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

Reduce eye strain by adjusting your screen to less light

iphone dark mode

Anyone who's used their iPhone or iPad in the dark has probably experienced some eye strain from the contrast between the bright screen and the dark surroudings. With iOS 11, Apple has introduced a feature – commonly called "dark mode," though that's not technically correct – that lets you adjust your screen for use in the dark.

Is Dark Mode The Same As Smart Invert?

Dark Mode is a feature of some operating systems and apps that changes the colors on the user interface from the standard brights to darker colors more appropriate for use at night and for avoiding eye strain.

This can be done either by the user or automatically based on ambient light or time of day. 

Technically, there is no such thing as "dark mode" for iPhone or iPad, and so there's no setting with that name.

The feature many people call Dark Mode is actually called Smart Invert. It reverses the colors displayed on the device's screen (light colors become dark, blacks become white, etc). There may someday be a true Dark Mode in iOS, but for now iOS 11's Smart Invert is the only option.

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 minor and common as color blindness or a more serious condition.

For those users, the iOS has long offered an accessibility feature called Classic Invert. More on how Smart Invert and Classic Invert differ later in this article.

Are Dark Mode and Night Shift the Same Thing?

No. While both the Smart Invert/Dark Mode feature and Night Shift adjust the colors of your iPhone or iPad screen, they don't do it in the same way. Night Shift – a feature available on iOS and the Mac –changes the overall tone of the colors on the screen, reducing blue light and making the tone of the screen more 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

To invert colors on an iPhone or iPad running iOS 11 or higher, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Accessibility.
  4. Tap Display Accommodations.
  5. Tap Invert Colors.
  6. At this screen, you have two options: Smart Invert and Classic Invert.  Both reverse the colors of the display. Smart Invert is a bit more subtle, though, because it doesn't invert all colors. It leaves some selected colors, such as those in images, media, and some apps, in their original colors. Classic Invert simply inverts everything.
  7. Move the slider to on/green for the option you want to use. You can only use one at a time. With one of the sliders turned on, the colors on your screen will invert.

How to Disable Inverted Colors on iPhone and iPad

To return inverted colors to their original settings, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Accessibility.
  4. Tap Display Accommodations.
  5. Tap Invert Colors.
  6. Move the active slider to off/white.

    How to Quickly Turn Dark Mode On and Off

    If you want to use Dark Mode regularly, you probably will want something faster than 7 taps to enable it. Luckily, you can do that by turning on the built-in Accessibility Shortcut, which includes color inversion. Here's how:

    1. Tap Settings.
    2. Tap General.
    3. Tap Accessibility.
    4. Scroll to the bottom and tap Accessibility Shortcut.
    5. On this screen, you can choose what accessibility features are available in the shortcut. Tap each option you want – including Smart Invert Colors, Classic Invert Colors, or both – and then leave the screen.
    6. Now, whenever you want to invert colors, triple-click the Home button and a menu pops up from the bottom of the screen containing the options you selected. 
    1. Tap an option to invert colors and then tap Enable.