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  1. Coding color themes for Visual Studio. VS2015 support is here! Select “Visual Studio 2015” when downloading themes.
  2. Coding color themes for Visual Studio. VS2015 support is here! Select “Visual Studio 2015” when downloading themes.

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In this 5-10 minute tutorial, we'll customize the Visual Studio color theme by selecting the dark theme. We'll also customize the colors for two different types of text in the text editor.

If you haven't already installed Visual Studio, go to the Visual Studio downloads page to install it for free.

If you haven't already installed Visual Studio, go to the Visual Studio downloads page to install it for free.

Set the color theme

The default color theme for Visual Studio's user interface is called Blue. Let's change it to Dark.

  1. On the menu bar, which is the row of menus such as File and Edit, choose Tools > Options.

  2. On the Environment > General options page, change the Color theme selection to Dark, and then choose OK.

    The color theme for the entire Visual Studio development environment (IDE) changes to Dark.


You can install additional predefined themes by installing the Visual Studio Color Theme Editor from the Visual Studio Marketplace. After you install this tool, additional color themes appear in the Color theme drop-down list.

Change text color

Now we'll customize some text colors for the editor. First, let's create a new XML file to see the default colors.

  1. From the menu bar, choose File > New > File.

  2. In the New File dialog box, under the General category, choose XML File, and then choose Open.

  3. Paste the following XML below the line that contains <?xml version='1.0' encoding='utf-8'?>.

    Notice that the line numbers are a turquoise-blue color, and the XML attributes (such as id='bk101') are a light blue color. We're going to change the text color for these items.

  4. To open the Options dialog box, choose Tools > Options from the menu bar.

  5. Under Environment, choose the Fonts and Colors category.

    Notice that the text under Show settings for says Text Editor—this is what we want. Expand the drop-down list just to see the extensive list of places where you can customize fonts and text color.

  6. To change the color of the line numbers text, in the Display items list, choose Line Number. In the Item foreground box, choose Olive.

    Some languages have their own specific fonts and colors settings. If you are a C++ developer and you want to change the color used for functions, for example, you can look for C++ Functions in the Display items list.

  7. Before we exit out of the dialog box, let's also change the color of XML attributes. In the Display items list, scroll down to XML Attribute and select it. In the Item foreground box, choose Lime. Choose OK to save our selections and close the dialog box.

    The line numbers are now an olive color, and the XML attributes are a bright, lime green. If you open another file type, such as a C++ or C# code file, you'll see that the line numbers also appear in the olive color.

We explored just a couple ways of customizing the colors in Visual Studio. We hope that you'll explore the other customization options in the Options dialog box, to truly make Visual Studio your own.

See also


Image use in Visual Studio

Before creating artwork, consider making use of the 1,000+ images in the Visual Studio Image Library.

Types of images

  • Icons. Small images that appear in commands, hierarchies, templates, and so on. The default icon size used in Visual Studio is a 16x16 PNG. Icons produced by the image service automatically generate the XAML format for HDPI support.


    While images are used in the menu system, you should not create an icon for every command. Consult Menus and Commands for Visual Studio to see whether your command should get an icon.

  • Thumbnails. Images used in the preview area of a dialog, such as the New Project dialog.

  • Dialog images. Images that appear in dialogs or wizards, either as descriptive graphics or message indicators. Use infrequently and only when necessary to illustrate a difficult concept or gain the user's attention (alert, warning).

  • Animated images. Used in progress indicators, status bars, and operation dialogs.

  • Cursors. Used to indicate whether an operation is allowed using the mouse, where an object may be dropped, and so on.

Icon design


Visual Studio uses modern-style icons, which have clean geometry and a 50/50 balance of positive/negative (light/dark), and use direct, understandable metaphors. Crucial icon design points center around clarity, simplification, and context.

  • Clarity: focus on the core metaphor that gives an icon its meaning and individuality.

  • Simplification: reduce the icon to its core meaning - get the theme across with just the necessary element(s) and no frills.

  • Context: consider all aspects of an icon's role during concept development, which is crucial when deciding which elements constitute the icon's core metaphor.

    With icons, there are a number of design points to avoid:

  • Don't use icons that signify UI elements except when appropriate. Choose a more abstract or symbolic approach when the UI element is neither common, evident, nor unique.

  • Don't overuse common elements like documents, folders, arrows, and the magnifying glass. Use such elements only when essential to the icon's meaning. For example, the right-facing magnifying glass should indicate only Search, Browse, and Find.

  • Although some legacy icon elements maintain the use of perspective, don't create new icons with perspective unless the element lacks clarity without it.

  • Don't cram too much information into an icon. A simple image that can be easily recognized or learned as a recognizable symbol is much more useful than an overly complex image. An icon cannot tell the whole story.

Icon creation

Concept development

Visual Studio has within its UI a wide variety of icon types. Carefully consider the icon type during development. Don't use unclear or uncommon UI objects for your icon elements. Opt for the symbolic in these cases, such as with the Smart Tag icon. Note that the meaning of the abstract tag on the left is more obvious than the vague, UI-based version on the right:

Correct use of symbolic imageryIncorrect use of symbolic imagery

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There are instances in which standard, easily recognizable UI elements do work well for icons. Add Window is one such example:

Correct UI element in an iconIncorrect UI element in an icon

Don't use a document as a base element unless it is essential to the icon's meaning. Without the document element on Add Document (below) the meaning is lost, whereas with Refresh the document element is unnecessary to communicate the meaning.

Correct use of document iconIncorrect use of document icon

The concept of 'show' should be represented by the icon which best illustrates what is being shown, such as with the Show All Files example. A lens metaphor may be used to indicate the concept of 'view' if necessary, such as with the Resource View example.


The right-facing magnifying glass icon should represent only Search, Find, and Browse. The left-facing variant with the plus sign or minus sign should represent only zoom in/zoom out.

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In tree views, do not use both the folder icon and a modifier. When available, use only the modifier.

Correct tree view iconsIncorrect tree view icons

Style details


Stack elements as shown for standard 16x16 icons:

Layout stack for 16x16 icons

Status notification elements are better used as standalone icons. There are contexts, however, in which a notification should be stacked on the base element, such as with the Task Complete icon:

Standalone notification icons

Task Complete icon

Project icons are typically .ico files that contain multiple sizes. Most 16x16 icons contain the same elements. The 32x32 versions have more details, including the project type when applicable.

VB Windows Control Library Project icons, 16x16 and 32x32

Center an icon within its pixel frame. If that is not possible, align the icon to the top and/or right of the frame.

Icon centered within the pixel frame

Icon aligned to the top right of the frame

Icon centered and aligned to the top of the frame

To achieve ideal alignment and balance, avoid obstructing the icon's base element with action glyphs. Place the glyph near the top left of the base element. When adding an additional element, consider the alignment and balance of the icon.

Correct alignment and balanceIncorrect alignment and balance

Ensure size parity for icons that share elements and are used in sets. Note that in the incorrect pairing, the circle and arrow are oversized and don't match.

Correct size parityIncorrect size parity

Use consistent line and visual weights. Evaluate how the icon you are building compares to other icons by using a side-by-side comparison. Never use the entire 16x16 frame, use 15x15 or smaller. The negative-to-positive (dark-to-light) ratio should be 50/50.

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Correct negative-to-positive ratioIncorrect negative-to-positive ratio

Use simple, comparable shapes and complementary angles to build your elements without sacrificing element integrity. Use 45째 or 90째 angles where possible.


Keep the icon clear and understandable. Use perspective and a light source only when necessary. Although using perspective on icon elements should be avoided, some elements are unrecognizable without it. In such cases, a stylized perspective communicates the element's clarity.

3-point perspective

1-point perspective

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Most elements should be facing or angled to the right:

Use light sources only when adding necessary clarity to an object.

Correct light sourceIncorrect light source

Use outlines only to enhance legibility or to better communicate the metaphor. The negative-positive (dark-light) balance should be 50/50.

Correct use of outlinesIncorrect use of outlines

Icon types

Shell and command bar icons consist of no more than three of the following elements: one base, one modifier, one action, or one status.

Examples of shell and command bar icons

Tool window command bar icons consist of no more than three of the following elements: one base, one modifier, one action, or one status.

Examples of tool window command bar icons

Tree view disambiguator icons consist of no more than three of the following elements: one base, one modifier, one action, or one status.

Examples of tree view disambiguator icons

State-based value taxonomy icons exist in the following states: active, active disabled, and inactive disabled.

Examples of state-based value taxonomy icons

IntelliSense icons consist of no more than three of the following elements: one base, one modifier, and one status.

Examples of IntelliSense icons

Small (16x16) project icons should have no more than two elements: one base and one modifier.

Examples of small (16x16) project icons

Large (32x32) project icons consist of no more than four of the following elements: one base, one to two modifiers, and one language overlay.

Examples of large (32x32) project icons

Production details

All new UI elements should be created using Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and all new icons for WPF should be in 32-bit PNG format. The 24-bit PNG is a legacy format that does not support transparency and is therefore not recommended for icons.

Save the resolution at 96 DPI.

File types

  • 32-bit PNG: the preferred format for icons. A lossless data compression file format that can store a single raster (pixel) image. 32-bit PNG files support alpha-channel transparency, gamma correction, and interlacing.

  • 32-bit BMP: for non-WPF controls. Also called XP or high color, 32-bit BMP is an RGB/A image format, a true-color image with an alpha-channel transparency. The alpha channel is a layer of transparency designated in Adobe Photoshop that is then saved within the bitmap as an additional (fourth) color channel. A black background is added during artwork production to all 32-bit BMP files to provide a quick visual cue about the color depth. This black background represents the area to be masked out in the UI.

  • 32-bit ICO: for Project icons and Add Item. All ICO files are 32-bit true color with alpha-channel transparency (RGB/A). Because ICO files can store multiple sizes and color depths, Vista icons are often in an ICO format containing 16x16, 32x32, 48x48, and 256x256 image sizes. In order to display properly in Windows Explorer, ICO files must be saved-down to 24-bit and 8-bit color depths for each image size.

  • XAML: for design surfaces and Windows adorners. XAML icons are vector-based image files that support scaling, rotating, filing, and transparency. They are not common in Visual Studio today but are becoming more popular because of their flexibility.

  • SVG

  • 24-bit BMP: for the Visual Studio command bar. A true-color RGB image format, 24-bit BMP is an icon convention that creates a layer of transparency by using magenta (R=255, G=0, B=255) as a color key for a knock-out transparency layer. In a 24-bit BMP, all magenta surfaces are displayed using the background color.

  • 24-bit GIF: for the Visual Studio command bar. A true-color RGB image format that supports transparency. GIF files are often used in Wizard artwork and GIF animations.

Icon construction

The smallest icon size in Visual Studio is 16x16. The largest in common use is 32x32. Keep in mind not to fill up the entire 16x16, 24x24, or 32x32 frame when designing an icon. Legible, uniform icon construction is essential to user recognition. Adhere to the following points when building icons.

  • Icons should be clear, understandable, and consistent.

  • It is better to use the status notification elements as single icons and not to stack them on top of an icon base element. In certain contexts, the UI might require the status element to be paired with a base element.

  • Project icons are usually .ico files that contain several sizes. Only the 16x16, 24x24, and 32x32 icons are being updated. Most 16x16 and 24x24 icons will contain the same elements. The 32x32 icons contain more details, including the project language type when applicable.

  • For 32x32 icons, the base elements generally have a 2-pixel line weight. A 1- or 2-pixel line weight can be used for detail elements. Use your best judgment to determine which is more suitable.

  • Have at least a 1-pixel spacing between elements for 16x16 and 24x24 icons. For 32x32 icons, use 2-pixel spacing between elements and between the modifier and base element.

    Element spacing for icons sized 16x16, 24x24, and 32x32

Color and accessibility

Visual Studio compliance guidelines require that all icons in the product pass the accessibility requirements for color and contrast. This is achieved through icon inversion, and when you are designing, you should be aware they will be inverted programmatically in the product.

For more information on using color in Visual Studio icons, see Using color in images.

Using color in images


Icons in Visual Studio are primarily monochromatic. Color is reserved to convey specific information and never for decoration. Color is used:

  • to indicate an action

  • to alert the user to a status notification

  • to designate language affiliation

  • to differentiate items within IntelliSense


Visual Studio compliance guidelines require that all icons checked into the product pass the accessibility requirements for color and contrast. Colors in the visual language palette have been tested and meet these requirements.

Color inversion for dark themes

In order to make icons appear with the correct contrast ratio in the Visual Studio dark theme, an inversion is applied programmatically. The colors in this guide have been chosen in part so that they invert correctly. Restrict your use of color to this palette, or you will get unpredictable results when the inversion is applied.

Examples of icons that have had their colors inverted

Base palette

All standard icons contain three base colors. Icons contain no gradients or drop shadows, with one or two exceptions for 3D-tool icons.

Dark Theme Chrome

UsageNameValue (Light theme)SwatchExample
Background/DarkVS BG424242 / 66,66,66
Foreground/LightVS FGF0EFF1 / 240,239,241
OutlineVS OutF6F6F6 / 246,246,246

In addition to the base colors, each icon may contain one additional color from the extended palette.

Extended palette

Action modifiers

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The four colors below indicate the types of actions required by action modifiers:

UsageNameValue (all themes)Swatch
PositiveVS Action Green388A34 / 56,138,52
NegativeVS Action RedA1260D / 161,38,13
NeutralVS Action Blue00539C / 0,83,156
Create/NewVS Action OrangeC27D1A / 194,156,26

Green is used for positive action modifiers like 'Add,' 'Run,' 'Play,' and 'Validate.'


Execute Query

Play All Steps

Add Control

Red is used for negative action modifiers like 'Delete,' 'Stop,' 'Cancel,' and 'Close.'

Delete Relationship

Delete Column

Stop Query

Connection Offline

Blue is applied to neutral action modifiers most commonly represented as arrows, like 'Open,' 'Next,' 'Previous,' 'Import,' and 'Export.'

Go to Field

Batched Check-In

Address Editor

Association Editor

Dark gold is primarily used for the 'New' modifier.

New Project

Create New Graph

New Unit Test

New List Item

Special cases

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In special cases, a colored action modifier may be used independently as a standalone icon. The color used for the icon reflects the actions that the icon is associated with. This use is limited to a small subset of icons, including:





Navigate Back

Code hierarchy palette


UsageNameValue (all themes)SwatchExample
FoldersFolderDCB67A / 220,182,122

Visual Studio languages

Each of the common languages or platforms available in Visual Studio has an associated color. These colors are used on the base icon, or on language modifiers that appear in the upper right corner of compound icons.

UsageNameValue (all themes)Swatch
ASP, HTML, WPFASP HTML WPF Blue0095D7 / 0,149,215
C++CPP Purple9B4F96 / 155,79,150
C#CS Green (VS Action Green)388A34 / 56,138,52
CSSCSS RedBD1E2D / 189,30,45
F#FS Purple672878 / 103,40,120
JavaScriptJS OrangeF16421 / 241,100,33
VBVB Blue (VS Action Blue)00539C / 0,83,156
TypeScriptTS OrangeE04C06 / 224,76,6
PythonPY Green879636 / 135,150,54
Examples of icons with language modifiers













IntelliSense icons use an exclusive color palette. These colors are used to help users quickly distinguish between the different items in the IntelliSense popup list.

UsageNameValue (all themes)Swatch
Class, EventVS Action OrangeC27D1A / 194,125,26
Extension Method, Method, Module, DelegateVS Action Purple652D90 / 101,45,144
Field, Enum Item, Macro, Structure, Union Value Type, Operator, InterfaceVS Action Blue00539C / 0,83,156
ObjectVS Action Green388A34 / 56,138,52
Constant, Exception, Enum Item, Map, Map Item, Namespace, Template, Type DefinitionBackground (VS BG)424242 / 66,66,66
Examples of IntelliSense icons


Private Event


Method Friend


Protected Enum Item



Exception Shortcut


Notifications in Visual Studio are used to indicate status. The notification palette uses the following four colors, as well as black or white foreground fill options, to define notifications with the following status levels.

UsageNameValue (all themes)Swatch
Status: neutralNotification Blue (VS Blue)1BA1E2 / 27,161,226
Status: positiveNotification Green (VS Green)339933 / 51,153,51
Status: negativeNotification Red (VS Red)E51400 / 229,20,0
Status: warningNotification Yellow (VS Orange)FFCC00 / 255,204,0
Foreground fillNotification Black (Black)000000 / 0,0,0
Foreground fillNotification White (White)FFFFFF / 255,255,255

Examples of notification icons





Visual Studio Online

In general, Visual Studio Online consists of features hosted in a browser. The color varies in different environments, but the style remains the same.

GroupUsageNameValue (all themes)Swatch
TFSBackgroundTFSO BG656565/ 101, 101, 101
TFSOutlineTFSO OUTFFFFFF / 255, 255, 255
NapaBackgroundWhiteFFFFFF / 255, 255, 255
MonacoBackgroundWhiteFFFFFF / 255, 255, 255
F12BackgroundWhiteFFFFFF / 255, 255, 255
F12NormalF12 Grey_Primary555555 / 85, 85, 85
F12HoverF12 Blue_Hover2279BF / 34,121,191
F12DisabledF12 LtGrey_DisabledABABAC / 171,171,172
F12Hover backgroundHover bgD9EBF7 / 217,235,247
F12Pressed backgroundPressed bgB2D7F0 / 178,215,240
F12OutlineVS OUTF6F6F6 / 246,246,246
F12InformationInformation00BCF2 / 0,188,242
F12WarningWarningF28300 / 242,131,0
F12Error / NegativeError_NegativeE81123 / 232,17,35
F12Start / PositiveStart_Positive009E49 / 0,158,73
F12Break typeBreak type9B4F96 / 155,79,150
F12Event MarkEvent MarkA51F00 / 165,31,0
F12User MarkUser MarkF16220 / 241,98,32

Examples of Visual Studio Online icons

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TFS Online

Online Team





Office Mail


Task Pane





Pretty Code