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

MacBook Pro with optical slot on right side.

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


Do you want to change the color of the background of your email messages send via Mac OS X Mail? It could be fun to change the color of your emails on a whim, from antique ivory to blistering orange.

In Mac OS X Mail, 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.

You can only change the background color for the entire message. It is not used to highlight only a section of the message with a different color or to highlight text.

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

To set the background color of a message you are composing in Mac OS X Mail:

  • Open a new message.
  • Select Format | Show Fonts from the menu (or press Command-T).
  • Click Document Color (it shows a document icon), at the top center, to the right of the underline, strikethrough, and font color buttons.
  • Selecting Document Color, you have several ways to choose a color. This color menu is the same you would find for changing the text color.
  • Choose the desired color from the desired color picker.

Color Picker Choices

You have several ways you can 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.

Changing Background Color Works for Only One Message at a Time

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 handy 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 are playing with document background colors, be sure to select text color and size that will ensure your message text is still legible. If you are using a dark background color, you may want to experiment with a light text color.

Tested with OS X Mail 8 and OS X Mail Version 9.3