How to Customize Your Command Prompt’s Color Scheme With Microsoft’s ColorTool

Microsoft created a new console color scheme for Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update, but existing Windows systems won’t get it automatically. A new, official tool allows you to install this new color scheme and other ones for easy customization of your Command Prompt windows.

You can personalize the Command Prompt through its Properties window, but the below tool will quickly install good-looking color schemes, saving you the trouble of color-coordinating the Command Prompt yourself.

Get the Windows Console ColorTool

This is an open-source tool hosted on Microsoft’s GitHub repository. You can download it from the project’s releases page.

Once you’ve downloaded it, extract the contents of the .zip file to a directory on your computer. Both the colortool.exe and schemes folder should be in the same directory.

This tool works on all versions of Windows 10—not just the Fall Creators Update. It also works on Windows 7, but you’ll need to install Microsoft’s .NET Framework 4 package before running it.


How to Change a Window’s Color Scheme

First, you’ll want to change to the directory containing the colortool command you just downloaded. Run the cd command followed by the path to the directory. If the path has spaces in it, you’ll need to enclose it in quotation marks.

cd C:\Users\Name\Directory

(For easier use, you may want to place the colortool.exe file and schemes folder in a directory in your PATH. You’d then be able to run the colortool command from the prompt without changing to its directory first.)

To change the current window’s color scheme, run the following command:

colortool name_of_scheme

Replace “name_of_scheme” with the name of a scheme file found in the schemes folder. For example, the new default color scheme is named “campbell” and the old scheme is named “cmd-legacy”. So, to install the new color scheme, you’d run:

colortool campbell

After you run the command, you’ll need to right-click the Command Prompt’s title bar and select “Properties”.

When the Properties window opens, immediately click “OK” to save the color change. You don’t actually need to change any settings in the Properties window.

Yes, this is a little weird—but this is the way the Command Prompt works, so the colortool command can’t immediately change your color scheme without you opening the Properties window and saving the changes.

The included solarized_dark and solarized_light also look quite nice, while the deuteranopia color scheme is intended for to make red and green look more clear to users with deuteranopia (red-green color blindness). Feel free to experiment with them!

How to Change the Default Color Scheme

The above command will change the color scheme only for the current window. You’ll need a different command option to change the default color scheme the Command Prompt opens with.

To change the Command Prompt’s default color scheme, run the following command:

colortool -d name_of_scheme

To change both the default color scheme and the current window’s color scheme, run the following command:

colortool -b name_of_scheme

You will also need to open the Properties window and click “OK” after running these commands.

How to Get More Color Schemes

You aren’t limited to just the handful of color schemes that come with this tool. You can download any color scheme in .itermcolors format, place it in the schemes directory, and then enable it by typing colortool followed by its name.

Mike Griese, Microsoft employee and colortool developer, recommends using the iTerm2 Color Schemes repository to find and download new color schemes. Scroll down on the repository’s main page and you’ll see a long list of color scheme names and screenshots.

Once you find one you like, click the “schemes” directory on the repository’s GitHub page and locate the .itermcolors file with that name. Click the file to view it.

Click the “Raw” button on the page to view the raw .itermcolors file.

Right-click the page and select “Save As” to save the .itermcolors file.

Save it to your schemes directory and ensure it has the .itermcolors file extension. Your web browser may give it a .txt file extension by default.

You can then enable it for the current window, set it as your default, or make both changes by running the appropriate colortool command:

colortool name_of_scheme

colortool -d name_of_scheme

colortool -b name_of_scheme

As always, you will need to open the Properties window and click “OK” for your change to take effect.

After the Fall Creators Update is released, new Windows 10 installations will use the “campbell” color scheme by default. Existing Windows installations will continue to use the legacy color scheme to minimize surprise changes, so the tool is the only way to get the new one—aside from reinstalling Windows.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.