Change Message's Text Background Color in macOS Mail

Make your emails pop

MacBook Pro with optical slot on right side.

Paulcouture / Wikimedia Commons / FAL or CC BY-SA 3.0 


In macOS' built-in Mail program, changing an email's background color is easy but not obvious. You have to know where to look. It is located in the Format/Fonts menu when you are composing an email. Or, remember the Command+T shortcut to get there fast.

Instructions in this article apply to macOS 10.4 (Tiger) and later.

Change a Message's Text Background Color in Mac OS X Mail

Here's how to set the background color of a message you are composing in Mac OS X Mail.

You can only change the background color for the entire message.

  1. Open a new message by clicking the Compose New Message button.

    macOS Mail with the Compose New Message button highlighted
  2. Select Show Fonts under Format.

    The keyboard shortcut for this item is Command+T.

    Show Fonts in macOS Mail
  3. Click Document Color (it shows a document icon), at the top center, to the right of the underline, strikethrough, and font color buttons.

    Fonts window in macOS Mail with the Document Color button highlighted
  4. You have several ways to choose the background color for your message.

  • Color Wheel: Choose first the darkness of color with the bottom slider, then tap on the wheel to select a color. If the slider is too far to the right, you might think you can only choose black. Don't be fooled; you have a full choice of colors. You can use the eyedropper if you wish to get a close-up view of the color choices.
  • Color Sliders: Choose the Slider icon and then use the drop-down menu to choose a grayscale slider, RGB sliders, CYMK sliders, and HSB sliders. You will see the percentages change as you move the sliders.
  • Color Palettes: Choose from set palettes including web-safe colors, crayons, "Apple," and "Developer."
  • Image Palettes: Choose from a spectrum palette or create a new image palette from a file or the clipboard.
  • Pencils: Choose from colored pencils.
Document Color menu in macOS Mail with the color options highlighted

This method will only change the background color for a single message. You will have to choose again for the next message. Keep in mind the Command+T shortcut to get to the Fonts menu, which otherwise requires having the top menu visible and selecting Format and then Show Fonts.

Choose Colors to Keep Text Legible

When you're playing with document background colors, be sure to select text color and size that will ensure your message text is still legible. If you're using a dark background color, for example, you may want to experiment with a lighter text color.