By default, on Ubuntu, rxvt terminal is black on white. How do I change it to white on black?

I'm running Lubuntu 16.04 LTS

  • 3
    You can launch it with rxvt -fg white -bg black
    – Terrance
    Commented Feb 11, 2017 at 22:36

1 Answer 1


Note: Updated answer to include desktops like GNOME and LXDE that do not load .Xresources or .Xdefault files by default. Also updated for packages rxvt-unicode and rxvt differences.

You can launch it with the command in a terminal window:

rxvt -fg white -bg black

which sets the foreground to white and the background to black.

Or you can launch it using Alt+F2 and typing it in:

enter image description here

Either way listed above should give you a rxvt terminal that looks like this:

enter image description here

To make it permanent, you can add the following lines to the end of your ~/.Xdefaults or ~/.Xresources file:

Very important:

If you installed rxvt-unicode add these lines to your .Xresources file:

URxvt*background: black
URxvt*foreground: white

If you installed just rxvt add these lines:

Rxvt*background: black
Rxvt*foreground: white

URxvt can support more fonts.

If you wanted to use a Monospace 9 font with urxvt, add a line like this:

URxvt*font: xft:Monospace:size=9:antialias=true

Or you can use fc-list | sort to list all fonts available, then you can find one you want and set it like this:

URxvt*font: xft:DejaVu Sans Mono:size=9:antialias=true
URxvt*boldfont: xft:DejaVu Sans Mono:bold:size=9:antialias=true

Rxvt has limited font support.

If you run the command xlsfonts from a terminal window, it shows you all the fonts that can be loaded by rxvt instead of urxvt. Here is some examples:

xlsfonts | less

The list will look something like this (truncating for space):

-bitstream-bitstream charter-bold-i-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-adobe-standard
-bitstream-bitstream charter-bold-i-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-ascii-0
-bitstream-bitstream charter-bold-i-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-iso10646-1
-bitstream-bitstream charter-bold-i-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-iso8859-1
-bitstream-bitstream charter-bold-r-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-adobe-standard
-bitstream-bitstream charter-bold-r-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-ascii-0
-bitstream-bitstream charter-bold-r-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-iso10646-1

Or you can find a font you want using xfontsel and select all the settings you want and it will create the line you add like this:

enter image description here

You will just have to play around till you find one you like.

Add that line to your .Xresources file.

Rxvt*font: -misc-fixed-medium-r-normal--13-120-75-75-c-70-iso8859-1

Anytime you .Xdefaults or .Xresources file(s), reload them with the following command(s) from a terminal window (requires restart of rxvt terminal if you are using it):

xrdb -load ~/.Xdefaults


xrdb -load ~/.Xresources

Note: If you have a desktop like LXDE installed, these files do not load by default, but if you create ~/.xinitrc with using which ever file you want as either .Xresources (recommended) or .Xdefaults and add the following line to the file:

xrdb -load ~/.Xresources &

Then make the .xinitrc executable:

chmod +x ~/.xinitrc

Reboot, then all you have to do is launch rxvt as normal.

Screenshot from LXDE VM

enter image description here

Hope this helps!

  • This doesn't do anything for me. Is there any way to troubleshoot it? Commented Feb 12, 2017 at 9:27
  • Ues, rxvt -fg white -bg black works as intended (and ~/.Xdefaults or ~/.Xresources) does not; and no, these files did not previously exist. Commented Feb 12, 2017 at 22:46
  • It's called x11-xserver-utils on Ubuntu and it's already installed. I have reinstalled, but no luck. Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 0:05
  • @NickolaiLeschov I have seen in another post that you are running LXDE, so I modified my answer to include how to make this work in LXDE, which I have tested myself in a VM and it works fine.
    – Terrance
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 14:34
  • could you, by chance, tell how to change font in rxvt, too? E.g. "Monospace 9" Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 18:31

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