I prefer to run emacs as a console application, and I would prefer that it be monochrome. I currently have (global-font-lock-mode 0) set in my init file, which works as I want it to on my mac. However, on my new debian laptop, I find that this (correctly) disables syntax highlighting in the body of files, but text in the echo area is showing in blue, which is hard to read on a black background.

Is there a way to ask emacs to be entirely monochrome?

2 Answers 2


The "hard to read echo area messages on dark background" is because under ttys, the colors are set by default under the assumption of a light background (and because there's no way for Emacs to query the terminal to know whether the background is dark or not).

You can fix this problem by customizing frame-background-mode.

It won't make Emacs fully monochrome, tho. Maybe you can get this result with a crude hack like the one below (guaranteed 100% untested), but please don't say it comes from me:

(advice-add 'face-spec-set-2 :around
            (lambda (f face frame attrs)
              (funcall f face frame (plist-put attrs :foreground nil))))
  • frame-background-mode got the message area sorted. Thanks! Oct 1, 2019 at 2:46

I set the colors directly on the xterm window using ~/.Xresources, or ~/.Xdefaults (whichever works for your system) according to

 XTerm*termName: xterm-256color ! This forces 256 colors
 XTerm*background: black
 XTerm*foreground: white
 XTerm*faceName: DejaVu Sans Mono Book ! This is a truetype font
 XTerm*faceName: Monospace
 XTerm*faceSize: 10
 XTerm*charClass: 33:48,36-47:48,58-59:48,61:48,63-64:48,95:48,126:48

This way emacs -nw -q gives me a black-and-white emacs.

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