Is anyone else using an Emacs 24.x build on OS/X 10.10 with light colors on a dark background? I'm seeing the text rendered unusually thick and bold.

The same font (Inconsolata) with the same colors and same text on Sublime Text and Terminal.app is rendered much thinner. (Conversely it seems quite thick on iTerm 2 too). Dark text on a light background seems to render just fine.

This is with straight Gnu Emacs and the Emacs-mac variant both installed via Homebrew.

As a workaround I'm using the Source Code Pro "extra light" variant which looks okay, but would prefer to use Inconsolata. Are there compile-time options or font attributes I can set to influence the rendering (antialising I'd guess) of text?

  • did you try aquamacs?
    – Jesse
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 13:39
  • Yes that's a good idea -- I tried the latest nightly and the text rendering looks the same as the other two versions. There must be some low level font handling code common to all recent versions.
    – stu002
    Commented Aug 22, 2015 at 1:30
  • Does that occur on all versions on Emacs 24? Emacs 24.4 and 24.5 use Core Text for font rendering, maybe that makes a difference?
    – user227
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 12:35

1 Answer 1


If you find the text to be unusually bold, reducing font smoothing might help as a workaround, with

defaults write org.gnu.Emacs AppleFontSmoothing -int 1

You can also do this globally, with

defaults -currentHost write -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing -int 1

To my understanding, OS X uses a sub-pixel antialiasing algorithm that many finds to render light text on dark backgrounds too bold. I have found it to affect Emacs in a greater extent than other applications, like Xcode. Interestingly, font bolding does not appear to affect Terminal, hence you can run emacs in cli mode with the desired font.

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