Is it possible to give the letters a,e,i,o,u,y a different color in a piece of text? For instance, color all the a's red, the e's blue, the i's green, etc.

EDIT: Without doing it manually of course.

  • How big is this piece of text? Can you be more precise about your need? – egreg Oct 13 '13 at 21:07
  • 2
    Coloring all vowels is more difficult than just coloring a,e,i,o,u,y. For instance, y is a vowel in "tyre" but not in "hay". – Tim N Oct 14 '13 at 15:37
  • Just want to link these two questions: tex.stackexchange.com/q/120397/17423 – Sean Allred Jul 4 '18 at 17:41

enter image description here

Requires xelatex:

\XeTeXinterchartokenstate = 1
\newXeTeXintercharclass \vowelsclass

\XeTeXcharclass `\a \vowelsclass
\XeTeXcharclass `\e \vowelsclass
\XeTeXcharclass `\i \vowelsclass
\XeTeXcharclass `\o \vowelsclass
\XeTeXcharclass `\u \vowelsclass

\XeTeXcharclass `\A \vowelsclass
\XeTeXcharclass `\E \vowelsclass
\XeTeXcharclass `\I \vowelsclass
\XeTeXcharclass `\O \vowelsclass
\XeTeXcharclass `\U \vowelsclass

\XeTeXinterchartoks 0 \vowelsclass = {\bgroup\color{blue}}
\XeTeXinterchartoks 1 \vowelsclass = {\bgroup\color{blue}}
\XeTeXinterchartoks 2 \vowelsclass = {\bgroup\color{blue}}
\XeTeXinterchartoks 3 \vowelsclass = {\bgroup\color{blue}}
\XeTeXinterchartoks 255 \vowelsclass = {\bgroup\color{blue}}
\XeTeXinterchartoks \vowelsclass 0 = {\egroup}
\XeTeXinterchartoks \vowelsclass 1 = {\egroup}
\XeTeXinterchartoks \vowelsclass 2 = {\egroup}
\XeTeXinterchartoks \vowelsclass 255 = {\egroup}


One two three four five six seven eight.


This is just for practicing with LaTeX3 code.

  \cs_set:cpn { maryjane_color_#1: } { \textcolor{#2}{#1} }
\tl_new:N \l_maryjane_text_tl
\NewDocumentCommand{\changecolors}{ O{aeiou} m }
  \tl_set:Nn \l_maryjane_text_tl { #2 }
  \tl_map_inline:nn { #1 } 
    \tl_replace_all:Nnn \l_maryjane_text_tl { ##1 } { \use:c { maryjane_color_##1: } }



\changecolors{The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog}

\changecolors[a]{The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog}


In the optional argument you can specify a subset of the declared letters. If you specify an undeclared letter (with \colorize), it will be gobbled.

enter image description here

  • 1
    Very nice. So this works in the style of \textbf{...} or \textcolor{...}. How would you modify this to make it work in the style of \bfseries or \color{...}? – A.Ellett Oct 13 '13 at 21:41
  • @A.Ellett I need to get the text before starting to change the colors. – egreg Oct 13 '13 at 21:47

A luatex solution to the problem:

vowels = {'a', 'e', 'i', 'o', 'u', 'y',
          'A', 'E', 'I', 'O', 'U', 'Y'}

vowels_char = {}
for _, value in pairs(vowels) do
  vowels_char[#vowels_char + 1] = string.byte(value)

function table.contains(table, element)
  for _, value in pairs(table) do
    if value == element then
      return true
  return false

function color_vowels(head)
  for n in node.traverse_id(node.id("glyph"), head) do
    if table.contains(vowels_char, n.char) then
        local n1, n2
        n1 = node.new(node.id("whatsit"), node.subtype("pdf_literal"))
        n2 = node.new(node.id("whatsit"), node.subtype("pdf_literal"))
        n1.data = "q 1 0 0 rg"
        n1.mode = 1
        node.insert_before(head, n, n1)
        n2.data = " Q"
        n2.mode = 1
        node.insert_after(head, n, n2)
  return head
luatexbase.add_to_callback("pre_linebreak_filter", color_vowels, "Color vowels")
luatexbase.add_to_callback("hpack_filter", color_vowels, "Color vowels")


The quick brown fox jumped Over the lazy dog

\hbox{The quick brown fox jumped Over the lazy dog}


enter image description here

A few notes about the code. string.byte returns the ASCII value of its argument. Color change is done at pdf level with a 'whatits' pdf_literal node (q is a kind of begin group and Q a kind of end group in pdf, rg is the rgb model for non stroking operations).

A final note: my method does not work with inline math.

  • ...or more precisely works too good, even for inline math :) – cjorssen Oct 4 '16 at 21:25

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