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I am using the “Preview” application for reading a PDF file on a MacBook Pro. Is there any way in I can read it in dark mode?

You can do it in Adobe Acrobat Reader by changing background and text color, but can “Preview” do that too?

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  • 1
    Pdf expert has a really nice sepia mode, too bad it lacks some feature and speed of Preview Nov 8, 2019 at 13:27
  • 1
    Does this answer your question? Change background colour for PDF when Viewing
    – TT--
    Jul 15, 2020 at 13:48
  • I have found the free PDF Viewer (pdfviewer.io) app to be really great. It can do multiple tabs, sepia and night inversion, it syncs across devices (ipad and mac). I have no association with this software and have tried dozens of programs before setting on this one.
    – dval
    Apr 21, 2021 at 0:40
  • I just answered the duplicate question, but the answer is TexShop.
    – emily
    Sep 10, 2021 at 15:43
  • skim now (as of 1.6.6) has dark mode option! skim-app.sourceforge.io Nov 21, 2021 at 16:20

8 Answers 8

85

I had the same problem so I wrote simple and free app for Mac to read PDFs in negative. App offers two negative modes (colour inversion and colour inversion with sepia).

It is called Negative and it is free on the Mac App Store

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  • Very nice! I'm not sure how PDFs are encoded, but it would be great if you would skip the color inversion for photos.
    – Matthew
    Oct 13, 2018 at 15:46
  • 3
    And also a dark mode toolbar :)
    – Matthew
    Oct 13, 2018 at 15:47
  • 1
    Thanks so muchi, been looking for something like that for ages. I would happily pay for Negative too, to sustain development ;-) @Matthew you can toggle dark mode via the View menu, although support for macOS native dark mode would be appreciated.
    – cseelus
    Dec 13, 2018 at 22:10
  • 1
    The Toggle Toolbar Colours setting is not retained upon restart.
    – TT--
    Jul 15, 2020 at 13:52
  • 1
    @isend yep. Here is the link: dropbox.com/s/pg3gz9yxeepn2xz/Negative.zip?dl=0 May 20 at 6:04
36

While there is not an inverted color scheme for Preview, you can invert the screen colors for the entire system by pressing

Command-Option-Control-8

Press the sequence again to restore the default color scheme.

enable inverted colors accessibility option shortcut

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  • 12
    If that key combo does not work, check that it's enabled under System preferences / Keyboard / Shortcuts / Accessibility. Also, Command-Option-F5 could be used (if that shortcut is enabled) to bring up the accessibility options control menu, and invert the display through that.
    – AndOs
    Aug 10, 2019 at 22:13
  • This was super helpful to me -- thanks you!
    – Rob
    Apr 18, 2020 at 23:25
  • The easiest solution and doesn't need to download anything. Works like a charm
    – MyNick
    Dec 20, 2021 at 19:24
16

I use Adobe PDF Reader to read PDF books. In Preferences > Accessibility > Document Colors Options I set "Replace Document Colors" and "Custom Color". Page Background: black and Document Text: a ordinary dark grey.

So my default PDF reader is Preview with regular color, but I open PDF books with customized Adobe Reader.

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  • Thanks for the tip, this does the trick pretty well Jan 8, 2019 at 5:10
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PDF Expert (Free | $80)

enter image description here

This is by far the best solution I've come across for reading PDF files in dark mode. It has a sepia mode as well, which is a nice plus. It works on images by making them grayscale and then inverting them.

  • I tried Negative, and it was horrible in terms of performance. PDF Expert is so smooth, it feels like a native macOS app.
  • I also have Acrobat, but using it for night mode feels kind of "hacky." Its performance is not great, and its price is quite hefty. PDF Expert on the there hand has a dedicated night mode, which works and looks better than Acrobat's night mode. PDF Expert has a hefty price, but you get the night mode with the free version.
  • Using the invert mode on macOS disables Night Shift and True Tone. Those are the last things that I want to disable at nighttime (which is usually when I want to read PDFs in dark mode). It also inverts color images, which looks pretty bad in my opinion. PDF Expert does it much better.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Readdle or PDF Expert. I just think it works much better than any of the other options mentioned here.

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  • 2
    You're right, night mode works really well with PDF Expert, thanks for the suggestion. Jul 22, 2020 at 6:31
  • 1
    This works great, thank you @SkeletonBow! Feb 12, 2021 at 19:08
  • My pleasure, Mr. Silva!
    – Oion Akif
    Feb 13, 2021 at 6:49
  • It's extremely rare that I see a post on Stack Exchange mentioning a paid product, and I don't immediately down-vote it. But. Yeah, wow. PDF Expert is exactly what I wanted here. Thanks! Apr 21 at 5:27
  • I will admit that it's significantly more expensive than I'd like it to be. Seems like they switched to a subscription model with a lifetime option for $140, which seems quite high to me
    – Oion Akif
    Apr 23 at 4:19
8

There is not a dark mode for preview.

You can use the flux software to at least bring the color warmth up and brightness down. It makes the whole OS easier on the eyes at night.

In another hand, there is iBooks which, I think, have a dark mode.

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  • 5
    iBooks has a dark mode, but you can't read PDFs directly in iBooks on Mac. It just opens them in Preview.
    – calum_b
    Mar 11, 2018 at 16:24
  • Oh I didn’t know, never used iBook on Mac but on iOS
    – Chris
    Mar 11, 2018 at 20:08
5

I'm a bit late to the answers here, but if someone is still looking for an answer here I've found somewhat reasonable solution(s) to this problem. I've tried the other solutions mentioned, but none of them worked well enough for me.

1st Solution : (General Solution across platforms)

Install the extension Midnight Lizard on chrome based browsers and then give it the privileges to local files. This extension is primarily for changing the color(s) on an html page.

However, since many browsers today support opening pdf documents, this extension works really well. There are different color schemes you can use to change the colors in the pdf document and you have a lot of customizations. However, a downside to it, is that the page scrolling/ zooming is really slow.

Note : Although this extension is available also on firefox, this ability to invert colors on local files is currently (as of writing of this answer) is only restricted to chrome.


2nd Solution : (Mac based solution)

Create a dark version of your pdf to view with preview. You can use imagemagick to invert the colors in your pdf document.

  1. Open Terminal
  2. If not already installed with Homebrew, run brew install imagemagick
  3. Change to the directory of the files
  4. Execute the following command:

convert -density 150 -channel RGB -negate "source-file.pdf" "output-file.pdf"

The density is your dpi, so you can adjust it according to your need.

This method saves you invert colors for the whole OS, which is just absurd. However, it does have a small disadvantage. During this conversion, the pdf pages are converted to images or scans. Thus, you lose the ability to copy/ select text. If you want to annotate your text, you can annotate with a line tool instead of a marker.

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  • 2nd solution just made all text white and nothing was converted to dark mode at all
    – cahen
    May 17, 2021 at 10:56
  • Midnight Lizard in chrome leaves a huge light toolbar at the top. Nov 23, 2021 at 7:08
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You can use the system preferences sections: Accessibility to invert your display colours. That's not focussed on preview, but does the trick.

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You can try zathura. The documentation gives the MacPorts port as the method of installation for macOS, but this Homebrew tap actually works for Big Sur. Once you've followed the installation steps:

  1. Open the pdf with zathura, by typing zathura in the terminal.
  2. A window should appear, in it press o for "open" and then enter the /full/path/to/file.pdf.
  3. Then you can hit control + r to revert the color.
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