One of the most fun aspects of using REAPER is customization. And what better way to feel more at home than adjusting the visual aspect of your working application? Reaper allows you to install custom themes that change colors, reskin toolbar icons, change the amount of information on screen, give you track aspects or types, and overall help smoothing your interaction with the software.
Some users come from other DAWs and want to feel more at home, while others want a theme that resembles an analog console. The theme selection aspect is especially beneficial for people who may have a color blindness condition and need a theme that uses specific colors so the interface elements are easily distinguished.
Before I get into the installation bit, I will first go over the theme download process. It is fairly simple and straightforward, so let’s jump right into it.
Downloading your first REAPER Theme
The first step is to open your web browser and go to the REAPER official page www.reaper.fm, at the right of the REAPER logo is the resources link, and after clicking it, the page presents a drop-down menu.
Themes is the link you’re looking for and will take you to the corresponding section of the REAPER Stash. The stash is an official repository to share REAPER related files between users, this includes Themes, preferences, templates, etc.
After getting to the REAPER stash, you can browse through to find a theme that best suits your needs, I will gp for one of my favorites, the HYDRA theme by Blankfiles. This theme happens to resemble Studio One quite a bit and has a nice dark background that is easy on the eyes.
To find it, I will go to the search bar on the right, and keeping the filter that is already there, I will type “HYDRA” in it and hit Enter. This will take me to all the themes that include what I typed in the name, so I’ll select the one I want, which is this one from 2017.
The most elaborate and well documented REAPER themes have a dedicated description, usually displaying a changelog. The changelog shows multiple versions, comments on how to best use the theme, references to the development REAPER forum thread if it has one, and links to additional media including icons and fonts.
Just below the description you can find the name of the REAPER theme file, this is the download link.
Just below the download link is where you’ll find the theme screenshots. This is what will give you a sense of how the theme should look like. And, if the theme creator is thorough, they will include displays of the various track layouts, how the MIDI editor looks like, menus, alternative meters, etc.
After clicking the download link, the file will appear in your downloads folder, the download won’t take very long since Reaper theme files are very light. Its icon is a white t-shirt with a REAPER logo on the center.
Installing Your New REAPER Theme
There are two methods to install a REAPER theme.
The first method is double clicking on the theme file and REAPER will open with the new look.
Or if you already have REAPER open, perhaps currently working on a project and don’t want to close the application to reopen it, all that’s left to do is drag the theme file to the REAPER window.
Don’t worry if it looks like a little item shadow in the timeline, once you drop it, REAPER will reskin automatically without even restarting
Change to a Previously Installed Theme
Every new theme is saved under REAPER preferences, and you can change to any theme you have previously installed. Every time you want to retry a theme, you can find them on Options > Themes and select any other theme you want, even REAPER’s previous default themes.
This process can be done on the fly, no need for saving and closing projects, nor restarting anything, REAPER will immediately change appearance.
Cockos, the developers of REAPER, have put a lot of effort into making this DAW as customizable as possible, and it shows. These themes are created by the community and Cockos opened the stash so these files and many more are easily shared. Also, the installation process is very simple and stays out of the way of your productivity. In the end, it is you more than anyone who knows what your workflow is and what you need to achieve it, the fact that these themes are out in the world gives you, the user, the power to shape your own workspace.