Black on white with Max 7

Making Max 7 look like 6.

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 4.57.51 PM

What’s this about?

The UI in Max 7 reverses foreground and background from previous versions of Max (and Pd).  Additionally,  a secondary toolbar menu frames the patcher and all sub-patchers. For example, here is a simple Max 6 patch and its Max 7 equivalent.

Max 6:

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 4.40.04 PM

Max 7:

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 4.41.57 PM

Regardless of which look you find more appealing, the new UI is problematic in several ways.

  • Light text on dark background can be difficult (blurry)  for people with vision impairment – given the same font size and screen brightness.
  • Patches created in previous versions of Max lose their original design.
  • Larger objects and toolbar frames consume more screen space.
  • I usually sketch ideas with pencil on paper. The empty white patcher screen is an inspiring blank sketchpad.

Max 7 doesn’t include a black-on-white style, but you can make your own. And lose the toolbar. Here is a new and improved version of the patch:

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 4.57.51 PM

Making a new style

The process is arcane. But it took less than a half hour to get results. Then I wasted time endlessly tweaking.

The secret recipe came from a 2014 Cycling 74 forum post by Phiol, with assistance from Ben Bracken. Everything you need to know is explained in Phiol’s first 2 posts in the thread.

I encourage you to read both posts and follow the steps precisely. There are no shortcuts.

  1. In a default patcher, make a bunch of objects and then in the Format Palette (object inspector) change them to whatever colors you want
  2. Select all the objects in the patcher
  3. In the Format palette, make a new style – this style will be for multiple objects
  4. Select the patcher to activate it in the Format palette
  5. In the Style menu (located in the patcher inspector window), select the style you just made, applying it to the patcher level
  6. Delete all of the objects in the patcher
  7. Save a new template (in dropdown file menu “create template”) and make it your default.

And then the bad news:

Step 1. is important.
  • You must start from a blank “Default Patcher Template” and choose “Default Max7”
  • You cannot copy/paste objects that you had already done your custom colors. You will have to start from scratch. one by one.
  • In the inspector window, make sure the “Appearance style” has nothing selected in it’s umenu

Then do all the steps mentioned in the previous thread.

The Glitch/bug:

-Gradients objects do not work.
For example, [message and umenu] would not keep my custom colors.

Workaround: Once you have started a new patch, reselect your “custom_style” in patch inspector window or the ‘format’ sub menu. That is, click the style that should already be selected/checked – and now it should work.

So yes, for now, as we start a new patch we will we have to make it a habit to always select our “custom_style” in patcher inspector window or the format sub-menu.

patcher inspector window

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 5.53.30 PM

format submenu

(click the paintbucket icon on the top toolbar)

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 5.54.37 PM

Copy style to library

Also, when you open older Max6 patches and/or the help patch and want to apply your new custom style template, make sure that in the “Format” dropdown menu you have selected the “copy style to library”.

Loading Max 6 patches

Once you’ve done this, you will be able to apply you’re custom style to older/help patchers and resave them with your custom look. To do so, you open Inpector’s Appearance again, and select your “custom_style” that will be in the Library style.

Walking through the process of step one

If you are totally confused at this point, so was I.

Starting with step one above,  make a patch with common objects, that looks something like this:

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 5.23.19 PM

Select each object individually, then with inspector, change the background color to white, or a lighter shade, and the text color to black.

You may need to experiment. Try with a small number of objects at first – because you will probably need to do the whole process several times. As noted above, you have start from the begining  each time by hand. You can’t modify a style after you save it.

Then, you should be able to follow the rest of the steps from Phiol’s post.

The objects used for this style are:

  • umenu*
  • button
  • dial
  • toggle
  • generic object
  • textedit
  • slider
  • message*

*these objects use gradients

Making a white patcher background

  • open a blank patcher
  • ctrl click on the background and select “Inspector Window”.
  • Change the unlocked and locked background colors to white.
  • Then, from the File menu, select ‘create template’ and give it the same name as the template you selected in step 7 above (and make sure to check ‘default for new patchers’)

Getting rid of the tool bar frame

The procedure is basically the same as setting the white background.

  • In a blank patcher, open the inspector window and uncheck ‘show toolbar on open’.
  •  Then, from the File menu, select ‘create template’ and give it the same name as the template you selected in step 7 above (and make sure to check ‘default for new patchers’)

Note: you can toggle the toolbar anytime with <cmd>8

 If subpatchers  still have the default look

If you create a subpatch and it reverts back to the default style then…

  • In a blank patcher, open the inspector window and set the subpatcher template to your new tempate created in step 7 above.
  •  Then, from the File menu, select ‘create template’ and give it the same name as the template you selected in step 7 above (and make sure to check ‘default for new patchers’)

More about styles and templates in Max 7

I recommend the Cycling 74 vignettes on styles and templates to get a better understanding of what’s going on here:

The Dunning-Kruger effect

Confidence sometimes masks inexperience


“When somebody first begins to learn a topic, they typically underestimate its difficulty and wind up vastly over confident in their own abilities. Over time, however, this confidence begins to drop off as more knowledge is learned (awareness of depth and complication of topic). Confidence then eventually picks up again as true expertise is gained.”

By Dylan James

From Quora:




Analog video synthesis

Generative art in motion.


By Christopher Konopka


In the past year, Chris has published nearly 2500 improvised video pieces.


You may be familiar with analog modular audio synthesis. The hardware to produce video looks nearly identical – a maze of patch cords and dials.



Analog video is television. A CRT (cathode ray tube) resynthesizes video information by demodulating signals from a camera. Vintage televisions have dials to adjust color and vertical sync. When you turn the dials you are synthesizing analog video. Distortion, filtering, and feedback – either at the source (camera) or the destination (tv screen) – offer up an infinite variety of images.

Analog vs. Digital

Today all media is digital. Like the screen you are looking at. The difference with analog is in how it’s produced. Boundaries are less definite. Lines curve. Colors waver. Feedback looks like flames. Every frame is a painting.


Images can be generated electronically using modules – without a camera.


Like with audio sampling, anything is a source. Movies, Youtube, live television, even Felix the Cat.


When you aim a guitar at an amplifier it screams. Tilt it away slightly and the screaming subsides. In between there’s sweet spot. The same is true with cameras and screens. Feedback results when output is mixed with input.


Analog shortwave radio signals are distorted by the atmosphere in a manner similar to video filtering.

A studio in Bethel, Maine.


An improvised collaboration between Chris and Tom Zicarelli using shortwave radio processed with audio effects.

Live Performance


A recent screen test at the Gem Theatre in Bethel, Maine. Source material is a time lapse film of a glacier installation – produced at the same theatre – by Wade Kavanaugh and Steven Nguyen.  The film was re-synthesized using analog video and feedback. Soundtrack by Tom Zicarelli.

Big screen equals mind bending experience.

Note: previous clip excerpted from this 15 minute jam:


The patterns in this clip appear to be three dimensional. They are not.

From a show that happened somewhere in the known universe:


Improvised analog video with the band “Alto”. Patterns reminiscent of magical textiles.

More about analog video synthesis