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Getting 256 colors to work in tmux

I want to set my terminal to 256 colors. I normally use the Gnome terminal which is shipped by default in Ubuntu but I also downloaded Terminator and tried Xterm and all them return 8 when I call tput color inside Tmux.

How can I arrange to have 256 colors in Tmux inside Gnome terminal so I can use Vim's 256-color scheme?

  • 1
    Try setting TERM to xterm-256color.
    – jw013
    May 9, 2012 at 2:52
  • I found this, I added to the ~/.bashrc, working fine but once I tmux the setting goes off. May 9, 2012 at 2:56
  • 1
    That would be a tmux problem. May 9, 2012 at 3:20
  • 2
    I found help in #tmux channel on irc.freenode.net. for 256 colors in tmux your 'echo $TERM' needs to return screen-256color and mine was returning screen. So i followed the instruction on this link wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Tmux#Setting_the_correct_term and everything worked. May 9, 2012 at 3:22
  • 2
    @LuisDUrraca Please copy your answer to below and mark it as solved, thanks!
    – invert
    May 9, 2012 at 8:13

2 Answers 2


Even though OP answered the question in the above comments, I'll add the details here for easy reference. The quick solution is to add the following to your .tmux.conf file:

set -g default-terminal screen-256color

For more detailed info, check out the Tmux page on ArchWiki, or this helpful answer to the same question.

  • 2
    It seems that having active sessions prevents new sessions from honouring the default-terminal option in .tmux.conf as well as passing -2 as a parameter to tmux. Killing all sessions seemed to solve this for me.
    – Matijs
    Jun 30, 2014 at 13:43
  • This doesn't work for me. Neither does using xterm instead of screen work.
    – trusktr
    Jul 17, 2014 at 2:16

There is also the -2 command line option for tmux - c.f. older question

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