iTunes 12.5: Apple Finally Gets Rid of Horrid “Custom Colors” for Albums and Playlists

“Someone at Apple thought it would be a good idea, a few years ago, to have iTunes display content in certain views using colors extracted from album artwork. Sometimes this is quite attractive. But sometimes, this borders on torture.”

That’s what I wrote in June, showing how ugly iTunes can be when using the “custom colors for open albums, movies, etc.” setting. As I said at the time:

But how did Apple’s designers not see displays like the one above and tweak the algorithm so they simply couldn’t happen? Anytime the dominant color of an album’s artwork is dark, you get these horrid, unreadable contrasts.

Well, Apple is changing this in iTunes 12.5. They’re eliminating this feature entirely. While there is currently an option to turn it off, I suspect that most people don’t bother to look for the setting, or don’t know it exists. And they then end up with a display that is simply unreadable.

Here’s how it looks now, using the custom colors setting; this is the My New Music Mix playlist, which has an icon in an unfortunate shade of pink:

Pink playlist

And here’s how it looks in iTunes 12.5:

White playlist

Note that this change is also reflected in the iOS 10 Music app.

Cleaning this up is a no-brainer. While some colors look good with the current algorithm, most don’t. I’m glad Apple has gotten rid of this.

66 thoughts on “iTunes 12.5: Apple Finally Gets Rid of Horrid “Custom Colors” for Albums and Playlists

  1. Apple has developed the bad habit of change for the sake of change. Once they get an app working well, they change it for no reason known to the user. No one knows why.

    • Is there a way to re-enable to coloured backgrounds? I quite liked them and now can’t seem to find a way to have them.

  2. You may be happy, but the color match feature has been my favorite design element of the otherwise bland flavorless iTunes design. How great is it that my media app is now going to revert to a glaring white spreadsheet look again!

    • I do agree with you, Hal. I think that you should have the option to disable the feature if it isn’t for you, NOT just get rid of it for the people who do like it. That way, everyone can be happy. I for one like it as well.

      • Same for me here. I’m a personalization and customisation freak and i loved that feature. I actually ripped my CD albums on iTunes out of curiosity to see what would be the color match for a particular CD cover. Now its bland and boring =/

          • Same here. I hate the new white boring design. Bad move from apple, they could at least introduce this like a default off setting, so people like it could have turned it on.

    • For once, I don’t agree with Kirk. I almost never saw a visibility issue, but I DID enjoy the color selections – much better than my design sense. Too bad it has been removed.

    • Yeah, the “horrid” color match feature was way better than the updated design. So disappointed. Sorry Kirk, you’re dead wrong on this. Apple blows it once again.

    • Agreed. This was the only interesting design element of the previous version. I enjoyed watching colors change based on the item selected. I’m going snow-blind now. I also wish they’d bring back the window that showed song artwork regardless of whether it’s being played currently. As someone who grew up with record albums, the music has always been tied to a visual element for me. This current look just makes me want to look away.

    • iTunes 12.5 has the Ugliest. Design. Ever. What year is this, 1955? The interface is so white I think I might be permanently blinded by it.

    • I absolutely agree with you, Hal. Apple keep removing every drop of life that’s left in its software. And they don’t give you an option to keep things the way you want. It’s funny though, that they never mention these changes in the release notes. If they think so many people are gonna hate the idea and therefore, not update, then why implement these ridiculous changes in the first place?

    • I agree Hal! The customization option got rid of the monotonous white for once. The boldface playlist titles are nice, but most people enjoy the ability to personalize.

    • Totally with you. I miss the custom colors, it was so different from a bland white spreadsheet look! (great analogy)

      Why not give users the customization option of having the feature on or off? *shrug*

  3. Of all the abominations of the current (and iOS 10) iterations of Music,THIS is your big complaint?!? There are a lot of things that make Music unusable for me, but this color scheme business is WAY down the list.
    Thank goodness for apps like Cesium and Ecoute so I don’t have to deal with the horrific Apple Music app. For a company who made their bones with the iPod and music, it’s unbelievable to me that Apple would produce an embarrassment of an app like that. It borders on being physically painful to use.

    • My article is about iTunes, but the iOS Music app does have the same change. So what “abominations” do you see in the Music app?

      • How about the hideous misalignment when looking at TV shows in Genre mode? Title and season are center-aligned with each other while the artwork marches to a different drummer.

        And after all this time, why isn’t there a way to display episode descriptions the way movies does it? (Same complaint for audiobooks).

        On the plus side, maybe they’ll restore CoverPlay.

  4. I can’t believe that everyone doesn’t complain about gray text on a white background. It drives me nuts (and blind)!

  5. Also is there a way to remove or somehow get back the old itunes because I realllyyyyyyyyyy like the custom colours option

  6. It may have produced some questionable results, but overall I liked it. Enough to miss it, anyway. I liked having my playlist of unnerving instrumental music be a dark blue, not blast-your-eyeballs-out white. I’d like a way to switch it on/off.

    Plus, I don’t even remember updating… does it just do it automatically unless it’s a full number update?

  7. It should be an option, clearly, as I totally disagree with your viewpoint.

    The colors that the algorithm chose failed sometimes, but most times I loved how it looked, and it was a feature that differentiated it from all other library software on the market.

    (I’m an artist myself by the way.)

    Another thing about the new iTunes I hate are the bright blue spots that somehow have replaced the star ratings in the movie cover display. At least the spots should have the option of being grey, so they don’t clash with the colors of the movie posters, and we should be able to see the star rating we allocate movies.

    I think I am going to take the trouble of downgrading. I’ll give a week, and see if I still hate the new version as such as I do now. I’m pretty sure that I will though.

  8. Well, I’m NOT happy about it. Most of my Playlists are operas I’ve imported from CDs. Because of this, no album artwork comes along (I download artwork from the Internet and apply it to the blank album cover box), so in front of each number is the ghastly blue and pink music note icon! I thought those backgrounds were cool. Why can’t I have the choice?

  9. I want the option to put the colors back on. Current lifeless white is depressing and an eyesore. Let me get my colors back or at least let me downgrade with the possibility to use my itunes library file (since if I currently downgrade I can’t use said file and have to tend once more to my 200go of music, and trust me auto artwork maybe gets it right 40 percent of the time tops).

  10. So, I’m frustrated with the new design and although I don’t normally post sh1t to internet forums, I decided to post the following to the itunes for Windows forum at Apple. My first and only post to their site. It was online for a full 5 minutes with one reply. And then they took it down and sent me a message that it was deemed “unconstructive”. Really? Did I really cross the line as a long time user of Apple products just for having a slightly critical opinion? Guess they just don’t want to hear it. Here is the post:


    Thanks for participating in the Apple Support Communities.

    We’ve removed your post Overdoing the clean white thing because it contained either product feedback or feature requests that was not constructive.

    To read our terms and conditions for using the Communities site, see this page: Apple Support Communities – Terms of Use

    We hope you’ll keep using our Support Communities. You can find more information about participating here: Apple Support Communities – Tutorials

    If you have comments about any of our products, we welcome your feedback: Apple – Feedback

    We’ve included a copy of your original post below.

    Apple Support Communities Staff


    I think you are overdoing the “clean white” look with this one. I used to really enjoy the way that albums and playlists changed background color to match the album art. That was really sweet. Now everything is plain white boringness like the rubber walls in an insane asylum. Also the artwork and fonts are way too big (and blurry too on high dpi screens – i.e. almost all windows computers these days including surface). In addition, the fonts and sizes are inconsistent between different screens in the app, so not only does the new look sacrifice screen space in favor of large, blurry text and pictures, the inconsistency makes the overall experience haphazard as though someone threw together the GUI without thought. It’s fuggly.

    Oh, and all my artist images are microphones now. It looks like apple is attempting to ensure that the artist is a picture of a “person” rather than an album cover. Why so literal? Even if I had all artist pics instead of 75% microphones, the tiny pictures of people and bands that display on my phone all with similar white or black backgrounds are pretty useless as a navigational aid. And super boring visually.

    I do think that overall, the navigation, browsing and recommendations are improved. And lyrics are pretty cool.

    This is a send-only account. Replies received at this address are automatically deleted.

    • I can’t believe they would do that to you BHoward, there was no reason they had to remove it. You made a lot of good points and didn’t say anything violating. Come on Apple really?

  11. I missed it right away. Immediately after opening iTunes for the first time after the update. Then I found this thread.

    • When I wrote that article, iTunes 12.5 was in beta, and this option existing in iTunes 12.4. Now that 12.5 is out, that option is no longer available.

  12. Why do they do this bring it back white looks outdated like a half done spreadsheet plus it’s too bright. For whinging people there was an option if you didn’t like colours I suppose the cry babies rule not very democratic. Bad move apple think I will look for a more modernised app for music.

  13. Sucks to getting rid of features that users actually use. I was using this feature. At least give us an option to enable it and have it disabled by default. Sucks

  14. Having Apple clean it up wasn’t a no brainer, what was a no brainer is choosing a particular artwork for said playlist yourself if you didn’t like the one it chose automatically. Now we have sterile, mundane, uninspiring white boringness because numerous people spent the time to moan at Apple and write blog posts rather than spend 20 seconds changing a setting to which they had been given direct control over.

    Way to go community! Way to go…

  15. With the new interface I feel like it’s 2005 all over again!

    Why does Apple seem to have this habit of introducing new interface features only to remove them once people start getting attached to them?

  16. I’m seriously considering going back to a PC and possibly a Google phone. The Apple I supported years ago seemed to understand what their customers’ wanted. Now, they change 50 things that weren’t broken just to say they changed 50 things. I’m unimpressed with the overuse of white on every new/old program and app. It’s seriously forcing a rethink on my next computer and phone choice. Sorry Apple but all these changes are NOT customer friendly and I’m taking back my choice on how my computer and phone looks.

  17. I abhor not having color now. This new appearance is certainly devolvement, but what’s worse is that they simply don’t have a dark mode for iTunes. I’d be fine with no color at all, but only if they will eliminate white. Looks like moving to Swinsian and Waltr.

  18. I am extremely disappointed that they completely removed the color scheme. I really loved this feature! Please apple, give us the option to turn it back on!!

    • They could have at least left it as an easy option within the prefs. So much Apple is missing now from when they first got going with osx. :(

  19. absolutely disagree with the author of this article.

    agree with majority of feedback here. color scheme toggle ON / OFF option = better UX.

    apple has stripped the itunes brand and its interface of any remaining Steve Jobs’ soul it had left.

    tim cook is the design devil, making bad decision after bad decision :)

    • I have to say, design is really going down hill. Even us who work in studios are still suffering with no nice pure dark interface for the entire system. Really rotten and frankly I’d shift away if there were another option (e.g., macOS apps running on top Linux with a new GUI is a real viable option, but I’ve not gone forward with the project. Essentially a WINE for macOS apps on X11.)

  20. I was hugely disappointed that they removed the colors. It’s so deadly dull now, I miss that distinctive feature. Sometimes you get flaming pink. It’s better than this antiseptic “File Organization Software” look.

  21. More options isn’t a bad thing. If you can turn it off, then it doesn’t need to be removed. Personally, I hate looking at an non-customizable bright white interface. I want my color back. So, if there is an option to turn it on ever introduced, please let us know. Because right now, my finder windows, iTunes window and Safari window are all glaring at me in bright white. This is terrible for my head and eyes. Allow me to change that easily, and I’ll be happy again.

  22. Yeah, but now everything is too white. I just want simple black/grey backgrounds with white text, is that too much to ask for? + the blue stars – it gives me an old computer vibe…

  23. It seems I’m way late on this thread… Anyways, I just updated iTunes today, looked at it for 2 min and made this search on Google : “itunes 12.5 lost colors in album view”.

    This was the first result and I agree fully with 99,9% of the replies to this OP.

    Within the next minutes, I went to find how to go back to an old version of iTunes… DONE !!

    I was so pissed off.

  24. Well, it sucks IMHO – I liked the different colors; now it’s bright boring white all over the place; you need freaking sun glasses for Csakes.

  25. Having (and hoping) to find a pluggin or something to allow the color scheme to come back. Or worst case scenario find an old update. I see your points and agree only had they made everything optional, but they just either add a single track idea that can’t be edited, or they remove it all together like 4ssholes.

  26. I too loved the color for my Apple Music. I feel somewhat offended that it just randomly is changed without the simple option of being able to integrate it in to the new look.

    I’ve actually delayed updating my iOS simply due to this feature. Now I have to but the bullet and update the phone, never seeing this look again, it appears. Unless the Apple Music people come to their senses, read the opinions in this overwhelming response to this thread, and reject J Ive’s (or whoever it is) preference for some kind of imagined “clean white look.” Not in Apple Music–a MUSIC app–thank you very much.

  27. I’m literally installing an older version to get this feature BACK. I put custom photos in for my playlists, and I HATE the garish white, even with f.lux.

  28. I think they should return the Custom Colors, I looked over and over in settings to serif i could turn this feature back on, i feel like this was so wrong to just get rid of it period, so now i have to look at this bright light when i open a album in iTunes, this should be the people choice to cut it on or off….

    • It WAS our choice. Which is why I have no idea why it got removed. And I can’t exactly upgrade to see if they put it back by now; I can potentially upgrade to 12.7, but that will apparently require that I upgrade my OS as well, which I don’t think my 2011 laptop can handle anymore. It’s having a very hard time as it is keeping up with things that are actually important, like Time Machine — that doesn’t work for me anymore, and hasn’t for a long time. I can’t exactly afford to upgrade my computer either.

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