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Changing background colors in Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013


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 and 2013:

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.):

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

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

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44 Responses to “Changing background colors in Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013”

  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,

  2. avatar Paweł Krzemiński

    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!

  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 and it gave me the option of changing the background! Problem solved.

    Thank you!

  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. avatar Paweł Krzemiński

    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:

  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. avatar Paweł Krzemiński

    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?


  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. Absolutely disappointing color scheme!!!!!

  18. Oh my eyes!!! My eyes!!!! >;-(

  19. Wow, color choices of white, light grey, or dark grey… how depressing! Please give us more choices!







  21. 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.)

  22. MS are you trying to become bland and painful to use?

    You have the best people so fix this issue.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. Way to sterile…no color? Seriously?

  26. my outlook is 2007,and only 3 colours available,if any possible to change the theame colours….

  27. 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)

  28. 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?

  29. avatar Paweł Krzemiński

    Hi Andrea, What is your Office Theme setting in Outlook?

  30. 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

  31. how do I change the color of appointment reminders so they aren’t white?

  32. 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.

  33. 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,


  34. 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!

  35. 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.

  36. Ugliest screen I have ever seen! Color..we need color!

  37. 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. .

  38. 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!

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

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    […] Changing background colors in Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013 … – This article explains how to change the background colors in Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013 […]

  42. Microsoft please fire your program designers…they are pathetic.

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

  44. avatar Microsoft Outlook 2010 Change Background Color |

    […] Changing background colors in Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013 … – 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. […]

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