How to Turn Mac Dark Mode On or Off

Protect your eyesight with this easy-to-use feature

What to Know

  • Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences > General. Next to Appearance, select Dark from the available options.
  • Switching to Dark Mode works on Apple-supplied apps (such as Photos, Mail, and Calendar) and the general Mac interface.
  • Use a Dynamic Desktop image 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 option, as well. Information in this article applies to Macs with macOS Mojave and later.

How to Turn Dark Mode On or Off on a Mac

Dark Mode is easier on your eyes, helping many users deal with eyestrain. Apple introduced Dark Mode with macOS Mojave. While Dark Mode isn't automatically enabled, it's easy to turn on and off.

  1. Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences.

    Apple menu with System Preferences highlighted
  2. Select General on the System Preferences screen.

    General highlighted on the System Preferences window
  3. Next to Appearance, select Dark to turn on Dark Mode. (Select Light to return to Light Mode.)

    Mac System Preferences Appearance with Dark highlighted
  4. When enabled, Dark Mode is applied to menus, buttons, and windows, including the System Preferences window, immediately.

    Dark mode on the System Preferences window

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's 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.

    System Preferences with "Desktop and Screen Saver" highlighted
  2. Select the Desktop tab, and then find the Dynamic Desktop pictures.

    Desktop and Screensaver panel with "Desktop" and "Dynamic Desktop" highlighted
  3. Select a Dynamic Desktop image, then select Dynamic from the drop-down menu next to the large thumbnail. These images move from light to dark as the day progresses.

    Desktop and Screen Saver Panel with Dynamic highlighted
  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.

    "Dark Still" highlighted next to image thumbnail in Desktop and Screen Saver panel

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.

Night Shift highlighted in Display Preferences
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