Introducing the Tempus Themes

WCAG AA compliance plus a tool to build on demand

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Tempus is a collection of themes for Vim and terminal emulators that are compliant at the very least with the WCAG AA accessibility standard for colour contrast (which stands for a contrast ratio of 4.50:1).

Each theme consists of a 16-colour palette that corresponds to the basic values provided by all modern terminal emulators, namely: black, red, green, yellow, blue, magenta, cyan, white, bright black, bright red, bright green, bright yellow, bright blue, bright magenta, bright cyan, bright white.

Unlike my other project on the same issue, Prot16, Tempus themes come in either a dark or a light variant. That means that the desired colour contrast is only met by combining any of the foreground values against one of two backgrounds.

The current collection features four dark themes—where dark values are primarily used as the backdrop—and one light (the light theme—totus—is WCAG AAA compliant or else has a contrast ratio of 7.00:1).

Tempus themes are interoperable. They are meant to work as a one-to-one replacement to each other within the same contrast ratio boundary. This is due to their inherent colour qualities as well as their shared schema for mapping colours to objects of the code syntax. Put concretely:

  • Same contrast. Every Tempus theme with a WCAG AA rating can 100% substitute all themes with the same rating (will also be true for the WCAG AAA standard once more themes within that category are available).
  • Same structure. The shared colour mapping means that a code constant will always be blue while a string will always be a bright blue regardless of which specific Tempus theme is used (and so on for all constructs).

For the time being, the colour mapping specs are implemented in Vim. The plan is to develop templates for other popular applications, such as Atom and Emacs.

Below are some screenshots as well as additional information on how to get your copy.


Tempus Totus (WCAG AAA) tempus_totus sample

Tempus Spring (WCAG AA) tempus_spring sample

Tempus Summer (WCAG AA) tempus_summer sample

Tempus Autumn (WCAG AA) tempus_autumn sample

Tempus Winter (WCAG AA) tempus_winter sample

Distribution of the Tempus Themes

You can find the files on Github: Tempus Themes

Each directory therein contains files specific to the application it references. For example, the urxvt folder includes an .Xresources file for each item in the Tempus collection.

Instructions on how to use these files are documented in the which is included in each directory.

Specialised repositories are also available:

Vim plugin

For Vim, Tempus themes can be installed using a plugin manager. With vim-plug:

" Include the following reference
Plug 'protesilaos/tempus-themes-vim'

Use the plugin manager’s commands to install and update the codebase. Then either run :colorscheme tempus_{scheme-name} or include a colorscheme tempus_{scheme-name} in your .vimrc. Example with Tempus winter:

" Temporary switch
:colorscheme tempus_winter

" Permanent switch in .vimrc
colorscheme tempus_winter

Tempus Themes Generator

At the core of the project is a tool to build themes on demand: the Tempus Themes Generator. It accepts data files with the colour values, parses them through templates to deliver the desired result (using the terminal’s standard output). The generator’s script is written in Bash.


You are most welcome to contribute a template for developing ports of the Tempus collection.


GNU General Public License Version 3.