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Dramatic “Material You” colors arrive to desktop Chrome Canary builds

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It looks like the beginning of Google’s color-changing “Material You” design language is finally coming to Chrome, at least in the canary builds. Redditor Leopeva64-2 spotted new flags in the latest nightly builds that will automatically recolor the Chrome UI based on what wallpaper you pick, just like Android.

If you want to try this right now, you’ll need to grab yourself a copy of Chrome Canary and turn on two flags (paste these into the address bar): “chrome://flags/#customize-chrome-color-extraction,” and “chrome://flags/#ntp-comprehensive-theming.” Once those are turned on, picking a Chrome wallpaper from the “customize” button in the bottom right of the new tab page will also change the color of the tab bar. One more flag at “chrome://flags/#ntp-comprehensive-theming” will also apply these colors to the new tab page search bar.

Material You launched in 2021 with Android 12. In addition to a new set of guidelines for the sizes and shapes of UI components, Material You also came with an automatic color system. Android can automatically snatch colors from your wallpaper and apply that to the UI, with lots of algorithm magic to ensure zero contrast problems. It works great if you’re into a colorful UI, and it gives Android a unique look.

When Google announced Material You, the VP of the company-wide “Design” division, Matias Duarte, indicated the new design language would eventually roll out across “the web, Chrome OS, Wearables, smart displays, and all of Google’s products.” Since then, we’ve seen desktop Gmail take on a more colorful UI, but Material You’s color system hasn’t been seen much outside of Android.

Android's color picker is a lot less dramatic than Chrome's right now.
Enlarge / Android’s color picker is a lot less dramatic than Chrome’s right now.

Ron Amadeo

I don’t know if it’s right to call Chrome’s color scheme Material You right now since the colors are a lot bolder and more distracting than what Android normally uses. Android makes a lot of light pastels from your wallpaper by adjusting lightness values to maintain a readable contrast and fit in with Google’s design intent. The result is usually only lightly tinted backgrounds with bolder colors reserved for important action buttons. Chrome is way off in the other direction right now, with blazingly bright background colors that are probably a distraction when you’re trying to focus on a webpage. Chrome has had a manual color picker for a while, so even if this becomes the default, you’ll probably be able to turn it off.

This is the first version of Material You, so the colors may be toned down in the future, and some of the contrast issues (particularly with the white Google logo) will be cleaned up. Chrome’s settings don’t call out the branded Material You color scheme just yet, but Chrome is clearly headed that way. Chrome OS added a commit in June for a “unified switch for the ChromeOS Material Next launch.” “Material Next” is the internal name for Material You. It seems like Chrome is gearing up for a big redesign eventually.

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