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Luke Barnard
Luke Barnard

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Micro Dark Theme

I'm rewriting my personal website at the moment to make it easier to update and add things to. In the process I'm trying to keep things as simple as possible.

When I started designing it, I decided to keep the colour scheme completely black and white, with a few splashes of colour. What I realised was that some might prefer a darker colour scheme as opposed to the brilliant white pages I was developing.

But in my mission for simplicity I was determined to use the simplest implementation to achieve my dark theme.

It just so happens that the W3C is drafting up a new standard for a CSS media query that indicates whether the user has requested a light or dark colour theme for the current website. A few browsers support this today including Chrome, Firefox and Safari. See MDN for the details.

By offloading the responsibility of theme preference to the browser, a dark theme implementation can be as simple as a few lines of CSS:

      #root {
        background: white;

      @media (prefers-color-scheme: dark) {
        #root, img, .no-invert {
          filter: invert(100%);
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The way this works is fairly straight-forward:

  • When the OS or browser "dark mode" is activated, the CSS in the media tag is applied.
  • The #root element is inverted from a white background with black text to black with white text (the background colour is required for this to work).
  • Elements within the root element are inverted again to appear as they normally do.

As expected, elements inverted twice are displayed correctly - see the pills in the top-right:

And for some interesting modifications, other filters could be used in conjunction with invert() such as contrast():

Oh and if you hadn't already guessed, there's also a draft for prefers-contrast in the works - find the draft here - so that the user can avoid a low contrast theme altogether with a bit of CSS!


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Top comments (2)

tomayac profile image
Thomas Steiner

This works well enough for text, but as soon as you add images it will look weird. I advocate for icons to be inverted, but propose a different grayscaling-based approach for photographic images. But I get it, it's a micro theme, so definitely workable for some use cases.

luke profile image
Luke Barnard

I really like the idea of subtly altering images to match the surrounding light/dark of the page! Neat!