LS_COLORS Explained

In my previous article I showed you how to make the ls command display colored output; now I am going to show you how to customize what colors get displayed. We are going to use the LS_COLORS environment variable to accomplish this task.

You can change your LS_COLORS environment variable by setting it in your $HOME/.bash_profile or $HOME/.bashrc file. The syntax for LS_COLORS is as follows:


The parameters for LS_COLORS (di, fi, ln, pi, etc) refer to different file types:

Paramater Name File Type
di Directory
fi File
ln Symbolic Link
pi Fifo file
so Socket file
bd Block (buffered) special file
cd Character (unbuffered) special file
or Symbolic Link pointing to a non-existent file (orphan)
mi Non-existent file pointed to by a symbolic link (visible when you type ls -l)
ex File which is executable (ie. has ‘x’ set in permissions).

The *.deb=90 parameter in the example above tells ls to display any files ending with a .deb extension using the color specified, 90 or dark grey in this case. This can be applied to any types of files (eg. you could use *.jpg=33 to make JPEG files appear orange). Any number of parameters can go into the LS_COLORS variable, as long as the parameters are separated by colons.

Color Codes

Through trial and error I worked out the color codes for LS_COLORS to be:

Code Color
0 Default Colour
1 Bold
4 Underlined
5 Flashing Text
7 Reverse Field
31 Red
32 Green
33 Orange
34 Blue
35 Purple
36 Cyan
37 Grey
40 Black Background
41 Red Background
42 Green Background
43 Orange Background
44 Blue Background
45 Purple Background
46 Cyan Background
47 Grey Background
90 Dark Grey
91 Light Red
92 Light Green
93 Yellow
94 Light Blue
95 Light Purple
96 Turquoise
100 Dark Grey Background
101 Light Red Background
102 Light Green Background
103 Yellow Background
104 Light Blue Background
105 Light Purple Background
106 Turquoise Background

These codes can also be combined with one another:


Setting the LS_COLORS di parameter to the above example will make directories appear in flashing blue text with an orange background (just because flashing text is available doesn’t mean you should use it!)

Customizing the colors that ls uses to display its output can make sifting through your filesystem a bit easier.