How To Change Color Scheme in Outlook 2013

 outlook color scheme lead

Outlook 2013’s default layout and color scheme has almost no contrasting colors to show where the navigation bars and sections are. Whether you want to make your inbox easier to look at or simply want a change of inbox “scenery,” it can be very helpful to change Outlook’s colors. Here’s how to do so in five easy steps.

1. Click File at the top left of the screen to pull up a backstage panel.

1 outlook change color sche 537x400

2. Click Options. This opens an Outlook Options window to edit more settings.

2 outlook change color sche 510x400

3. Select your preferred background. Under the “Personalize your copy of Microsoft Office” section, look for the field that says Office Background. This changes the small decorative pattern at the top right of your screen. 

3 outlook change color sche 487x400

Outlook provides a list of 14 backgrounds for you to choose from. We selected Doodle Diamonds for this example. 

4 outlook change color sche 547x400

4. Select Theme. In the Office Theme field below Office Background, choose from White, Light Gray or Dark gray. This decides the color of your navigation bars. For greater contrast, we picked the Dark Gray theme.

5 outlook change color sche

5. Click Ok. You’re done. Here’s a preview of what those changes will look like.

7 outlook change color sche 670x292

You’ll see that scrollbars, navigation panels and the left sidebar are now all gray (if you chose gray like we did), making it easier to distinguish one of part of the Outlook window from another.

Cherlynn Low
Cherlynn Low
Cherlynn joined the Laptopmag team in June 2013 and has since been writing about all things tech and digital with a focus on mobile and Internet software development. She also edits and reports occasionally on video. She graduated with a M.S. in Journalism (Broadcast) from Columbia University in May 2013 and has been designing personal websites since 2001.
Cherlynn Low on
Twitter Google+
Email* (will not be published)
*Indicates required field
Submit Comments

  1. Abs Says:

    Thanks a lot, the white was very annoying.

  2. Kent Says:

    Bland colors in Outlook. Even the Outlook title bar looks like garbage. I can’t believe anyone thought this looked good enough to put their name on it and send it to consumers.

  3. Gunnar Lohse Says:

    Terrible look inside Outlook
    no contrast,cant choose background, nothing.

  4. Marsh Says:

    Thanks. Not many options but at least dr gray is better then white. In my opinion.

  5. Felipe Camocardi Says:

    Thanks, this tips helped me a lot. Irritating that white layout!

  6. Howard Sundwall Says:

    Really? My options are white, light gray and dark gray? That’s real customization (Microsoft style!). Maybe they’re working on…. medium gray?

  7. Leon Says:

    “Worst customization options EVER!”

  8. Drew Says:

    I am so angry about this. How could they leave the color options this way? It is so sterile. I hate it. Is there some way to contact Microsoft to get them to change this? It will surely drive me crazy.

  9. Kirstin Says:

    HATE the 3 ‘colour’ options they give. Where’s the bright vibrant colours?? Microsoft needs to step/think out of the box in the future. these colours are very BORING!!!!

  10. Susan Says:

    Thanks so much I was beginning to think it was a mistake to upgrade to Outlook 2013.
    Microsoft needs to add some nicer colours like some blues!!

  11. Loukas Says:

    There has to be a better option. There are NO colors, everything is so bland. Give me the option of going back to the look of Outlook 2007.

  12. AK Says:

    Can they please provide more options, i hate this whitewashed stuff and wish could avoid it

  13. Nicky Ashfield Says:

    Boring and horrible. An enforced change at work to the horrible Office 2013..what happened to the lovely colour scene. Grey or dark grey or white, obviously not taken into consideration how anyone with a visual disability will cope with this and also it gives you a headache as you cannot split things off. This is awful Microsoft have you gone backwards !!!!

  14. Brooke Says:

    I do not have the office background option. I have outlook 2013. Am I doing something wrong? It says Office Theme and that’s it.

  15. Mansoor Says:

    I do not have the office background option. I have outlook 2013.

  16. Trisha Gleeson Says:

    I hate the lack of colour options in outlook 2013. Really sucks


  17. Andrew Dufficy Says:

    Questions: I am visually impaired and would like much greater contrast in colurs for Outlook layout. How can this be achieved

  18. Grant Neeson Says:

    Absolutely hate it too. I’ve been with Microsoft for over a decade and this is very counter- creative. Please bear with us for an upgrade or else switch to whatever your mothers gave you

  19. No Says:

    The fact I just want to change the main background to a darker, easier on the eyes color and cannot in this day and age is annoying. I freaking Created a nagios filter to do this in around 5 minutes. Surely Microsoft can do the same in outlook…

  20. bd Says:

    isn’t there ANY way, in the recurring item setup, in the start date calendar, to make the starting date show up (with more than an ultra-pale blue or gray that can barely be seen even when you’re looking for it) nearly as much as today’s date (with its white digits in a *-bright-* blue background)??? what moron designed this???!!!!!!

  21. Jerry Says:

    Another reason to stay a Mac guy, as if I needed one….lol , MS is such a joke, even after all these years…..

  22. Nat Says:

    I can’t believe that this is it with the colors, how bland, and how depressing to have to look at the Light or dark grey all day, every day. How did this ever get through final stage is beyond me.

  23. Lia Gatherum Says:

    Just Bought 2013 – followed instructions for adding some colour, but no office background button on my one just office theme. Is that normal

All Product Types Accessories Cars Digital Camcorders Digital Cameras eReaders GPS Laptops MP3 & Video Players Projectors Smartphones Software Storage Tablets / MIDs VoIP Wi-Fi
All Subcategories
All Subcategories All-Purpose Budget Business Desktop Replacement Gaming Multimedia Netbook Nettop Rugged Student Tablet PCs Ultraportable
Acer Alienware Apple Archos ASUS Averatec BenQ CTL Corp. Dell Digital Storm eMachines Emtec Everex Fujitsu GammaTech Gateway General Dynamics Getac Gigabyte Hercules HP HTC iBuyPower Intel Lenovo MSI Nokia Nvidia OCZ OLPC OQO Origin Panasonic Sager Samsung Sony Sylvania Systemax TabletKiosk Toshiba Verizon Viewsonic Viliv VooDoo Workhorse PC ZT Systems
Minimum Rating
Any Rating 4.5 Stars 4.0 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.0 Stars
Screen Size
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 4 5 6 7 8 9
1024x576 1024x600 1024x768 1200X800 1280 x 720 1280x1024 1280x768 1280x800 1366x678 1366x768 1440x1050 1440x900 1600x768 1600x900 1680x1050 1680x945 1920x1080 1920x1200 800x400 800x480
Weight Range
10.1 - 12.0 pounds 12.1 - 14.0 pounds 14.1 - 16.0 pounds 2 lbs 2 pounds and under 2+ lbs 2.1 - 4.0 pounds 4.1 - 6.0 pounds 6.1 - 8.0 pounds 8.1 - 10.0 pounds Over 16 pounds Under 2 pounds
more options