How to change background color in Outlook 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010 and 2007

[Updated on January 4, 2022]: Some versions of Outlook allow you to turn on dark mode – which changes not only background colors of your Outlook, but also the body of emails. Learn more about dark mode in Outlook

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 2019 (including Outlook for Microsoft 365), 2016, 2013, 2010, and 2007.

Change Office theme in Outlook

Outlook 2019 / Outlook 365

  1. Go to File > Options to access the Outlook Options window.
  2. On the first tab (General), under the Personalize your copy of Microsoft Office section, you can access the Office Background and Office Theme drop-down menus.

In addition to Colorful, Dark Gray, and White Office themes, the long-gone Black one has been added back. This is good news for those who want to go easy on their eyes.

  1. You can also customize your Office background pattern.

Outlook 2019 background pattern settings

The setting selected from the Office Background drop-down menu will be applied to the top portion of Outlook’s and other Office apps’ windows, as shown below:

Outlook 2019 background pattern

  1. Save the changes by clicking OK.

Outlook 2016

1. Go to File > Options to display Outlook’s options.
2. On the General tab, from the Office Theme drop-down menu, select Colorful, Dark Gray, or White.

Outlook 2016 theme options

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

Similar to Outlook 2019/365, you can also configure the Office Background option.

3. Save the changes by clicking OK.

Outlook 2013

1. Go to File > Options to display Outlook’s options.
2. On the General tab, from the Office Theme drop-down menu, select the theme you wish to use: White, Light Gray, or Dark Gray.

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

Additionally, just like in Outlook 2019/365 and 2016, you can customize your Office background pattern.

3. Save the changes by clicking the OK button.

Outlook 2010

1. Go to File > Options.
2. On the General tab, select the color scheme you wish to use: Blue, Silver or Black.

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

3. Apply your change by clicking the OK button.

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, choose one of the three colors: Blue, Silver, or Black.

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

4. Apply the change by clicking the OK button.

Software tip

Share Outlook emails, contacts, calendars and more, in your office or over the Internet

97 thoughts on “How to change background color in Outlook 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010 and 2007

  1. In my Outlook 2016 Plus, I can’t change by default blue-coloured numbers in brackets (e.g., unread emails etc.) or selection highlights which are in blue as well! Any idea how to change that particular colour?
    Thank you

    • I’m afraid that Outlook 2016 has very limited personalization options, so you won’t be able to change those colors.

  2. My old system had Office 2007. My new one came with Office 2019 installed. In Outlook 2007, the alternating months in month view could display different background colors. It helped to distinguish the current calendar at a glance. I cannot find where to do this in 2019. Is it possible?

  3. Microsoft is all about making YOU do what THEY want you to. So why would anybody want or expect them to provide choice?

    This color thing is just another example of that philosophy. “We know what you should want, so we are going to cram it down your throats. And in the meantime, we will brainwash you into thinking it is OK”.

    It would be so easy for them to add a choice feature (after all, the code specifies the color…all they need to do is set that color in a variable). But dong so would violate their policy of control, and negate the program of brainwashing.

    (OK, not really, but Microsoft seriously does have some very lazy programmers who don’t care at all about end-user preferences)

  4. Please, Microsoft, allow the end user the option of determining background colors for their Microsoft applications. As a case in point, allow us the option in Outlook, Office 365 to change the awful white background which is hard on the eyes; the other options such as colorful, black and grey are terrible for me. It should be relatively easy for you to develop this end-user option., rather than being highly restrictive. This should apply to all Microsoft applications so that the end user can decide on their own color schemes for the backgrounds, text, and screen elements which are pleasing and easy on the eyes. I work 10-12 hours a day on my computer. I need to develop a color scheme which will save my eyesight. There must be many out there who would agree with me. Your favorable response to my plea would be highly appreciated.

  5. As someone who has Irlen Syndrome/Scotopic Sensitivity/ Light Sensitivity – whatever you want to call it, I can thoroughly recommend ColorVeil to those wishing to tone down the white on the background of incoming emails. The software is free, can be set to any colour you like, and any opacity, and sits in front of your onscreen documents so that it dims the brightness of the white areas. It can be toggled on/off with a simple double keypress, for when you want to see the true colour of whatever is in front of you.

    I really do wish that Microsoft would remember that each of us is likely to have different needs and preferences!

  6. I really HATE the change in 2019 color choices. Where is the choice? I do not have time for this. WHO is making these choices. THIS IS AWFULE! Please when you change things give everyone a choice to keep or change not just change. Thank you!

  7. this just changes the theme on ms office 2010, it only changes the headings and tabs, it does not change the body of outlook from white to black, this is not dark mode. this is just the stupid theme setting. not any help at all.

    • This article shows the option available before the dark mode was introduced. The article about the dark mode can be found here.

  8. WHy why why Microsoft is unable to put back the “theme” in Display that we used to change in old Microsoft ?
    Why do we have to be stuck with white/black/grey/ blue rim

    Is there anyone who cares about our complains?

    I am fedup. Next purchase will be Apple.

  9. I have a peculiar bug that randomly adds the Stars background to Outlook. I’d like to delete all of the background images. Does anyone know where to do that? Thanks

    • I’m afraid you cannot remove all those images. You can; however, use the Registry Editor to disable the background images. That is, if you are comfortable with using regedit, you back up the registry before applying any changes and are aware that modyfying the registry might end up with unexpected problems. Disclaimer aside, the procedure to disable the images looks this way:

      1. Open Regedit and go to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\(the current Office version)\Common\General
      2. Look for DWORD “DisableBackgrounds” or create it and change its value to 1
      3. save the registry & restart your computer

      Mind that if the background images change randomly, there might be an automated script or GPO which makes those changes. It might be enough to turn it off.

    • Hi Cynthia
      You can change both the font and the background (page) color of your email. The problem is that it will work only on the emails you create – incoming emails look the way they are designed by the sender.

  10. It appears that the step backward is an attempt to have one operating system and set of applications that run on both tablets and computers. My guess is that since many tablets are limited in the amount of memory they have, Microsoft has opted to ditch 3D modeling of buttons and ribbons and real color options. It is a pain, and is a lot of work for the brain to separate out what it is seeing. I have to pay close attention to everything I do, which is exhausting after a day of working in MS tools. With the old 3D rendering and color schemes, my eyes relaxed, and I could better intuitively go to whatever I was looking for. We can only hope that these kinds of changes might set MS up for some much needed competition.

  11. Is ANYONE at Microsoft paying attention to any of these comments? Apparently, the general consensus is the color options are not only poor, but detrimental to the user’s eyes and work abilities. More options should be made available AT THE USER’S DISCRETION.

    • I don’t like any of them either. The blue is ridiculously distracting, the gray makes it dark and hard to read, and the white blinds you. Why can’t they just leave stuff alone if it was fine before?

    • Seriously it really makes it hard to work on Emails with these colors they should at least consider adding color options to personalize every little detail because the blue is just not working :(

    • I am VERY disappointed with Office 2016 because we cannot change the BRIGHT WHITE PAGE background color. I am not referring to theme color; rather, the work area that we do our reading. The eye strain makes it painfully difficult to work in Excel, Word and Outlook all day. Office 2010 and prior versions allowed us to change the default page background to a soft yellow and it was easy on the eyes.
      Microsoft, are you listening? Please make this change ASAP. Thanks.

  12. I get Blinding Migranes with White backgrounds, Every Windows update forces more software to use a white background. Windows XP to Windows 7 changed explorer to a point where i have to turn the monitor colours down to change the white to cream to be able to work but then you cant see other software.
    Outlook made the view background of emails white with no local override. Up till about a month ago i had a 3rd party dyslexia filter that gave me a coloured background to all emails without me having to change the emails page colour which would affect anyone else who has to read the emails.
    Now i’m back to tuning the monitor and wearing dark sunglasses to read emails, but then i have to swop back to continue using sublime or visual studio because i have the colour settings dark so i can work longer.

    Lets have the world all stuck using the same colours, doesn’t matter if people brains process colours differently.
    I refuse to upgrade to win 10 and now i’ve switched off the windows updates because every time i get the system patched to be useful windows update and kill all the patches making me unproductive for days till i fix it. Hacking the registry works for a while till they update and fix it but it seems to change the fields in the registry that make a difference. It does seem like a deliberate effort to force a world full of clones.

    The problem is i’ve tried open office and cant get that to change colour either. So the world is stuck with microsofts choices.

    • I have same problems since I got an update (Win10, Office 2016). The instant thing I would do is wearing dark sunglasses… I don’t mind if they think I am loonatic. I don’t want to be either blind or sufferer of migrene… :(

  13. Our office outlook has been upgraded to outlook 2013. Boom… Who came out with these 3 pathetic colour schemes. I spent 70% of my working hours reading emails and the bright colour is giving me headache and also hurting my eyes, in addition, I have to check my emails twice to ensure that I have not missed anything everyday. Whoever developed this should be FIRE

  14. 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.


  15. 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!

  16. 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 ?

  17. 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


  18. 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.

  19. 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.


  20. 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!

  21. 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.


  22. 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”

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

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

  29. 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.

  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. 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!

  32. 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. .

  33. 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.

  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. 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,


  36. 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.

  37. 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

  38. 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?

  39. 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)

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. 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.)







  44. 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.

  45. 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.

  46. 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?

  47. 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?


    • 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.

  48. 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?

  49. 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.

  50. 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.

    • 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.

  51. 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:

  52. 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 !!

  53. In outlook 2013

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

    u wud get ur answer

  54. 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!

  55. 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?

  56. 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,

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