Software

How to colorize Windows 10 in the Creators Update

Learn how to bring out the color in Windows 10 with new features in the Creators Update.

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Image: iStockphoto.com/etesaloutos


I know that it has been almost three years since Windows 10 first came on the scene, but as you may recall the first iteration of the operating system was pretty bland when it came to color. In fact, the only color in the title bars was white. That was frustrating for the mere fact that we've been able to change the color of title bars ever since Windows 3.x—but having only white title bars also made it difficult to distinguish between active and inactive windows.

Within five months of the initial release, Microsoft released the Windows 10 November Update, which, among other things, included the capability to set the color of the active title bar. (For a look back, check out my December 2015 article The Windows 10 November Update: A look at the smaller details.)

While being able to once again set the color of active title bars made it easier to distinguish between active and inactive windows, it would have been nice to be able to set the color of inactive title bars as well. Unfortunately, Microsoft never completely brought back that feature. It did, however; leave some codes in the registry you could use to add color to inactive title bars. To make it easy to access those registry codes, I created a little HTML application, which I presented in a July 2016 article titled Colorize the Windows 10 inactive title bar with this handy HTA.

If like me you have been longing for more control over the colors in Windows 10's user interface, you'll be happy to learn more about the new colorization features Microsoft has bestowed upon the operating system in the Creators Update. Let's take look.

The Colors tab

The new colorizing features are of course found on the Colors tab, which you can quickly access by pressing Windows+I to bring up the Windows Settings window, typing Color, and clicking Color settings, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Figure A
You can find the new color features by searching for Color settings in Windows Settings.

When you see the Colors tab, shown in Figure B, you'll notice that Microsoft has simplified and reorganized the layout.

Figure B

Figure B
The new Colors tab is simplified and better organized.

You can still have Windows automatically pick an accent color based on your background color, pick one of the colors in the default color palette, enable transparency, and choose which UI components to colorize. You can also choose the Light or Dark setting for certain apps.

Just below the color palette, you'll see the Custom Color button. Clicking it brings up the Choose A Custom Accent Color dialog, where you can use the various controls to select a custom color.

SEE: Microsoft Surface Laptop: The smart person's guide

Creating a custom accent color

Creating a custom accent color is an interesting endeavor. To see how this works, let's begin by picking a color from the default color palette. For example, choose Red and click the Custom Color button.

When the Choose A Custom Accent Color dialog appears, you can see the color is targeted on Red, as indicated by the circle in the upper-right corner of the color field and the tool tip, as shown in Figure C. The bar on the right also shows the selected color. The Color Preview boxes show you how the color will appear in the user interface.

Figure C

Figure C
The Choose A Custom Accent Color dialog shows Red as the selected color.

The slider on the bottom of the color field allows you to adjust the value of the selected color. Value is defined as the relative lightness or darkness of a color. Sliding to the right increases the value, making the color lighter. Sliding to the left decreases the value, making the color darker. As you move the slider, you'll see a tool tip appear above the slider that displays the value and the color. When you have a dark color selected, as you decrease the value you'll reach a point where the color is too dark and you'll see this message appear below the Color Preview boxes: This color is not supported. As you adjust the value, the top half of the bar on the right of the palette will change to match the color value, while the bottom of the bar will stay the original color. All these items are shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Figure D
As you decrease the value, you'll reach a point where the color is too dark.

In addition to adjusting the value, you can change the color by clicking and dragging the targeting circle to different locations on the color field. When you have a light color selected and you increase the value, you'll reach a point where the color is getting too light. At that point, you'll see the message This color looks like it might be hard to read. Figure E shows these items. If you continue to increase the value, you'll reach a color that is not supported.

Figure E

Figure E
As you increase the value, you'll reach a point where the color is too light.

If you click the More down arrow, you can choose and customize your colors using Hexadecimal color codes, RGB values, or HSV (Hue, Saturation, Value) values, as shown in Figure F. This makes it easy to get the exact color you want if you already know the Hexadecimal code number or the series of RGB or HSV values.

Figure F

Figure F
You can choose and customize your colors using Hexadecimal color codes, RGB values, or HSV values.

It also works the other way around: You can move the targeting circle to different locations on the color field or adjust the value slider. As you do, the numbers in the Hexadecimal, RGB, or HSV fields will change.

SEE: Windows 10: The big changes headed your way in 2017

Custom background color

In addition to choosing a custom accent color, you can choose a custom background color. When you are finished choosing your custom accent color, select the Background tab.

Select Solid Color from the Background dropdown and you'll see a Custom Color button just below the color palette, as shown in Figure G. Now, choosing a custom color for your desktop background works just like choosing your accent color.

Figure G

Figure G
You can also choose a custom color for the desktop background.

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What's your take?

What do you think of the new colorizing features in the Windows 10 Creators Update? Share your thoughts with fellow TechRepublic members.

About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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