To use a theme add theme = "<name>" to your config.toml at the very top of the file before the first section or select it during runtime using :theme <name>.

Creating a theme

Create a file with the name of your theme as file name (i.e mytheme.toml) and place it in your themes directory (i.e ~/.config/helix/themes). The directory might have to be created beforehand.

The names "default" and "base16_default" are reserved for the builtin themes and cannot be overridden by user defined themes.

The default theme.toml can be found here, and user submitted themes here.

Each line in the theme file is specified as below:

key = { fg = "#ffffff", bg = "#000000", modifiers = ["bold", "italic"] }

where key represents what you want to style, fg specifies the foreground color, bg the background color, and modifiers is a list of style modifiers. bg and modifiers can be omitted to defer to the defaults.

To specify only the foreground color:

key = "#ffffff"

if the key contains a dot '.', it must be quoted to prevent it being parsed as a dotted key.

"key.key" = "#ffffff"

Color palettes

It's recommended define a palette of named colors, and refer to them from the configuration values in your theme. To do this, add a table called palette to your theme file:

"ui.background" = "white"
"ui.text" = "black"

white = "#ffffff"
black = "#000000"

Remember that the [palette] table includes all keys after its header, so you should define the palette after normal theme options.

The default palette uses the terminal's default 16 colors, and the colors names are listed below. The [palette] section in the config file takes precedence over it and is merged into the default palette.

Color Name


The following values may be used as modifiers.

Less common modifiers might not be supported by your terminal emulator.



The following is a list of scopes available to use for styling.

Syntax highlighting

These keys match tree-sitter scopes.

For a given highlight produced, styling will be determined based on the longest matching theme key. For example, the highlight function.builtin.static would match the key function.builtin rather than function.

We use a similar set of scopes as SublimeText. See also TextMate scopes.

  • attribute - Class attributes, html tag attributes

  • type - Types

    • builtin - Primitive types provided by the language (int, usize)
  • constructor

  • constant (TODO: constant.other.placeholder for %v)

    • builtin Special constants provided by the language (true, false, nil etc)
      • boolean
    • character
      • escape
    • numeric (numbers)
      • integer
      • float
  • string (TODO: string.quoted.{single, double}, string.raw/.unquoted)?

    • regexp - Regular expressions
    • special
      • path
      • url
      • symbol - Erlang/Elixir atoms, Ruby symbols, Clojure keywords
  • comment - Code comments

    • line - Single line comments (//)
    • block - Block comments (e.g. (/* */)
      • documentation - Documentation comments (e.g. /// in Rust)
  • variable - Variables

    • builtin - Reserved language variables (self, this, super, etc)
    • parameter - Function parameters
    • other
      • member - Fields of composite data types (e.g. structs, unions)
  • label

  • punctuation

    • delimiter - Commas, colons
    • bracket - Parentheses, angle brackets, etc.
    • special - String interpolation brackets.
  • keyword

    • control
      • conditional - if, else
      • repeat - for, while, loop
      • import - import, export
      • return
      • exception
    • operator - or, in
    • directive - Preprocessor directives (#if in C)
    • function - fn, func
    • storage - Keywords describing how things are stored
      • type - The type of something, class, function, var, let, etc.
      • modifier - Storage modifiers like static, mut, const, ref, etc.
  • operator - ||, +=, >

  • function

    • builtin
    • method
    • macro
    • special (preprocessor in C)
  • tag - Tags (e.g. <body> in HTML)

  • namespace

  • markup

    • heading
      • marker
      • 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 - heading text for h1 through h6
    • list
      • unnumbered
      • numbered
    • bold
    • italic
    • link
      • url - urls pointed to by links
      • label - non-url link references
      • text - url and image descriptions in links
    • quote
    • raw
      • inline
      • block
  • diff - version control changes

    • plus - additions
    • minus - deletions
    • delta - modifications
      • moved - renamed or moved files/changes


These scopes are used for theming the editor interface.

  • markup
    • normal
      • completion - for completion doc popup ui
      • hover - for hover popup ui
    • heading
      • completion - for completion doc popup ui
      • hover - for hover popup ui
    • raw
      • inline
        • completion - for completion doc popup ui
        • hover - for hover popup ui
ui.background.separatorPicker separator below input line
ui.cursor.matchMatching bracket etc.
ui.cursor.primaryCursor with primary selection
ui.linenrLine numbers
ui.linenr.selectedLine number for the line the cursor is on
ui.statusline.inactiveStatusline (unfocused document)
ui.statusline.normalStatusline mode during normal mode (only if editor.color-modes is enabled)
ui.statusline.insertStatusline mode during insert mode (only if editor.color-modes is enabled)
ui.statusline.selectStatusline mode during select mode (only if editor.color-modes is enabled)
ui.statusline.separatorSeparator character in statusline
ui.popupDocumentation popups (e.g space-k)
ui.popup.infoPrompt for multiple key options
ui.windowBorder lines separating splits
ui.helpDescription box for commands
ui.textCommand prompts, popup text, etc.
ui.text.infoThe key: command text in boxes
ui.virtual.rulerRuler columns (see the editor.rulers config)
ui.virtual.whitespaceVisible white-space characters
ui.virtual.indent-guideVertical indent width guides
ui.menuCode and command completion menus autocomplete item sets thumb color, bg sets track color of scrollbar
ui.selectionFor selections in the editing area
ui.cursorline.primaryThe line of the primary cursor
ui.cursorline.secondaryThe lines of any other cursors
warningDiagnostics warning (gutter)
errorDiagnostics error (gutter)
infoDiagnostics info (gutter)
hintDiagnostics hint (gutter)
diagnosticDiagnostics fallback style (editing area)
diagnostic.hintDiagnostics hint (editing area)
diagnostic.infoDiagnostics info (editing area)
diagnostic.warningDiagnostics warning (editing area)
diagnostic.errorDiagnostics error (editing area)

You can check compliance to spec with

cargo xtask themelint onedark  # replace onedark with <name>