Changing background colors in Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016

Starting from Microsoft Outlook 2007, you can change Outlook’s appearance. Apart from the default font for messages, calendar etc. you can change the background color. Here is how to do it in Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016:

Outlook 2007

1. Go to: Tools, Options.
2. Select the Mail Format tab, and then click the Editor Options button.
3. From the Color scheme drop down menu, you can choose one of three colors: blue, silver, back (Fig. 1.).

Choosing preferred color scheme from the drop down menu in Outlook 2007
Fig. 1. Choosing preferred color scheme from the drop down menu in Outlook 2007.

4. Save your new setting by clicking the OK button.

Outlook 2010

1. Go to the Backstage view: File, Options.
2. In the General tab, you can select the color you wish to have: blue, silver black (Fig. 2.).

Choosing preferred color scheme from the drop down menu in Outlook 2010
Fig. 2. Choosing preferred color scheme from the drop down menu in Outlook 2010.

3. Save your new setting by clicking the OK button.

Outlook 2013

1. Go to the Backstage view: File, Options.
2. In the General tab, from the Office Theme dropdown menu you can select the color you wish to have: White, Light Gray, Dark Grey (Fig. 3.).

Choosing preferred color scheme from the drop down menu in Outlook 2013
Fig. 3. Choosing preferred color scheme from the drop down menu in Outlook 2013.

Additionally, you can customize your Office background theme (Fig. 4.):

Choosing preferred Office background theme from the drop down menu in Outlook 2013
Fig. 4. Choosing preferred Office background theme from the drop down menu in Outlook 2013.

The Office background setting will display the selected pattern in Outlook top window bars (Fig. 5.):

Background-geometry
Fig. 5. Geometry Office background in an Outlook new message window.

3. Save your new setting by clicking the OK button.

Outlook 2016

1. Go to the Backstage view (File, Options).
2. In the General tab, from the Office Theme dropdown menu select: Colorful, Dark Gray, or White (Fig. 6.).

Outlook 2016 theme options
Fig. 6. Theme options in Outlook 2016

Additionally, like in Outlook 2013, you can select a background pattern that will be displayed on all Office 2016 background panes.

NOTE: The Colorful option sets the Outlook background theme to blue. There is no way of picking a different color.

3. Save the new setting by clicking OK.

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67 thoughts on “Changing background colors in Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016


  1. Hello,

    it is very weird, but in my copy of MS Outlook 2013 z don’t have an option for changing Office background. On your Fig. 3 & 4 you show 2 dropdowns for Office Background and Office Theme. I have the Office Theme, but no background…
    Any idea why?

    Thank you,
    Anna

  2. Hi Anna,

    Very strange. What Outlook 2013 version are you using (you can check via File, Office Account, About Outlook) and can you post a screenshot of your Outlook Options, General window somewhere online – maybe I will be able to figure out what the issue is. Also, what about when in Outlook you click File, Office Account? Do you see both dropdowns?

  3. Hello Pawel,

    thank you for the quick response.
    The version is
    Microsoft Outlook 2013(15.0.4517.1003) MSO(15.0.4517.1005) 32-bit
    Part of Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2013

    When I click File, Office Account, I see Office Theme drop-down and option to Sign in to Office. And Product Information on the right.

    I am not sure how to post the screenshot here…

    Could it be because I am not signed in? I don’t have an account with the cloud yet.

    Thank you for your help!
    Fondly,
    Anna

  4. In outlook 2013

    file>options>general>personalize your copy of micorosft office>office background and office theme

    u wud get ur answer

  5. I created an account with outlook.com and it gave me the option of changing the background! Problem solved.

    Thank you!
    Anna

  6. i am really disappointing with outlook 2013, its really killing my eyes, there is no such color which would be convinient to read emails, that was my big mistake to upgrade my ms office from 2010 to 2013.. so sad !!

  7. Hello Sam,

    You can try changing your Office theme to dark gray.

    Keep in mind that this will only affect Outlook window bars, ribbon and Navigation pane (the one on the left with all your folders) and not the background color in the Reading pane and message editor. To change those you would have to change your whole Windows theme. In Windows 8 the setting is located in Control Panel\Appearance and Personalization\Personalization. This MS article has more: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-vista/change-desktop-theme

  8. I must protest the colour schemes offered to us in this crod on a plate called Outlook 2013. Your colour schemes and layout was much better in Outlook 2010 and the only reason I’m upgrading is I transferred to Windows Live Domains and want AS.

    PLEASE add blue and whatever other colours into the colour schemes, I’m using dark grey as it is the best of the three pathetic options given but it hurts my eyes badly at times with so much light colouring staring me down.

  9. Glen, thank you for the comment.

    However, CodeTwo does not have influence over Outlook’s layout. We only develop add-ins and enhancements for Outlook, and offer occasional tips related to the program.

    You have to contact Microsoft with your request.

  10. In both Office 2010 and Office 2013, the color scheme reacts to High Contrast theme colors. I’m blue/black color blind, so I wrote to the MS Accessibility desk. They told me to try High Contrast. Once I did, there were suddenly colors in all of the MS Office products. There are some drawbacks. In Office, the day headings on a work week calendar use a black font with whatever your background color is. If the background is too dark, the date headings are not visible. So I had to switch to red from black background. Also, the folder expansion arrows disappear if you use High Contrast. The still work, but you can’t see them. Additionally, viewing word documents with High Contrast does not show you what everyone else is seeing. It makes “helpful” adjustments, like changing blue font on a white background to black on a white background. Luckily there is a quick key toggle switch to change from High Contrast to another theme, in my case Windows Classic in my no blue/black colors. At that point, the document is visible as the author intended, but the Word application ribbon is a little hard for me to read. So I flip back and forth. You set up the toggle key combination in Ease of Access>Make the computer easier to see. Bottom line is that with a little extra effort you can escape Microsoft’s Office Color schemes for something easier on the eyes.

  11. I finally upgraded my 10 year old computer, and did the same with Office by buying Office 2013.

    That so far seems to have been a mistake.

    I don’t see why they’ve removed the choice of colors from the options. White, grey, or dark grey are not to everyone’s taste, and I find them all to be not only bland, but difficult follow. It’s like looking at Windows 2.

    Microsoft seem to be turning into Apple. It’s sort of a ‘we know better than you, and don’t care what you want’ type of situation.

    Hindsight is great, but the money is gone now.
    I didn’t think that Office would take a huge step backwards.

    Couldn’t they have added those color options, and still left the buyer the choice of others?

  12. Hello

    Thanks for posting, however I would like to change the background colour of the actual window where your list of emails are listed (e.g. where you double click on one to open) not the menus area. I would also like to change the viewing/editing pane window when you are reading or composing and email.

    Can this be done please?

    Thanks
    Ernie

  13. Hi Ernie,

    Unfortunately these colors are hard-coded into Outlook.
    I believe however that feedback Microsoft receives about the missing UI customization feature (especially in all-white Outlook 2013) is so big that the Redmond company will treat us with it in the near future.

  14. Soooo disappointed with Outlook 2013!! I need glasses to look at my screen as it’s waaaaay too bright! Is there no way to change the background to blue or grey or something?

  15. What absolute trash, Outlook 2013 is the most hard to look at think i have seen on a computer since friggin PONG.
    If i had known i would never have upgraded from 2010. We should be burying Microsoft in complaints.

  16. This has been a helpful thread. I do agree that the MS Outlook color scheme is a problem. The contrast is too low – it’s difficult to read even with the dark gray theme.

  17. OLD IS ALWAYS GOLD

    REMEMBER IT ALL THE TIME NO MATTER WHAT

    WHY BILL GATES AND TEAM DONT UNDERSTAND THAT DIFF. PPL HAVE DIFF TASTE

    EVEN I HATE WINDOWS 8.1 TOO

    WE ARE USED TO START MENU WITH LAST 15 YEARS ANS THEY WANT TO CHANGE IT
    THAT’S FINE
    BUT WHY TO MAKE IT TO THE USER CHOICE

    THAT’S ALL

  18. The color scheme and options available on 2010\2013 are very difficult for people with low vision or for people having problems with discerning color differences. There are more of us than you realize. Plus the brightness feels similar to migraine symptoms for sensitive people. Light blue or gray on white is nearly impossible for me to distinguish. I work all day on the computer. Please bring in bold color upgrades for the entire Outlook and Word formats. (Including frames; toolbars; ribbons, etc.)

  19. this version of MS Office is ultra disappointing. If you can’t allow us the option of having black or a truly dark grey then how can I trust that anything is really stable. why do you consistently think that doing this sort of stuff will make the consumer happy after all we are what drives your paychecks. If you can’t put out a more user friendly software with options we want then you can be that in the future i won’t be using windows. too many other good options out there for emailing and word processing.

  20. Just got upgraded to Office 2013 today. I do like the lighter colors, BUT, NOT to work in. If I was glancing at a brief website article with these colors, it would be ok. But that is not the case. I am using Outlook all day for work, and I am looking at the screen for long periods of time. And yes, it does hurt my eyes after a period of required squinting. I wish there was an easy way to change the entire color scheme for those of use with more sensitive eyes.

  21. I’ve just been forced to upgrade from OFFICE 2003 to 2010.
    Although I suppose over time I will get used to the reduced productivity engendered by the ribbon although I don’t see why I have to pay for a new product that doesn’t work as well as the previous version.
    I really can’t get used to the eyestrain caused by the new colours. It is much harder to scan my OUTLOOK for emails and speed reading has gone out of the windows.
    Adding new colour schemes is great for kids with nothing better to do, but surely it makes sense for MS to leave the original colour schemes in place for people who prefer them.
    At home I’ve already uninstalled OFFICE 2010 and reverted to 2003, but at work I don’t have the option. (YET)

  22. I’m having trouble with colors in Outlook 2013. The calendar months on the side (next to mail) are black background with dark grey print. Does anyone know how to change the print so that I can actually see the words?

  23. MS has really dropped the ball – something’s wrong over there.
    Vista – disaster
    Windows 8 and 8.1 – disaster
    insisting on using a Microsoft account to log into 8 – horrible
    Outlook 2013 color and them choices – CHILDISH AT BEST!
    boo to MS

  24. Hi
    I updated my outlook to 2013
    i have a problem as i cant color my calendar background!!
    i tried some of the previous answer but it still not work
    any idea pleassse.

  25. Hey there,
    we just upgraded all our software in our company over the weekend and immediately Monday morning every came saying how horrible the color scheme was… or “turn this dang white off”

    we are a state of the art 3D mechanical engineering company, so everyone from the sale, engineers, even our shop guys all have 3D programs and flow everything through our computers. hints the reason we are on our computers for up to 16 hours a day… these bright colors makes our eyes strain and we really are thinking of getting rid of this Outlook…

    im glad to see we aren’t the only ones with this problem,

    pwa

  26. Good heavens! If you want to mess up something that is working fine, give it to Microsoft. They will definitely mess it up big time. Not sure who they hire for this kind of work and if anyone even gets fired for this stupidity but the color scheme is ridiculous in Outlook. Office was one thing that actually worked and now they have gone ahead and totally messed it up.

    Thank heavens I don’t use any other Microsoft products and this one was free!

  27. I was forced to upgrade from 2010 to 2013 and I suffer from NDPH (New Daily Persistant Headaches – type Migraine). Although I still come to work everyday, I will not be able to look at this without getting sick
    I need to be able to customize my screen in order to keep working.

    What is the issue, why would MS take away something so needed by so many?
    If you do not give us this options I will have no choice but to quit working as they will not give me back 2010 and I cannot customize this screen.

  28. I also find it difficult to read outlook 2013. Way too bright white color.
    Why can’t you develop update with option to change background to soft colors that’s easy on your eyes. .

  29. Please, please, please have you not had enough complaints about the glaring, headache inducing white to do something about it? Come on Microsoft. Definitely not your best design. Same can be said for Windows 8! Hate the new Microsoft products. If it ain’t broke why change it?! My eye balls are cursing you!

  30. The new Microsoft 2013 outlook calendar sucks. The color scheme is horrible and apparently from above comments there is no way to change it. When scheduling appointments the crosshatched time lines in the background are so faint you can’t readily see them causing mis-scheduling errors frequently. Boo on Microsoft. The bright white background is ridiculous. Time to find some different software and/or computer entirely. I only had to “upgrade” to this junk because they quit supporting XP.

  31. I think Microsoft have finally found a fool-proof way of preventing copy-right theft? I wouldn’t use this at home if it was free! BTW, does anyone else have a problem with the way that typed text ‘oozes’ on to the screen as you type. It sort of feels ‘laggy’ to me and I have to stop typing to let it catch up with me. It LOOKS clever, but it FEELS awful.

  32. how to change my outlook 2010 theme except blue silver and black . I want more theme , how to download and how to change it.

  33. FWIW, Bill Gates is no longer involved in the design/development of WIndows…and hasn’t been for many years. THAT is why it’s getting worse.

    What we now have at MS, are a bunch of overpaid inept brats who are into the ‘consumer’ interface (tablets, phones, etc) and have no clue (nor care) about the millions of workplace users who actually work or produce content.

    This is evident with the W8 Retro (Metro) fiasco… 8.1 was lipstick on a pig.

    In fact, the manner in which MS punks implemented the ‘Start’ button on 8.1 was a ‘smart-ass’ response from a bunch of UI children who ‘know better’.

    Well guess what MS brats? Your UI (joke) in Win 8/8.1 is an EPIC FAIL.

    Indeed, your punk-asses failed so badly, the company will skip a version.

    The worst part is, compared to just a few years ago, our machines have more memory, are faster, with multiple processor cores… i.e. we should be getting a LOT more object oriented interface customization capability.

    Instead, we have punks who ‘design’ a low-res retro interface (a la Win 1.0).

    Frankly, the layoffs at Microsoft should have started with the ‘Metro’ team.

  34. I had exactly the same problem of faint text in Outlook and it was a nightmare to read.

    This should solve it.

    Go to Control Panel (On Windows 7 and under go to Start and Control Panel should be on the right-hand column – on Windows 8 Click Tools and Control Panel option should appear in list)

    Click on ‘Appearance and Personalisation’

    Click on ‘Display’

    On left column click on ‘Adjust ClearType text’

    Tick ‘Turn on Cleartype’.

    Follow instructions to get the type of text clarity you want.

    This should change the clarity of text in Outlook as well.

    Hope this works for you.

  35. This is totally disappointing. I want the old color schemes back! Will any Outlook upgrades occur? It reminds me of what Apple did to their OS updates. Not happy at all with the new Outlook. Would rather use a web based email with more options. Very, very, very disappointed.

  36. Date: 5/31/2015
    To: All Microsoft employees
    From: Military Painting, Inc.
    Subject: Office painting starts on Monday, all Microsoft buildings

    All Microsoft employees should be aware that office hallways, bathrooms, individual offices, conference rooms, lunch rooms, desktops, and windows will be painted this week. You get your choice of white, light gray or dark gray. Please advise or by default the paint crew will use white. Please bring your sunglasses to work on Monday. That is all.

  37. I know, Doug Phillips – isn’t it exciting. I can’t believe the wide number of color choices we’re being given in Office 2013. I’m having difficulty deciding from the array of riches presented. Ugh. Every new Microsoft update takes at least 2 steps backward.

  38. My biggest complant is that when I’m moving files my archive lights up with light blue on grey…… problem is I can’t see light blue on grey!
    I agree that Microsoft is in Full Reverse with this latest “Down Grade”

  39. Hi,

    I’m a 2013 Ms Outlook user. I’ve tried to change my background(Theme) but it says that: “The end date you entered occurs before the start date.”

    Please help.

    Thanks,
    Boyee

  40. I completely agree with Doug and the rest! Who at Microsoft thought white, gray and dark gray would be a wow factor for it’s users. So basically you’re saying we have our choice of ugly, uglier and ugliest! Nice! Great job to all! Round of applause everyone!

  41. It would be great if the mailboxes could be made into different colours. It is so difficult when I have something like 200 mailboxes to pick the one I want. No such luck and nothing like utterly boring and tedious searching up and down for a particular box when with a bit of colour it would be so obvious which section to be in as I have quite a few nested mailboxes.

    Please do not tell me to remove mailboxes I have a rather complex business and I need access to all of them frequently.

    Cheers
    Anthony

  42. Yes, the grey, grey or even greyer is killing my soul. I spend 10 hours a day at work in my virtual Outlook office longing for some bright, fun, happy colours to take away the drudgery of work. Come on Microsoft, get a bit creative. Life is too short for grey. Completely uninspired and unnecessarily boring.

  43. Dears

    I have big issue with new outlook that I can recognize read and unread mails due to Coloers I received more than 500 mail per day I don’t understand why you change it I try a lot to rollback to ms outlook 2007 but my company policy I can’t

    Regards

  44. the new Outlook email program is a perfect illustration of mindless “change for the sake of change”.

  45. Hi
    In Fig. . is seems possible to choose a background, but i don’t have that option, is that some thing need to activate somewhere else ?

  46. They are not stepping backwards by accident. It is intentional! They are trying to take over the world. The first step is trying to make people accept dull colors by taking away freedom of choice. Accept White, Gray or Black, or else!

  47. Hi,

    I am using outlook 2010. I can see the option to change the color scheme however, when I clicked OK, I got an error message that says “The end date you entered occurs before the start date”. I don’t make any changes on the date, I can’t understand this.

    Please help. Thanks.

    Regards,
    Nobs

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