, eye sensitivity to computer screen brightness is different from person to person. It also changes (often increases) as we age. Many people use computer screens at full brightness and never complain of eye strain. Some, like you, lower the brightness of their monitor through manufacturer’s settings and that works.
In fact, many GLARminŸ readers probably went through these two phases.
But for some of us there comes a point when the minimum monitor’s brightness setting is just not dim enough, due to increased computer light sensitivity of our eyes. The above article (and this site for that matter) principally addresses these people.
Thanks again and best!
Customization in Windows 10 still has a long way to go. It’s indeed a step back compared to Windows 7.
Finally my Problem is Solved Now of ! Thanks Alot
Glad to read that 🙂
Finally my Windows 10 Problem is Solved Thanks alot
The only problem with high contrast mode is that there were changes made in the look of the screen. So for example my selfmade music map,(not the standard map) stays on the right side (the details window) white and i cannot chage the width of that part.
The taskbar icons also becomes different. The lint on the top stays white. That kind of things i can’t get under control.
Sorry for maybe bad English.
AadK: thanks for the comment. You are right. High contrast themes are not a perfect fix. Even after one has tweaked them to the extent possible. Those of us who have issues with default screen colors (black on white) often have to settle for the least bad solution – far from being optimal :(.
Hi there, this is really great, it helps me a lot. I am very sensitive to UV rays and blue light so changing the background is a must for me.
I’ve come across a problem I don’t know how to fix though. In Windows 7 I could use the high contrast themes, change them to what colors I like and still be able to open e.g. excel and see different highlighted cells in an already saved spreadsheet (whether they were highlighted in yellow, green, red or blue didn’t matter). With Windows 10 that doesn’t seem to work, everything is just coming up in the background color that I chose in the theme. Have I missed a step somewhere? I need to use spreadsheets all day long and can’t stare at a white screen but also need to use the fill in option in excel a lot. It would be great if you could help with this.
AJ, hi and thanks for your comment!
I have the same problem with excel (and I am back to Windows 7 – I’d be curious to know how you managed to see higlighted cells in Win7? – I don’t :(. I don’t depend on this feature too much, so I haven’t looked for a solution.
One way arround that problem is to use the invert mode with a good blue light filter app. You should still be able to customize your appearance (I can with Iris in Windows 7). ust be careful with printing (you won’t get the same colors as the ones you see on your screen – you’d have to revert to a normal, non-high-contrast theme, to see exactly what will come out on your printer).
If you decide to go for it, please, let us know how it’ll have gone. Just write a comment below – it will help everyone else with this problem – I am sure you are not alone with this problem.
I checked a bit: this and this pages from Microsoft imply that high contrast themes just don’t work with cell colors – you can select any color you want, but it will never show on the screen :(. Other hits I’ve checked also failed to solve the problem.
So it may be that the suggestion with a blue light filter app is the only solution to this issue? If you manage to find another solution, do let everyone know!
THANK YOU SO MUCH for this extraordinary help you gifted to us!!! Before I read your article, I made a total mess by trying to change colors and it now my Windows looks tasteless, so I was happy to see this paragraph:
“IMPORTANT: If at any time you want to return to your initial (default) theme, just click on it (in the Personalization window) and the colors will immediately change back to the initial ones.”
But I didn’t see the “Default” link. Is it because your instructions are only for Win 7? If you happen to know where I could find the “Default” button in Win 10, please let me know? I can’t live with this color mess I made…..Thanks again ever so much! 😦
Adela, thanks for your kind words and your question.
There is no special “default” link (as far as I know).
To restore the default settings find the Windows theme you want (in the Personalization window) and click on it.
Your personalization window should look something like this (there might be other themes – the ones you’ve created in it):
The themes you see above are the “default” Windows themes. The ones in the first row have white background, the ones in the second row (within the red mark) are High Contrast Themes: the first three use black background, the last one – white.
I hope that helps your restore your initial settings for a fresh start with personalizing your Windows 10 colors. 🙂 Best!
Finally with your help I now have the colors I had before. Thank you so much again!!! :o)
This is really great and helps me a lot – thank you so much for you contribution to improving my computer experience 😉
Awesome. Thank you. Whit backgrounds on my on-screen documents have given me trouble for ages and a simple “Control Color” solved the problem.
I’m happy this article was helpful! 🙂
Thank you!! This is SO helpful. Question, is there a way to see different font colors in outlook, microsoft etc? Only asking bc when i did this (and loved it) I had to switch back because people were responding to emails in different colors and I couldn’t tell.
SY, I’m glad you find the article helpful 🙂
I don’t have any experience with MS Outlook and how it responds to theme color changes. Also, I am not using Windows 10 anymore, so I can’t check.
But if it is like with other MS programs (I extensively use Word, Excel, IE), in principle the theme color changes apply only to what one see on your screen. The documents are in principle still black on white background (unless you make any color changes to the document itself – see on this next paragraph). When such documents are shared/sent with/to other people, they see the colors as defined by their Theme (mostly black text and white background – i.e. one of Windows Default themes).
However, when you are not in one of Windows 10 Default Themes (black on white) and you start changing colors in the documents themselves (not through Personalization and Theme Settings, it becomes trickier. I do recommend that before sharing/sending such documents, you first check them in a Windows Default Theme, to make sure the colors are as you want them to be. (Switching back and forth between themes is just a matter of a few clicks).
Does that help?
I just stumbled across this after the Windows 10 Anniversary pack installed and the process doesn’t seem to work. Maybe I’m just doing it wrong? I have sever light sensitivity, so reading the procedure was difficult.
So far, the only option that seems to work for me is using the Windows Magnifier and inverting the colors. It’s ugly, though, and there’s no easy on/off toggle for it. Any suggestions?
Also, have you found a decently visible cursor that isn’t a huge, red, ugly arrow? I haven’t 😛
Mark, I spent less than 30 days with Windows 10. I noticed terrible deterioration in my visual comfort just a few days after installing it, so I went back to Windows 7.
So unfortunately I cam not able to offer you any suggestions for your problems :(.
Great tip! I was previously using another dark theme method (http://eversins.deviantart.com/art/Dark-Grey-Windows-10-theme-High-Contrast-OLD-582035597) but I quite like how simple and functional your method is. I had noticed that the standard themes give much less color customization in Win 10 than previous versions of Windows, but hadn’t noticed that switching to High Contrast brings some of that customization back. I now have a very decent and pleasant fully dark theme by following your tutorial here. Thanks for this!
Sam, I am glad you’ve found the tutorial helpful!
Thanks very much for your most painstaking article. It will greatly help me to get the right type-colour and background. Why are Microsoft so bad at clear explanations ? Forgotten what it’s like for a layman ? Too lazy ? V iew their customers with contempt ?
Mike, I am glad you’ve found the post helpful. 🙂
omg SOOO much better. Black notepad pages, green text, just like the movies! My eyes are sooo happy now. Thank you!!!!
Sean, I am so happy to hear that! Thanks for your comment! 🙂
Hey thanks for these tips! – I’d REALLY been missing those (actually useful) Color and Appearance controls – who knew it was so easy as literally running “control color”! HAHA!
Unfortunately, Windows 10 1607 (14393.447) uses the color from “Window Background” as the title bar text color on ‘most’ windows (some windows are not affected, like MS Paint and metro UI windows).
Is there any way to manually set the color for this in the registry or otherwise?
cookieboyeli, you are welcome!
I missed the inability to change the title bat text color as one of the deficiencies of Windows 10 (towards the end of the post, section: The effects and limitations of changing color settings in Windows 10).
The only way to set the color of title bar text that I can think of is to follow the same procedure recommended in the post for the other limitations, namely to use Windows 7 to create/adjust the theme and than open the theme in Windows 10. In Windows 7 it is very easy to do as you probably know.
If you don’t have access to a Windows 7 computer, I’d be happy to do it for you. All I need is for you to send me the Theme Pack (*.themepack) file of your favorite theme and the color (RGB) you want for the text. (Also consider sending the RGB for the text color of the inactive title bar.
(The same section in the post also explains how to make a Theme Pack file in Windows 7 – I hope it is the same in Windows 10 – I have no way to check right now).
Or you can just tell me the color you want for the text and I’ll send you the corresponding Theme Pack file. Than you can adjust the rest of the colors.
Sorry if this solution is disapointing – I know it is not an elegant one 😦
Man! That is very educative. Thank you for your post.
Jean, I am glad you liked it. 🙂
You are welcome!!!! 🙂