Bored of using “Calibri, 11pt” for every mail you send in Outlook? Default bright, white email background making your eyes hurt? Fear not, you can change the default email theme to be whatever you want, and here’s how.

Change the Theme for a Single Message

If you want to change the theme for a single message you’re creating, go to Home > New Items > E-mail Message Using > More Stationery.

This will open up the “Theme or Stationery” window, where you can pick whatever theme you want.

Select the theme from the left menu to see a preview in the right-hand panel, and when you’ve found one you like, click “OK” to apply it to your message.

Change the Theme for All Messages

To change the default theme for all messages you send, go to File > Options > Mail (or File > Options > Ease of Access) and click the “Stationery and Fonts” button.

This will open the “Signatures and Stationery” window, where you can choose a default theme for new emails, as well as make changes to the theme for replies and forwards.

Click the “Theme” button to open the “Theme or Stationery” window again.


There are three options at the bottom to choose from, of which the bottom two will normally be turned on by default.

These options are:

  • Vivid Colors: Changes the font colors to ones which stand out a bit more for better contrast.
  • Active Graphics: Lets you add graphics in-line (that means “in the body of the email”) instead of adding them as an attachment. Don’t turn this off if you ever insert pictures, have an image in your signature, or use emojis.
  • Background Image: A lot of themes have a background image that is used in the body of the mail. If you just want the font changes and not the image, turn this off.

Select the theme you want and click “OK” to apply it to all new email messages you create from now on. You’ve also got the option to edit the font details for both new emails and replies/forwards, by clicking the relevant “Font” button.

These Font buttons won’t be available if you’ve selected the “Use Theme’s Font” option, so change that first if you want to edit the font.

You’ve also got the option of telling Outlook to “Pick a new color when replying or forwarding.” The colors Outlook chooses are not editable, but it can help the readability of a long email thread, if you don’t mind your recipient getting multi-colored replies from you.

These theme changes only affect HTML messages, which are the default types of messages in Outlook. If you’re the kind of person who prefers to send or read plain text messages, you can’t add a theme but you can change the default font type and size.

When you’ve made whatever changes you want, click “OK,” and you’re finished.

Create Your Own Theme

If you want to create your own theme, you can. Open a new message and customize the fonts, bullet points, background color, and anything else you want. Click File > Save As, and in the location paste the following location:

%appdata%\microsoft\stationery

Change the “Save as type” dropdown to HTML.

Click “Save.” Your new theme will now be available for you to select, either for individual messages or as the default. If you want other people to use this theme, such as members of your team, then share the file with them and get them to save it in the “%appdata%\microsoft\stationery” location.

Rob Woodgate Rob Woodgate
Rob Woodgate is a writer and IT consultant with nearly 20 years of experience across the private and public sectors. He's also worked as a trainer, technical support person, delivery manager, system administrator, and in other roles that involve getting people and technology to work together.
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