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

Reduce eye strain by adjusting your screen to emit less light

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Dong Wenjie/Getty Images

If you've used your iPhone or iPad in the dark, you've probably experienced some 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.

These steps apply to devices 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 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 isn't a "dark mode" function 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).

While there might one day be a true dark mode for iOS, Smart Invert is the only option for now.

Although iOS doesn't have a true dark mode, macOS does. If you're running 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, 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 Macs — 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

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

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Go to General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations.

    General, Accessibility, Display Accommodations in iOS Settings
  3. Tap Invert Colors and then pick 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 leaving some colors — like images and other media — in their original colors. Classic Invert simply inverts everything.

    Move the slider to the on/green position for the option you want to use. Only one can be selected at a time.

  4. Your 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. Tapping either invert option again will turn the feature off and return the device's colors to normal.

How to Quickly Turn Dark Mode On and Off

If you want to use dark mode regularly, you probably want a quicker method for enabling and disabling it. Fortunately, there's an option in the Accessibility Shortcut settings of your device that lets you do just that.

Return to the Settings > General > Accessibility screen and tap Accessibility Shortcut at the very bottom.

General, Accessibility, Accessibility Shortcut buttons in iOS Settings

On this screen is where you can choose which 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.

Accessibility checkmarks, Smart Invert, Shortcuts on iOS

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