I'm using MacVim and I am attempting to change the default theme. I have the following in my .vimrc file (and in .gvimrc as well):

 colorscheme macvim

But the theme remains unchanged. What am I doing wrong?

The file is read in without errors but the scheme doesn't change. Also, if I download alternate themes, where do they go?

4 Answers 4


This is what I have in my ~/.vimrc

if has("gui_running")
  syntax on
  set hlsearch
  colorscheme macvim
  set bs=2
  set ai
  set ruler

By default, you should put custom colorschemes/themes into: ~/.vim/colors

Note that you may need to create the .vim directory in your home directory if it does not already exist.

After doing so, your :colorscheme command should automatically pick up the theme.


Where does macvim keep it's themes?

The themes that MacVim ships with can be found in


but MacVim will also load any custom themes you have on disk. I use the rather awesome Janus plugin distribution with MacVim and Janus keeps all of its themes in ~/.vim/janus/vim/colors. MacVim will load this in as well as the defaults.

But the theme remains unchanged. What am I doing wrong?

MacVim loads both ~/.vimrc and ~/.gvimrc, in that order. Make sure that settings in ~/.gvimrc aren't clobbering settings you're making in your ~/.vimrc file.

  • I have my colorscheme files in ~/.vim/colors but MacVim does not show them in the Syntax menu as Janus distribution does. Do you know which could be the problem? I installed MacVim via brew command. Commented Oct 8, 2020 at 3:55

The easiest way is to create a ~/.gvimrc file and add

colorscheme solarized

or whatever colorscheme you want. That's all I had to do to get my brewed version of macvim working again. I had a conditional like the one at the top of the thread and that worked for sometime, but recently ( I think after an upgrade to OSX ) I had to add the .gvimrc file to get OceanicNext to work.

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