Change Sibelius’s color scheme


Since the beginning of time, Sibelius has determined which colors represent which voices and other elements like out-of-range notes, collisions, and staff and system selections, with no options for the user to customize those settings.

That changed beginning with Sibelius 2020.6. Head over to Preferences > Accessibility where you’ll find a new Color Preset section:

In addition to the familiar defaults, you’ll find the following presets:

  • Vivid — an amped-up version of Sibelius defaults
  • Monochromatic — various shades of blue for all voices
  • Grayscale — what it says
  • Working Late — a toned-down version of Sibelius defaults:

Note that some of these colors won’t be evident unless they are selected, unless you have switched on View > Note Colors > Voice Colors.

If the presets don’t suit you, you can create and save your own. (CJ Garcia has a good article on the Finale blog with suggested settings for color blind users that could be applied to Sibelius.)

If you are accustomed to working with View > Note Colors either set to Notes Out of Range or None, the color settings will still take effect for selected items — which is a good thing. If you have ever had trouble distinguishing the dark blue of a selected note in Voice 1 from an unselected note, you can now create a preset to make this contrast more apparent.

Have some fun — make Sibelius look like Dorico

We’re all about having some fun here on Scoring Notes, so let’s make a preset that mimics what you would see in Dorico.

Orange you glad we’re doing this

I’ve created a new preset using the method described above, and am basing it on the Dorico default selection color of orange.

The Highlight column is really easy — I’ve just changed them all to 255,128,0 or FF8000 as hex. (More on the Color column and Item (staff) and Item (system) in a bit.)

The result might give you a music notation software identity crisis:

Sibelius on the left, Dorico on the right

To change the background color in Sibelius to the light shade of blue that you’d see in Dorico by default, go to Preferences > Textures and set Desk to Use color not texture, with the setting 107, 199, 236 or 6BC7EC. (Kind of reminds me of the earlier versions of Sibelius… hmm…)

Give voice to color, or the other way around

Back in Accessibility, for the Color column, I’ve changed the colors for the notes of the voices. Dorico’s approach to voices isn’t the same as Sibelius, so what appears in voice 2 in one program may not necessarily correspond to voice 2 in the other, for example. But these are the colors that Dorico often uses for the first four voices:

  • Voice 1: 0,168,230 (00A8E6)
  • Voice 2: 30,230,0 (1EE600)
  • Voice 3: 230,0,99 (E60063)
  • Voice 4: 38,0,230 (2600E6)

Of course, to see this in Sibelius you’ll need to switch on View > Note Colors > Voice Colors, and in Dorico you’ll need to switch on View > Note And Rest Colors > Voice Colors.

In Sibelius, with View > Note Colors > Voice Colors switched on (left hand is in voice 3)
In Dorico, with View > Note And Rest Colors > Voice Colors switched on

Passage selections

The concept of staff and system passage selections in Sibelius don’t quite map to Dorico. For the “identity crisis” example above, I actually tweaked the Highlight option for Item (staff) and set its opacity to 0.

While this will make Sibelius look more authentically like Dorico, it will make it more difficult to distinguish between a note or object selection and a passage selection. This will have consequences once you start working with the music, since those three types of selections behave differently in Sibelius.

I found a pleasing compromise by setting the Item (staff) opacity to 15% and the Item (system) opacity to 50%. This way it’s possible to determine that a passage selection has been made — a lighter shade for a staff selection and a darker shade for a system.

It’s worth mentioning that the Sibelius Keypad won’t update to reflect your custom color scheme, and, although the caret inherits your custom color, the mouse cursor doesn’t:

Still, beyond the novelty of changing these settings for amusement’s sake, if you switch between these platforms often, you might find it easier to work with a consistent color palette.

Don’t forget the Norfolk and Pori fonts

Oh yes… we would be remiss if we didn’t mention this: to make your music actually look more like Dorico’s output — not just the UI — head on over to Notation Central and pick up the Norfolk and Pori fonts, which are Sibelius-compatible derivatives of Bravura and Petaluma. Among other goodies, they’re the only way you’ll be able to achieve the angled slash chord symbols you see in these examples.

These premium fonts don’t come with a premium price — they’re pay-what-you-wish. But we hope you’ll wish us well!


  1. JM

    Thank you for this post. Is there a way to export PDFs from Sibelius with the buff coloured background? I’m arranging a show for rock band and strings and was planning to print parts on traditional buff coloured paper. The producers have decided they want everyone playing from tablet screens. I’d like to keep the traditional look if I can, which I find much easier on the eye.

    1. Philip Rothman

      I wouldn’t bake this into the PDF. Instead, I’d adjust the tint settings on the tablet and/or the score reader app.

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