How to Turn Mac Dark Mode On or Off

Protect your eyesight with this easy-to-use feature

What to Know

  • Click the Apple logo then System Preferences > General and click Dark next to Appearance.
  • This works on Apple-supplied apps (i.e. Photos, Mail, Calendar, etc.)
  • Use Dynamic Desktop to help reduce light from the rest of your desktop.

This article explains how to work with Dark Mode, 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. Information in this article applies to Macs with macOS Mojave/Catalina or later, except as otherwise indicated.

How to Turn Dark Mode On or Off on a Mac

Dark Mode makes it less straining for you to focus on your work because it's 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. Follow these steps to turn it on or off:

  1. Click the Apple logo > System Preferences or click 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
  4. When you turn on Dark Mode, it is applied to menus, buttons, and windows—including the System Preferences window—immediately.

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.

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 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 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 into 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 eye strain 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