How to Invert Colors (Enable Dark Mode) on iPhone and iPad

Reduce eye strain by adjusting your screen to emit less light

If you use your iPhone or iPad in the dark, you may experience eye strain from the contrast between the bright screen and the dark surroundings. A quick fix for that is to enable a special dark mode on your iOS device.

Instructions in this article apply to iPhones and iPads running iOS version 11 and newer.

Is Dark Mode the Same as Smart Invert?

Dark mode is a feature of some operating systems and apps that changes the colors of the user interface from the standard bright colors to darker colors. These dark colors are more appropriate for night use and for avoiding eye strain. Changing the color can be done either manually by the user or automatically based on ambient light or time of day. 

On older versions of the iOS, there wasn't a true dark mode function for iPhone or iPad. That changed in iOS 13. Read all about it in How to Enable Dark Mode on iPhone and iPad.

Devices running iOS 12 and earlier use a feature called Smart Invert to reverse the colors displayed on the device screen (light colors become dark, blacks become white).

The macOS also has a dark mode feature. On macOS Mojave or newer, you can turn your Mac's Dark Mode on or off.

Why Would You Want to Invert Colors?

Some people prefer using a dark mode at night to reduce glare and eye strain. Other people, however, invert colors to help with visual impairments. This could be something as common as color blindness or a more serious condition. For those users, iOS offers an accessibility feature called Classic Invert.

Are Dark Mode and Night Shift the Same Thing?

While both the Smart Invert feature and Night Shift adjust the colors of the iPhone or iPad screen, they don't do it in the same way.

Night Shift — a feature available on iOS and Macs — changes the overall tone of the colors on the screen by reducing blue light and making the tone of the screen yellow. This is thought to avoid the disruption of sleep that some people experience from using blue-tinted screens in the dark.

Smart Invert, on the other hand, changes some of the colors used by the user interface but maintains the basic tone of other images. 

How to Invert Colors on the iPhone and iPad

The option to invert colors is in the Display Accommodations area of the device settings.

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Go to General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations.

    General, Accessibility, Display Accommodations in iOS Settings
  3. Tap Invert Colors, then choose either Smart Invert or Classic Invert. Either will reverse the colors of the display.

    Invert Colors, Smart Invert, Classic Invert in iOS Settings

    Smart Invert is a bit more subtle because it doesn't invert all colors. Instead, it leaves some colors such as images and other media in their original colors. Classic Invert inverts everything.

  4. The screen colors will change immediately.

To undo the inverted colors setting on an iPhone or iPad and return the colors back to their original settings, repeat the steps above. Tap either invert option again to turn the feature off and return the device colors to normal.

How to Quickly Turn Dark Mode On and Off

If you want to use dark mode regularly, go to Settings > General > Accessibility and tap Accessibility Shortcut.

General, Accessibility, Accessibility Shortcut buttons in iOS Settings

Choose which accessibility features you want (including Smart Invert Colors, Classic Invert Colors, or both), then leave the screen.

Accessibility checkmarks, Smart Invert, Shortcuts on iOS

Now, when you want to invert colors, triple-press the Home button (or the side button on iPhone X and newer) and choose the invert colors option you want to use.