VIM: Setting a colorscheme

Every good text editor deserves to have a customizable color scheme. For vim, colorschemes are installed as any other plugin. Most colorschemes can be downloaded as a .vim file. If you are not using a plugin manager, you need to copy the .vim file to an autoload folder inside a .vim folder in your home directory.

However, if you are using a plugin manager, (as you should), then depending on the plugin manager, the colorscheme may be installed like a plugin. Personally, I suggest you install a colorscheme-pack. Since it makes it trivially easy to switch to any colorscheme (it has almost all colorschemes you can think of, and you can create a pull request for missing ones).


1. Vim-Plug

Plug 'flazz/vim-colorschemes'

2. Vundle

Plugin 'flazz/vim-colorschemes'

3. NeoBundle

NeoBundle 'flazz/vim-colorschemes'

4. Pathogen

#Execute this in terminal:
cd ~/.vim/bundle
git clone

Once the colorscheme pack is installed, you can go ahead and try out the colorschemes for yourself.


Suppose you want to try out jellybeans colorscheme (my favorite, BTW). Open up vim, and while in normal mode, type:

:colors jellybeans

Cool, right?

You can also try some other famous colorschemes:

  1. Solarized - Both dark and light background variants are widely popular.
  2. CodeSchool
  3. RailsCasts
  4. Vividchalk - High contrast colorscheme
  5. Lucius - One of the few good light color schemes
  6. Tomorrow Night
  7. Mustang


  • Vim colorschemes can be tricky. Most colorschemes should work without any problems on gvim, however, if you like to do all your work on terminal, then you might not have the luxury of 16 million colors. Most new terminals support atleast 256 colors.

  • If you are unsure, there is a script called which can be used to find out if your terminal supports all 256 colors. If it does, and vim still isn't showing proper colors, try :set t_Co=256 to force vim to use 256 colors. Alternatively you can try setting the terminal name manually by typing TERM=xterm-256color in a terminal and then running vim.

  • Some themes however, would never appear well (or at all) on 256 color terminals. That's because they don't support them. To still use those themes, you can use plugin csapprox which would make map the colors to a 256 color pallete as best as it can. For inquisitive minds, searching for truecolor terminals might also be a good workout.

  • If you can't find a colorscheme in the pack, that's probably because the names are case sensitive for example, the correct names for the above are:

    • jellybeans
    • solarized
    • codeschool
    • railscasts
    • vividchalk
    • lucius
    • Tomorrow-Night
    • mustang

As always, use tab completion in vim to make searching for colorschemes easier.

Pallav Agarwal Image
My name is Pallav Agarwal. I am a recent graduate of the department of Computer Science and Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, India. I love experimenting with tech, and this blog is a way for me to give a little helping hand to other's who are like me (but don't know it yet).

I am ambitious, intelligent, competitve (sometimes too much), loyal and brutally honest. People I respect the most are teachers, which is partially why I myself like to teach too. Apart from programming, I also like travelling, adventure sports and trying new food items. If you like a post, have a query, or just want to chit-chat, let me know here