How to change the colours in Mac OS X

This page explains step-by-step how to change the background colour of the desktop and folder windows, as well as how to use high-contrast colour schemes, in Mac OS 10.5 (Leopard).

Areas in this guide:

Note: The following abbreviations for keys on the Mac are used: Ctrl is used for the Control key, Apple is used for the Command key, and Alt is used for the Option key. For keyboard access, make sure 'Full keyboard access' is turned on - you can turn it on or off by pressing Ctrl + F1 at any time.

Video how to guide

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Changing colours in Mac OS X

Use the high-contrast colour scheme

Step 1: Open the 'Universal Access' window

Make sure you are in 'Finder'. If necessary, press Apple + Tab to cycle through the open applications until you return to 'Finder'.

Click on the 'Apple' icon on the menu bar or press Ctrl + F2.

Click on 'System Preferences', as shown in Fig 1, or press the down arrow key to highlight it and then press Enter.

Fig 1'Apple' drop-down menu

In the 'System Preferences' window (shown in Fig 2), click on the 'Universal Access' icon, or press Tab repeatedly (you might need to press Ctrl + F7 first) to cycle through the icons until the 'Universal Access' icon is highlighted and then press the Spacebar.

Fig 2'System Preferences' window

In the 'Universal Access' window (shown in Fig 3), make sure the 'Seeing' tab is selected. If it is not, click on it, or press Ctrl + F7 to highlight one of the tabs and then press the left or right arrow key to select it.

Step 2: Change to the 'white on black' colour scheme

Under the 'Display' header, click the radio button next to 'White on Black', or press Tab until the 'Black on White' radio button is highlighted (as shown in Fig 3) and use the up or down arrow key to select 'White on Black'.

Fig 3'Universal Access' window showing 'Seeing' tab

The colour scheme will change straight away. To switch between the high-contrast white on black colour scheme and the standard display at any time, press Shift + Alt + Apple + 8.

You can increase or decrease the contrast level by moving the 'Enhance contrast' slider, or by using the following keyboard shortcuts at any time: to increase the contrast, press Shift + Alt + Apple + ' . ' (full stop); to decrease the contrast, press Shift + Alt + Apple + ' , ' (comma).

Step 3: Set the display to grayscale

Under the 'Display' header, tick the box next to 'Use grayscale' by clicking on it, or by pressing Tab until the box is highlighted and then pressing the Spacebar.

The colour scheme will change straight away. To turn it back to the standard display, untick the box by clicking on it, or by pressing the Spacebar again.

When you are finished, click on the window's red close button or press Apple + W.

Note: If this does not work it could be because your computer settings cannot be changed due to local IT policies - contact your local IT support for further help.

Change the desktop background colour

Step 1: Open the 'Desktop & Screen Saver' window

Make sure you are in 'Finder'. If necessary, press Apple + Tab to cycle through the open applications until you return to 'Finder'.

Click on the 'Apple' icon on the menu bar or press Ctrl + F2.

Click on 'System Preferences', as shown in Fig 1, or press the down arrow key to highlight it and then press Enter.

Fig 1'Apple' drop-down menu

In the 'System Preferences' window (shown in Fig 2), click on the 'Desktop & Screen Saver' icon, or press Tab repeatedly (you might need to press Ctrl + F7 first) to cycle through the icons until the 'Desktop & Screen Saver' icon is highlighted and then press the Spacebar.

Fig 2'System Preferences' window

In the 'Desktop & Screen Saver' window (shown in Fig 3), make sure the 'Desktop' tab is selected. If it is not, click on it, or press Ctrl + F7 to highlight one of the tabs and then press the left or right arrow key to select it.

Step 2: Select a colour for the desktop

In the pane on the left, click on 'Solid Colors' in the 'Apple' folder, as shown in Fig 3. Alternatively, press Tab to move to the left-hand pane, then use the up and down arrow keys to scroll through the list of choices until 'Solid Colors' is highlighted and then press the Spacebar.

Fig 3'Desktop & Screen Saver' window showing 'Desktop' tab

Click on the colour you want (there's no keyboard shortcut). As soon as you make a choice, the background colour changes straight away.

When you are finished, click on the window's red close button or press Apple + W.

Note: If this does not work it could be because your computer settings cannot be changed due to local IT policies - contact your local IT support for further help.

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