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How to set a custom menu bar color on macOS Big Sur

Big Sur has brought a significant design change to macOS. The difference will become apparent the second you upgrade and boot to your new desktop. The icons are the obvious change but as you use the OS more and more, the more subtle changes will become noticeable too.

One change made to the macOS UI in Big Sur is the menu bar color. It now shows the accent color from your wallpaper. Mostly, it appears to be transparent with the wallpaper slightly visible but the color depends on the kind of wallpaper you’re using.

Custom menu bar color on macOS

If you want to set a custom menu bar color on macOS, you’re going to have to jump through a few hoops. Essentially, what you need to do is, create a copy of your wallpaper and add a solid color bar at the top. The bar will be the color you want to show on the menu bar. This is what we started with.

Editing an image on macOS is easy but you need the bar at the top to be a precise height and the height will differ based on your screen size. To make everything easier, we’re going to use an app to create a custom wallpaper with a solid color bar at the top.

What you need

You need the following to get started;

  • The HEX color code for the color you want to set for the menu bar. 
  • The image you want to use as the wallpaper.
  • The complete path to the wallpaper image.
  • The Terminal app (already on your Mac).

Create custom wallpaper

Follow these steps to create a custom wallpaper from the wallpaper you’re currently using. This custom wallpaper will look the same except for a solid color bar at the top. We’re going to use an open-source tool called Change Menu Bar Color.

  1. Open the Terminal.
  2. Run this command to clone Change Menu Bar Color from Github.
git clone https://github.com/igorkulman/ChangeMenuBarColor.git
  1. Cloning will take up to a minute to complete. 
  2. Move to the cloned directory with this command.
cd ChangeMenuBarColor
  1. Run this command to generate the new wallpaper. Change the placeholder text with actual values for the path to the wallpaper, and the HEX value of the color you want for the menu bar.
swift run ChangeMenuBarColor "path-to-wallpaper" "hex-color-code"

  1. Open the ChangeMenuBarColor folder (it’s inside your user folder).
  2. Right-click the newly generated wallpaper file.
  3. Select Set as desktop picture from the context menu.

Wallpaper image size

Make sure the wallpaper image that you use to generate a new wallpaper is a perfect fit for your screen. macOS can normally position or resize a large image and adjust it for your screen but ChangeMenuBarColor cannot. If the image isn’t the right size, the new wallpaper that’s generated may look stretched out or disproportionate.

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