I have Emacs 24.5.1, installed zenburn-theme off of melpa-stable and loaded the theme in my .emacs with (load-theme 'zenburn). I like all the colours except the background. It's a bit too bright.

How do I set the background colour to a darker colour?

3 Answers 3


You can modify zenburn's face definitions in your .emacs. I use this to avoid mucking up the background of other themes.

(with-eval-after-load "zenburn-theme"
     ;; original `(default ((t (:foreground ,zenburn-fg :background ,zenburn-bg))))
     `(default ((t (:foreground ,zenburn-fg :background ,zenburn-bg-1)))))))
  • 1
    Great answer, thanks! For those who are interested, you can use zenburn-bg-05, zenburn-bg-1, or zenburn-bg-2 for varying shades of darkness.
    – dpritch
    Apr 18, 2019 at 13:47
  • That works for me on startup, but when I reload .emacs with M-x load-file I get the brighter background again? Why could that be happening? (Using emacs --daemon)
    – user313032
    Feb 22, 2022 at 4:01

You can change the color of the background by adding this to your .emacs file:

 '(default ((t (:background "blue"))))

Note, the core bit here is:

'(default ((t (:background "blue"))))

As you might already have custom-set-faces declared if you made any modifications previously.


You might also want to look at the hc-zenburn theme (hc-zenburntheme on MELPA). It probably changes more than just the background, but the darker background is all that I generally notice.

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