Shuhei Kagawa

Switching color schemes of Vim and Alacritty

Feb 14, 2020 - Vim

I like fountain pens and good notebooks. They spark joy when I write on paper. Computer terminals are like stationery. A good terminal setup makes it fun to work with computers. Here is how I improved colors on my terminal and made it easy to switch them depending on the time and the mood.

Ayu Light for Vim and Alacritty

Using official color schemes

I have been using Dracula color scheme on Vim and Alacritty for a while. I liked the colors, but I had a small problem with it on Vim. The pop-up of coc.nvim had the same color as the background color, and it was hard to distinguish a pop-up and the background.

dracula from flazz/vim-colorschemes

I was using Dracula from vim-colorschemes, which hadn't been updated for three years. I tried the official Dracula color scheme for Vim. It had a different background color for pop-ups! Yes, it's subtle, but now I can distinguish pop-ups from the background.

dracula from dracula/vim

vim-colorschemes is a great way to try out different color schemes. You can get a random color scheme by :colorscheme random. But once you pick a few favorite ones, it's worth checking if they have official color schemes that are likely to be more maintained.

The same goes for Alacritty. I was using the Dracula color scheme that I converted with my tool from iTerm2-Color-Schemes for Alacritty. Dracula has its official Alacritty theme, and it looks better!


I started trying other color schemes and found Vim's termguicolors option in ayu-vim's README. It enables true colors (24-bit colors) instead of 256 colors (8-bit).

if has('termguicolors')
  set termguicolors

I turned it on, and the colors looked gorgeous! Before learning about termguicolors, I had tried light color schemes like Ayu Light and given up because of too low contrast (left in the following image). With termguicolors, light color schemes became finally usable!

ayu light in 256 colors and true colors

Switching color schemes

After trying dozens of color schemes, I picked the following:

  • Ayu Light: Good in the morning or at a place with natural light.
  • Pink Moon
  • Nord: Low-contrast theme. Good in the night.

I started switching color schemes depending on the time and the mood and bumped into a couple of issues. It was tedious to update the color schemes of Vim and Alacritty together. Also, I manage my .alacritty.yml and .vimrc in a git repository. It was annoying that the repository had unstaged changes every time I switched color schemes.



I decided to remove .alacritty.yml from the git repository and generate it out of a base template and color scheme files. Once I prepared a YAML file for each color scheme, it was quite easy with a one-liner.

cat alacritty/base.yml alacritty/${color}.yml > .alacritty.yml


I could have generated .vimrc, but it felt weird because VimScript is a programming language. Instead of generating the whole .vimrc, I decided to generate a color scheme file .vim/color.vim, which is in .gitignore

echo 'let ayucolor="light"\ncolorscheme ayu' > ~/.vim/color.vim

and load it from .vimrc.

let color_path = expand('~/.vim/color.vim')
if filereadable(color_path)
  exec 'source' color_path
  " Default color scheme
  colorscheme pink-moon

Putting them together

Then, I created a shell script named colorscheme to switch color schemes of Vim and Alacritty together.



configure_alacritty() {
  cat ${alacritty}/base.yml ${alacritty}/${color}.yml > ${dotfiles}/.alacritty.yml

configure_vim() {
  echo $1 > ${dotfiles}/.vim/color.vim

case $color in
    configure_vim 'colorscheme dracula'
    configure_vim 'colorscheme nord'
    configure_vim 'colorscheme pink-moon'
    configure_vim 'let ayucolor="light"\ncolorscheme ayu'
    echo "Supported colorschemes: dracula, nord, pink-moon, ayu-light"
    exit 1

Now I can switch color schemes with only one command! (I still need to restart/reload open Vim sessions, but I can live with it.)

colorscheme ayu-light
colorscheme nord

If you are curious about the full setup, check out my dotfiles repo.


  • Official color schemes may have more features than color scheme bundles
  • Enable termguicolors on Vim
  • Switch color schemes with a command!