How to customize the look of Terminal

By , Feb 27, 2016

Terminal app black background and green text OS X

Many people use Terminal on their Mac to carry out the commands they want to use to make changes on their system, and by default it’s a plain white interface with black text. Because this is simply boring, we’re going to show you in this tutorial how you can colorize the Terminal window to look exactly how you want it to.

Why you should change the colors of Terminal

If you enjoy the strikingly bland black text and white background for your Terminal interface, then by all means leave it alone.

On the other hand, I find it can be hard on the eyes. I’d rather look at something a little more pleasant, such as green text on a black background; not to mention, it reminds me of The Matrix.

In fact, what you see in my example above is that the background isn’t just blackened, but it’s also transparent, allowing you to see behind the window to my wallpaper. I think that’s pretty cool in itself!

As you’ll soon find out, there are many choices for making your Terminal window look the way you want it, and you’re not going to be limited to green and black for your color choices.

How to change the color of your OS X Terminal window

Changing your Terminal colors is super easy. There are just a few steps to get it looking the way you want it to, and we’ll take you through those steps below:

1) Launch the Terminal app either by searching for it in Spotlight, or by locating it inside of the Utilities folder, which can be found within your Applications folder.

Terminal OS X plain white window

At this point, your Terminal window should look like this – white background and black text. Not horribly ugly, but just a little too simple for my taste.

2) From the Menu Bar, navigate to Terminal > Preferences.

terminal app menu bar preferences os x

3) Ensure you’re on the “General” tab when the preferences pane opens up, and with the “New window with profile” option selected, click on the drop-down menu and pick an interface color profile option. We’ve chosen Homebrew for our example.

Terminal app preferences pane choose profile drop down menu

Terminal app choose profile

5) Quit the Terminal app and relaunch it to save your changes and see them take effect.

Terminal app black background and green text OS X

That’s all there is to it! You’ve just changed the look of your Terminal window from black text on a white background to green text on a black background as you saw earlier, but there are many other options to pick from as well and you’re free to experiment with them on your own.

Modify Terminal’s interface even further

If the stock presets aren’t good enough for you, then you can visit the “Profiles” tab at the top of the Terminal preferences pane window to view and tinker with additional appearance options.

From here, you can add or remove Terminal profiles. A profile is a saved state of colors and effects that make Terminal look and feel the way you want it to. You can switch between profiles at any time to alter the look of Terminal.

Terminal preferences pane profiles

Among some of the many things you can alter here are:

  • Choosing the background for the Terminal window (can be a color or an image)
  • Choosing the font styles
  • Configuring the text effects and indicator icons
  • Configuring the ANSI colors
  • Configuring the type of cursor you want to use and whether or not it will blink
  • Configuring a default Terminal app window size
  • Configuring how far back into your commands you can scroll back to

Although not for the faint of heart, there are a lot of options to peruse through here, and if you’re interested in giving your Terminal app a makeover, rest assured you’ve come to the right place in your Mac’s settings.

Wrapping up

Choosing what your Terminal window will look like means making your Terminal experience completely your own and making your command line interface look different from everyone else’s out there. Changing things up isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s still nice to know that this can be done.

Other fun Terminal guides:

Do you have a customized look for your Terminal app? Share in the comments!

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  • Dave

    I wanted to add that you forgot to set it as “default” this means if you open a new window it will still be black and white.
    Just choose the “default” option, too like in my screenshot.

  • You should look into iTerm. An amazing Terminal replacement for OS X.

    • Dave

      I have never heard of it but if you need some more functionality just get Homebrew….
      It’s free and really frequently used.

      • I second this. If you use homebrew you should use homebrew cask too. No more downloading DMG files and and dragging the app to the applications folder, installing apps is as simple as `brew cask install google-chrome`.

      • Dave

        Nice thank you I’ll check it out 🙂