Tired of the same look and feel of Ableton Live’s interface? Download Ableton Live Skin Editor (requires Max for Live) and change the style whenever you want!
The old skins made in Live 8 with the original skin editor (see the first skins tutorial made for Live 8) mostly work in Live 9, but some of the colours have changed. The skin editor was hard coded into Live at 9.0.3 and it’s no longer possible to use the old editor to edit the default Live skin. You can still edit old skins and load them into Live, but there are some limitations. Someone at Ableton very kindly told me about this Max for Live device you can use to edit the Live 9 default skin. It was made by pechmann on maxforlive.com.
Download the editor and drag it into User Library: Presets: Instruments: Max Instruments. Load the Default skin into Live in the normal way in Preferences. This is the only one you can edit.
Go to the Live app for the version of 9 you are using, right click on it, and select ‘Show Package Contents’. Navigate to the Skins folder under Contents: Application Resources, and right click on it. Select ‘create Alias’. Drag this to your desktop. This will be where you locate your skins as you test them. Drag the Max skin editor from your browser into your Master track.
You can’t see the results of what you do until you save the skin in this folder and load it into Live. Work in stages of one or two colors and keep notes. Don’t forget to number them and add .ask as the extension.
Click on Colors in the editor and you’ll see a screen full of colored boxes. These should be the colors for the default skin. Simply right click on one and edit the color in the usual way, as described in detail in the last skins tutorial. You can copy colors from anywhere on the web and load them in as explained there. Make sure to load the Developer Picker as it may be related to the alpha (transparency) required.
If you want to go back a step and change a color in the first one you make, you might have to delete the Skin editor and drag it in again. Once you’ve saved some you can just load them into the editor again.
Try one or two at a time and keep notes. Otherwise it will drive you crazy. Save each one as an .ask file in the Skins folder via the alias, and load it into Live. Make sure you close Preferences in between each one. I tend to save each skin as the number of the color I just changed, and click on ‘replace’ if it’s one I did a while ago. This way it’s easy to keep track of. I save 76.ask and load 76 into Live’s Preference. Couldn’t be Simpler 🙂
I’ll try and describe some of the main locations:
1. CONTROL FOREGROUND. The writing in the Browser plus other places.
6. SURFACE HIGHLIGHT Highlighted tracks and scenes.
7. SURFACE AREA. This is an important one. The main dividing lines and trim edges, also the color of the waveform in Simpler, and the color of the vertical grid lines in the Note Editor. See also 96, and make sure these two are not too similar. If you use a dark color you lose visibility of the timeline in Arrange when not focused, but I think it’s a small price to pay for increased visibility of the vertical lines in the note editor.
8. DESKTOP. The main trim around the edge. Color it what you want, not too similar to 7 if you want contrast there. Get the balance right between 7, 8 and 96.
12. DETAIL VIEW. Background to the Note Editor. Shading is done over the top.
15. CONTROL BACKGROUND. The background for all the controls at the top. See also 63.
19. RANGE DEFAULT. The colored range ring on a knob.
25. RANGE EDIT FIELD. The range in slider boxes, default is orange. NB. this is a color with alpha in it.
47. SELECTION PAINT. Things you have currently clicked on including Browser items, track Title Bars, Device Title Bars.
48. SELETION PAINT STANDBY. You have selected this item for this part of Live but currently clicked elsewhere.
49. SURFACE BACKGROUND. The biggest area of background.
63. CONTROL CONTRAST TRANSPORT. The border to the CONTROL BACKGROUND (15).
65. BROWSER BAR. Browser search bar.
70. RETRO DISPLAY BACKGROUND. EQ Eight, Spectrum and Operator backgrounds.
72. RETRO DISPLAY FOREGROUND. The writing in Operator, eg the list of wave forms. Yellow in the default, so no good for light backgrounds. (see 70.)
73. RETRO DISPLAY FOREGROUND 2. Operator writing.
75. RETRO DISPLAY GREEN. Operator data.
76. RETRO DISPLAY RED. Operator partials color. Also the main line in EQ Eight.
77. RETRO DISPLAY HANDLE 1. Filter numbers in EQ Eight.
96. SURFACE AREA FOCUS. The border of the area in focus. See also 7.
97. FREEZE COLOR. The color of frozen tracks.
99. ARRANGE GRID TILES. The darker contrast in Arrange’ timeline. !Important!
100. DETAIL GRID TILES. The darker contrast to 12 (Note Editor background) !Important!
These last two are important because making them darker helps people with poor eyesight, and also because it’s a bit tricky. You have to use opacity, which was never visible on my Mac’s colour picker in the past. However I found a way to make it work! Load a new set if necessary, and load the Default skin. Load the Max skin editor. Go to Color 99 and you should see a diagonal line across the top, separated into black and white. Also you should now see an opacity slider at the bottom. Drag a sample from the top into one of the small squares at the very bottom. Now you have a sample stored with opacity control built in. This means your selection highlights can show through! See the images above.
Here is the skin I’ve been working on so far. I’ve only got as far as changing the colors listed above.