When working late, I'd like to lower the screen brightness further than the OS X allows in using the brightness keys.

While you can use ++F1/F21 to change the brightness in smaller quaterish increments, this does not have an effect between 0 and 1 bars.

i.e. The values 0.25, 0.50, 0.75, 1.00 have the same brightness. The brightness only incrementally increases for quaters above 1.

In Ubuntu I've accomplished very low brightness settings by manually changing integers in the configuration files. Is there something similar that I could do in OS X?

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1 - This works for the volume the same way.

  • 2
    As I lower my brightness, the irritating humming sound gets louder. If i could get it lower than the bottom setting, I'm sure the sound would send me insane ;)
    – stuffe
    Jun 26, 2012 at 20:56
  • 2
    @stuffle I don't hear any sound from the display, only from the keyboard. When using very low brightness settings in Ubuntu, I did not hear anything either.
    – gentmatt
    Jun 26, 2012 at 20:58
  • I think it's a known fault on my iMac 24...
    – stuffe
    Jun 26, 2012 at 20:59
  • Oh, well that explains everything! :D
    – gentmatt
    Jun 26, 2012 at 21:00
  • 1
    That trick with the quarter increments works with volume control too. What a game changer
    – Samie Bee
    Jan 30, 2020 at 17:21

12 Answers 12


Another application for decreasing brightness is Shady. But like Shades, it just draws an overlay over the screen and doesn't actually turn down the backlight.

LCDs require a similar amount of energy to display bright and dark pixels, and some LCDs actually require slightly more energy to display dark pixels, so Shady and Shades might even increase energy use.

There is a small Objective-C utility (https://github.com/nriley/brightness/) for changing the brightness of displays, but it cannot set the brightess below the normal minimum value either.

  • This look promising! The overlay does not seem to affect the colors as bad as shades. But, I'll have to try it again tonight.
    – gentmatt
    Jun 27, 2012 at 4:41
  • 3
    Here's something interesting about Shady -- it doesn't affect the brightness of the cursor. Not sure how I feel about that, but it definitely emphasizes the fact that it is simply using a brightness overlay. I really wish I could further decrease the power consumption by somehow hacking in and decreasing the actual minimum display brightness further...
    – Steven Lu
    Apr 2, 2014 at 8:09
  • @gentmatt You say in Ubuntu you can get it even lower. Can you tell if it is actually getting the backlight to be even dimmer and drawing even less power? Is this with a MacBook? Which one? Maybe we just need a kernel extension for OSX to achieve it.
    – Steven Lu
    Apr 2, 2014 at 8:10
  • @StevenLu I have a macbook pro and in the Ubuntu partition I indeed can set backlight brightness with much more control than on OS X. I have even made a small widget for that. Sad that for OS X things can't be so simple.
    – oblitum
    Nov 17, 2014 at 5:10
  • 1
    This link has died, is it anywhere online nowadays? May 11, 2019 at 4:25

My recommendation is a hitherto-little known gem, called ScreenShade.

There are several decent Mac software screen dimmers out there, of which I've found the ones whose dimming method is to apply an increasingly opaque black 'overlay' over the screen to be the most superior in appearance (providing much higher quality 'low blacks' than Shades which does its dimming via color profile/gamma level tweaking) and in doing so, also playing nice with famous color temperature regulating app, f.lux.

The best examples in this group, are Shady (whose development has been abandoned by its dev and has a no better rogue clone in the Mac App Store), ScreenDimmer, Screen Shade, and Work at Night. (N.b. these last two, confusingly appear to be clones, by the same dev on the Mac App Store.)

But if you're looking to more fully emulate the Mac's in-built hardware dimming in software, you're looking for an app that can have the dimming triggered via hotkeys, system-wide.

Annoyingly, none of the just-listed quality 'overlay method' apps actually provide keyboard shortcuts (at present).

So for all the above criteria AND having keyboard shortcuts, the only one I have found is the humble Softonic-hosted ScreenShade, est. 2008!

ScreenShade for Mac

It's working on Yosemite 10.10 no problem, and has a decent little preferences window including even customisable support for multiple/secondary monitors! Its only drawback, is that the hotkeys' granularity in dimming up and down is a little less than one would ideally want (i.e. the jumps are fairly large), but this is a small concession given it at least provides hotkeys, and it does go down to very low levels (with fairly good clarity), all the same.

So until contenders like ScreenDimmer, Shady, or Screen Shade / Work at Night do anything about it, if you want something with hotkeys and simultaneous operation with f.lux (and to do it in software), this looks to be only app that can do it.

  • I really like this solution because it works with my external monitors. It's the first one I've come across that does this. Jun 11, 2015 at 21:30
  • Though the other methods do not provide keyboard shortcuts, some provide menubar menus for which you can create your own shortcuts in the Keyboard System Preferences pane.
    – hepcat72
    Feb 20, 2017 at 19:05
  • 3
    Looks like the linked-to app is 32-bit and no longer supported by OS X. There is a ScreenShade in Mac App Store but is $1.99. I'll take my chances with a free alternative, don't like the idea of paying to dim my screen, thanks. May 16, 2020 at 2:55

Discovered a better solution by modifying system kexts that doesn't rely on 3rd party apps and actually lowers the actual lcd brightness levels.

DISCLAIMER: Modifying kexts has risks and can mess up your mac. I am not to be held responsible if your your OS breaks.

I used Xcode to change the data for my lcd panel in AppleBacklight.kext/Contents/Info.plist. In my MacBook Pro 13" 2011, the panel data is in IOKitPersonalities > AppleIntelPanelA > ApplePanels. There is a string of hexadecimal values for each panel ID, e.g. my panel is 9cc5, which shows up as F10T9cc5 and the values are <00110000 00210029 00340042 00530069 008700ac 00d30103 013e0187 01e20252 02de038f>. (Your panel ID can be found by going to System Preferences > Displays > Color > Open Profile > mmod).

The lowest brightness starts from the second pair of hex values (0021). In this example the second step is 0029 then 0034 and so forth, up to the max value of 0x38 (038f).

You can change that string to get a wider range of brightness, e.g.:

<00110000 00100015 00250034 00490060 008000ac 00d30103 013e0187 01e20252 02de0710>

After setting the values fix permissions and rebuild cache (you can use terminal or Disk Utility to Fix permissions and DCPIManager to rebuild cache).

Make sure to allow OSX to load the modified (unsigned) kext by entering this in Terminal:

sudo nvram boot-args=kext-dev-mode=1

Note: the 0710 at the end of the data is the maximum brightness allowed by my HD3000, meaning my color control can go much darker and brighter than stock. I also want to point out that the values are given above are not linear at all, I'm too lazy to work on the steps right now. But the idea is to get your desired minimum and maximum values and enter the proper values in between if you want a smooth transition.

  • 1
    Nice that you discovered the existence of /System/Library/Extensions/AppleBacklight.kext/Contents/Info.plist! Instead of IOKitPersonalities/AppleIntelPanelA/ApplePanels/F10T9cc5 (and how did you know yours was 9cc5?), did you also try IOKitPersonalities/AppleIntelPanelA/IODisplayParameters/brightness/min? While max is set to 255, min is set to 40, which looks a lot like the problem we are trying to solve.
    – Matt
    Apr 7, 2015 at 19:21
  • According to kextstat, AppleBacklight.kext is not loaded, but AppleBacklightExpert.kext is loaded (and is being used by AppleMuxControl.kext). I'm confused -- how can AppleBacklight.kext have an effect when it is not loaded?
    – Matt
    Apr 7, 2015 at 19:29
  • 1
    funny thing is i stumbled across this when was having issues with a replacement lcd panel which had a very low range of brightness (it was too bright at the lowest value), you can find the display id using colorsync i tried the min and max values but they didnt work for me, Apr 8, 2015 at 1:52
  • 1
    Looks like SIP needs to be disabled in El Captain and later. The boot args have no effect developer.apple.com/library/content/documentation/Security/… Mar 3, 2017 at 10:35
  • 1
    Does someone have this working on macOS mojave 10.14.4?
    – GarouDan
    Apr 19, 2019 at 14:18

QuickShade, available on Mac App Store is a great very simple solution. You can add keyboard shortcuts to it (I picked Fn + Option + F1/F2).

  • This also just draws an overlay, as noted by the unaffected cursor brightness.
    – iled
    Aug 27, 2019 at 3:45
  • Works like a charm
    – Anthony
    Dec 24, 2020 at 20:31

Check out the app called Shades:

About Shades Shades is a FREE utility for controlling the brightness of your screen. It runs in the background providing always-available fine-grained control over the brightness of your display via a slick Mac-like interface

Though all modern Apple laptops have brightness controls for dimming the screen in dark conditions, there are several situations where the built in controls are unsatisfactory. The granularity of control is rather coarse, and the minimum brightness setting still quite bright when working in pitch darkness. Perhaps you need to use your machine in a darkroom, or like to work late at night without disturbing your partner who sleeps beside you? Perhaps you need to dim the screen on a desktop machine, and the display you are using offers no such facility? If this is the case for you, then try Shades.

Note: Shades may interfere with colour calibration software, and should not be used if colour accuracy is critical.

My iMac has a "fault" in that the lower I set the brightness, the noisier the screen buzzes, due to an issue with the capacitor that does the work. But using this app I can get the brightness down way further than using hardware controls on the backlight, and the buzzing is not introduced either. Double result!

It's also useful to use this tool for altering the brightness on external displays which do not respond to the brightness key controls.

  • 2
    Thanks, this is a very convenient to use solution. It's not perfect, because it seems to change gamma values or something like that (cold colors). However, this will be fine in most cases.
    – gentmatt
    Jun 26, 2012 at 21:14
  • There are a few apps that do similar, but this one plays nice without a dock icon etc. Yes, it's just overlaying the screen in essence to give the illusion of dimmer, but it is effective if you don't mind the colours looking a little odd if you take it right down low.
    – stuffe
    Jun 26, 2012 at 21:18

No longer maintained nor available

A newcomer here is Desktop Dimmer, an open source project hosted on GitHub.

It is currently actively developped and provides slidebars for each of your monitor (internal and external):

Desktop Dimmer

I just tried it on El Capitan but it works only on one space per monitor (which can be a huge limitation).

According to its home page, it is compatible until Sierra.

  • Can it take it completely to zero brightness?
    – 0x90
    Aug 9, 2018 at 4:42
  • I tried this on 10.12.6 and it works. But it seems that this application, like others, just draws an overlay. The mouse cursor is not dimmed. @0x90 it didn't take the brightness to a complete zero, perhaps 1% or something really low. I still could see some shapes.
    – iled
    Aug 27, 2019 at 3:57
  • Should be the top answer. None of the other 'answers' worked.
    – Anthony
    Dec 24, 2020 at 20:30
  • 1
    As of 2022, this appears to be no longer developed. Jan 13, 2022 at 7:55

Many of these answers seem rather old, https://joshjon.github.io/nocturnal/ is one I've found that be up to date and also open source.

Features include dimming, night shift, and disabling the touch bar for the newer macs.

  • As of 2022, this appears to be one of the few solutions posted here that is still being actively developed. Unfortunately, they don't yet support M1 Macs. Jan 13, 2022 at 7:57

If you are doing a lot of typing, and not working with photos or videos, etc you could always use the color reversal trick. Just press control+option+⌘+8, and all the colors on the screen will be totally reversed. No more white screen; black instead. Much easier on the eyes.

  • 1
    Didn't work for me just now...
    – rogerdpack
    Nov 24, 2017 at 5:59

I'd like to call attention to the f.lux program, which basically decreases brightness as it gets "toward bedtime" by removing blue light from the monitor. It helped me be able to see my screen at night without as much pain, since just removing the blue light has a dimming effect, and it kicks in at bed time which is when I need/want it most. You can also make it "dimmer" via flux menu -> preferences -> drag the top slider to the left more. It won't get totally black (kind of a washed out red'ish) but it will be dimmer which may be easier on the eyes, i.e. easy enough.

You can accomplish similar functionality using the built-in mac "night shift" option (preferences -> displays -> night shift tab) (though flux seems more customizable somehow, like it can make it darker).

I also did find a free one that works with only one monitor ("Brightness Slider" on the app store).

  • 1
    Brightness Slider works on two monitors for me
    – Adam Evans
    Oct 29, 2020 at 1:23

None of the apps got the screen totally black.

Neither id using the F1 Mac screen brightness.

But using BOTH DO!



I only know how to lower the brightness at its lowest by the way you already mentioned on your post and just like you, it's not enough. My alternative when I work late at night is an app called Candlelight and I fairly enjoy it! It's not a free app but it's just about $1 to help your eyesight on the long run!

  • It says "not available in your country" which I think means it has been removed from the apple app store
    – rogerdpack
    Oct 29, 2020 at 15:03

The best one that I've found, after a lot of searching, is Brightness Control:


It's really small, free, simple to use, and the only one that reduces the brightness of the mouse cursor.

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