How to Turn Mac Dark Mode On or Off in macOS Mojave

Protect your eyesight with this easy-to-use feature

Apple introduced Dark Mode for the Mac in macOS Mojave. Dark Mode is a system-level setting that works with all the apps that come with the Mac. Third-party apps can opt to use the Dark Mode as well.

Dark Mode makes it easier for you to focus on your work and is easy on your eyes. Macs with macOS Mojave don't come with Dark Mode turned on, but the process to turn it on or off is simple.

Information in this article applies to Macs with macOS Mojave or later, except as otherwise indicated.

If you haven't updated to a recent version of the Mac operating system, follow the instructions for installing macOS updates from the Mac App Store.

How to Turn On or Off Dark Mode on a Mac

With macOS Mojave or later installed perform the following steps:

  1. Launch System Preferences by selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu or clicking the System Preferences icon in the Dock.

    Launching System Preferences from the Apple menu
  2. Select the General preference pane on the System Preferences screen.

    System Preferences on the Mac
  3. Next to Appearance, click the Dark icon to turn on Dark Mode. (Select the Light icon to return to Light Mode.)

    Light and Dark Mode options in General preferences on a Mac

When you turn on Dark Mode, it is applied to menus, buttons, and windows—including the System Preferences window—immediately.

System Preferences General window in Dark Mode

Using Dark Mode

The Apple-supplied apps, such as Photos, Mail, Maps, and Calendar all support Dark Mode. However, if you were hoping for complete darkness to settle onto your Mac, there is another step to take—tone down the Mac's desktop. You can choose your own dark custom image for the desktop, but using one of the Dynamic desktop images or dark still images included with macOS Mojave and later is a better solution.

About Dynamic Desktop Images

Dynamic Desktop Images change appearance, tracking the time of day and producing darker wallpaper at night and brighter desktops during the day. However, the Dynamic Desktop images included with your Mac can be set to display a light or dark image continuously.

Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane showing Dynamic desktop options.
Tom Nelson

If you choose the dark desktop image, you can further enhance the Dark Mode interface.

  1. Launch System Preferences and select Desktop & Screen Saver.

    Mac System Preferences screen in Dark Mode
  2. Select the Desktop tab if it is not already chosen and click Desktop Pictures in the Apple section of the sidebar.

  3. Click on one of the Dynamic Desktop images and select Dynamic in the drop-down menu next to the large thumbnail of the image. These images move from light to dark as the day progresses.

    Desktop preferences showing Dark Mode options
  4. If you prefer the desktop to remain dark all the time, select Dark (still) from the drop-down menu next to the image thumbnail or choose one of the dark versions of Apple screens in the Desktop Pictures section immediately beneath the Dynamic Desktop images. The desktop changes to show the image you select.

    System Preferences for settings dark desktop image

Night Shift Can Ease Eyestrain

Dark Mode isn't the only feature built in to macOS that can help relieve eyestrain. Night Shift adjusts your display's brightness and white point balance depending on the time of day to reduce fatigue. It changes the colors of your display to be warmer after dark.

Night Shift first appeared on iPhones and iPads and came to the Mac with macOS Sierra. It is often used with still desktop images, but when activated with a Dark Mode desktop, Night Shift keeps bright blue light at bay, easing eyestrain and allowing you to feel more relaxed in the evening.

Turn on Night Shift in System Preferences > Displays > Night Shift.

System Preferences Night Shift options