I am trying to use vimdiff as my git merge tool, but the colors used are making it unbearable (at least on Windows/Mingw): the background color and the foreground color is the same for some of the conflicting lines, making it needlessly hard to figure out what is going on (see the lines below containing include=).


  • Just setting 'xterm 256 color' option in terminal will make the colors look better.
    – balki
    Jun 23, 2023 at 14:22
  • @balki Is that some setting I can universally set on the command line or is this different for every terminal emulator? I use Mac, Linux and WSL2
    – oligofren
    Jun 26, 2023 at 8:29

5 Answers 5


The colors are controlled by these four highlight groups (:help hl-DiffAdd):

DiffAdd     diff mode: Added line
DiffChange  diff mode: Changed line
DiffDelete  diff mode: Deleted line
DiffText    diff mode: Changed text within a changed line

These are typically defined by a color scheme, but you can customize them in your ~/.vimrc (after the :colorscheme command) if you like you scheme overall, just not its diff highlighting. Just redefine using :highlight. Here are my personal customizations (for GVIM; for the terminal you need the appropriate ctermfg/bg=... attributes instead / in addition):

hi DiffAdd      gui=none    guifg=NONE          guibg=#bada9f
hi DiffChange   gui=none    guifg=NONE          guibg=#e5d5ac
hi DiffDelete   gui=bold    guifg=#ff8080       guibg=#ffb0b0
hi DiffText     gui=none    guifg=NONE          guibg=#8cbee2

If you're switching colorschemes on the fly, you need to re-invoke those :hi commands via :autocmd ColorScheme * hi ...

  • 7
    A note for Neovim users confused why these highlight groups aren't working, you have to use diffAdded, diffChanged, and diffRemoved. Not sure what the nvim alternative to DiffText is - maybe diffLine? Apr 28, 2020 at 14:07

One quick fix is to disable syntax highlighting. Sometimes the code syntax highlighting will cause the foreground text to be the same color as the vimdiff background color, making the text "invisible".

:syntax off

If you want to automatically do this for vimdiff, then add this to the end of your ~/.vimrc:

if &diff
    syntax off
  • Simple and useful, thanks a lot, works like a charm!
    – SRG
    Mar 4, 2021 at 14:51
  • This does not work for me.
    – oarfish
    Apr 19, 2022 at 8:56
  • 1
    Thanks so much, and +1! Had no clue why I couldn't see text that I definitely knew to be there until I switched :syntax off.
    – Binarus
    Nov 20, 2022 at 10:07
  • 2
    best answer, no need for too much work and if I git mergetool with vim, I don't need syntax highlighting! Mar 24, 2023 at 21:50
  • the simplest way. thanks.
    – kholis
    Dec 11, 2023 at 7:32

Extending Ingo Karkat's solution to terminal,

hi DiffAdd      ctermfg=NONE          ctermbg=Green
hi DiffChange   ctermfg=NONE          ctermbg=NONE
hi DiffDelete   ctermfg=LightBlue     ctermbg=Red
hi DiffText     ctermfg=Yellow        ctermbg=Red

Below are the cterm-colors, if you want to add your preferred color instead of the ones I used.

       NR-16   NR-8    COLOR NAME
        0       0       Black
        1       4       DarkBlue
        2       2       DarkGreen
        3       6       DarkCyan
        4       1       DarkRed
        5       5       DarkMagenta
        6       3       Brown, DarkYellow
        7       7       LightGray, LightGrey, Gray, Grey
        8       0*      DarkGray, DarkGrey
        9       4*      Blue, LightBlue
        10      2*      Green, LightGreen
        11      6*      Cyan, LightCyan
        12      1*      Red, LightRed
        13      5*      Magenta, LightMagenta
        14      3*      Yellow, LightYellow
        15      7*      White
  • 3
    this was so helpful I wish there was a +10 voting button
    – CervEd
    May 22, 2021 at 13:31

Another quick (perhaps even lazy) fix is to just do something like:

:colo desert

This will change your color scheme, and in some cases will make hidden text become visible.

  • 2
    Welcome to Vi and Vim!
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Mar 22, 2021 at 13:53
  • 2
    That was the hint I was looking for.
    – ThomasH
    Jan 26, 2022 at 14:23
  • :colo is short for :colorscheme. To get a list of available colour schemes other than desert, see stackoverflow.com/q/7331940/247696
    – Flimm
    Jul 13, 2022 at 8:50
  • 2
    To add a bit at this 'lazy' solution: Enter :colo then do TAB as many times as you want to see & test all possible schemes. My favorite dark theme is industry, and light theme: shine
    – Déjà vu
    Mar 16, 2023 at 8:34

Accepted answer didn't work for me. I'm using vim 8.2. Add to .vimrc after 'colorscheme ...'

colorscheme challenger_deep

" Diff colors (Stand with Ukraine).
hi DiffAdded      ctermfg=Yellow    ctermbg=NONE
hi DiffRemoved    ctermfg=Blue      ctermbg=NONE

Changes against accepted answer:

enter image description here

  • 1
    Are you sure this is correct? These names are hard-coded in Vim, and have ever since they're introduced. I can't really see how/why this works, unless that colourscheme does something very odd 🤔 Jun 23, 2023 at 14:36
  • @MartinTournoij I'm not sure how it works but it really works in my version of vim. Colorscheme do not add new color groups. Using 'DiffAdd' do not work but 'DiffAdded' works for me. Jun 24, 2023 at 20:56
  • Do you have a link to your colour scheme? Jun 24, 2023 at 21:03
  • Sure. Here it is: github.com/challenger-deep-theme/vim Jun 25, 2023 at 6:44
  • Will be interesting to figure out how this works
    – oligofren
    Jun 26, 2023 at 8:28

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