After upgrading my OS (Ubuntu, from 18.04 to 19.04), my favorite text editor was automatically upgraded from Emacs 25 to Emacs 26. I then encountered a familiar error message at start-up:

File is missing: Cannot open load file, No such file or directory, color-theme

The relevant portion of my configuration file, .emacs, is the following:

(add-to-list 'custom-theme-load-path "~/.emacs.d/themes/")
(add-to-list 'load-path "/path/to/color-theme.el/file")
(require 'color-theme)
(eval-after-load "color-theme"

This works fine with emacs 25 or earlier versions, under Ubuntu 18.04. Naturally, the relevant file, color-theme-subtle-hacker.el is located in ~/.emacs.d/themes/.

I imagine that there are at least two possible solutions to this problem:

(i) There is a way to "tell" Emacs 26 where is the relevant color-theme package. The problem could, in fact, be due to the OS upgrade.

(ii) I could also force Ubuntu 19.04 to use Emacs 25. However, I would have to install it manually, since every attempt at installing Emacs currently leads to version 26.

  • The error message says that Emacs can't find the color-theme "package", not that the color theme package can't find the theme you chose. I.e. it probably errors at (require 'color-theme).
    – Stefan
    Jan 18, 2020 at 13:23
  • Thanks. Yes, this was indeed what I had understood. The problem is to do with finding the package, 'color-theme'.
    – Nicomachus
    Jan 18, 2020 at 13:28
  • 1
    Put color-theme.el in your load-path, in your init file, before trying to require it. (If you haven't downloaded color-theme.el then that's of course the first step.)
    – Drew
    Jan 18, 2020 at 16:01
  • 1
    The load-path is a list of directories, not absolute path(s) to file(s). The question states that the O.P. is adding an absolute file path of the color-theme file to the load-path, instead of merely ensuring that the directory containing the file is added to the load-path.
    – lawlist
    Jan 18, 2020 at 17:48
  • In addition, custom-theme-load-path is not used for the color-theme package.
    – InHarmsWay
    Jan 21, 2020 at 12:02

2 Answers 2


I report my solution, as I found the other answer quite misleading: since version 22.1 Emacs has built-in support for themes, and color-theme is obsolete, see the package page on MELPA.

One can install and use color-theme-modern instead (on MELPA) or if you have Emacs 24 or above, just download the theme file and load it directly, as shown here.


Thanks for your help. I have found one solution to this problem. It was sufficient to download the color-theme.el and the color-theme-library.el and to copy them in ~/.emacs.d/themes/. Together with the simplified code in one's .emacs file eliminate all errors at start-up.

(add-to-list 'load-path "~/.emacs.d/themes/")
(require 'color-theme)
(eval-after-load "color-theme"

Thanks to @Drew, @lawlist, @InHarmsWay and @Stefan for your help. It seems that the files from the emacs-goodies package weren't accessible by my .emacs file, after upgrading to the latest Ubuntu distribution.

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