6 Principles of Dark UI Design by@fireartstudio

6 Principles of Dark UI Design

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Though the physicists say that black is not a color, it is instead the absence of light, the majority of users will call a dark theme black. Sir Isaac Newton did not even look for it in the color scheme! Nevertheless, color is not the only thing to consider while speaking on the fundamental black UI design principles. There are about five more to consider.

1)    Color

The background color is something that comes first when we discuss dark-themed screens. In fact, the dark theme is not necessarily related to the use of black color. Better to think of it as a dimly lit theme because the colors may be used from dark blue to grey and others for the dark theme interfaces.

Most designers believe that black forms a strong contrast. However, according to TopTal expert views, you shouldn’t use true black (# 000000) for the background or surface color. It works great for borders or other smaller UI elements. There’s much sense in it.

2)    Contrast

One of the biggest challenges in designing dark UI elements is achieving optimal contrast in colors. Contrast is necessary to separate visual elements and to create intelligible text.

Particular attention should be paid to the contrast of text in a dark user interface. Google’s Material Design dark theme recommends using dark gray (# 121212) as the surface color.

It is also worth checking the contrast between other UI elements such as maps, buttons, fields, and icons across different displays and electronic devices. However, the design will look too primitive if there is an imperceptible separation between the UI elements.

As per the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the visual presentation of text must have a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. An exception is large-scale texts with a contrast ratio of at least 3: 1. Therefore, designers should always make sure that the text does not cause problems when reading against the dark background. Thus, also mind light vs dark mode while choosing.

3)    Negative space

One of the most fundamental elements of a successful dark theme is the skillful use of negative space.

Basically, a negative space – or white space, as it’s often called – is the area of the layout that is left empty. It may be not only around the objects you place. (design4users)

Minimalist design is not only about what there is, but also about what is not. Used wisely, negative space will make a dark interface more readable and make it easier for people to assimilate information.

In a poorly designed interface, a dark theme can make digital products heavy and oversaturated. To counterbalance this, designers may lighten the dark theme by using negative space in sparse minimal designs.

4)    Typographics

Typographics is all about styling words.

Every piece of text in the dark interface requires careful study. The problem is twofold: readability and contrast.

First, pay attention to the font size. The text should be large enough for good readability (small text on a dark background is more difficult to read).

Second, there must be sufficient contrast between the text and the background.

Thousands of digital fonts make it easy to highlight headlines and main messages. Designers may reduce readability issues by increasing contrast and adjusting font sizes, character spacing, line heights, etc.

5)    Elevation

In terms of drawing, the depths or elevation means creating objects that show the front or side of something. As if you are looking down on the room from the ceiling and see the tops of everything. However, you can’t view the object’s side, front, or back.

Why do we need that depth? Depth helps to emphasize the visual hierarchy of the interface. Most modern design systems use elevation levels to convey the depth. The sense of depth corresponds to the natural world. Our eyes perceive depth and we live in a three-dimensional world.

A dark theme does not mean a flat interface. In light themes, lighting and shadows create a sense of depth. Dark themes are more difficult to achieve depth because they contain predominantly dark surfaces with rare color accents. However, designers may use three or four elevation levels for text with appropriate color schemes to convey this depth.

6) Dark UI vs. Light UI

The black UI design should always be considered alongside the light one. The decision largely depends on a variety of factors, covering not only the user’s perspective, but also business goals, market conditions, and current trends in interface design. That is why light vs dark will also be a criterion.

Best Examples of Dark UI Design

There are some more successful design cases that represent the best dark theme design practices to discover: Dribbble


Pros and Cons of Dark UI

Dark user interface designs can be seen on everything from mobile screens to massive TVs. A dark theme can express power, luxury, sophistication, and elegance. Or altogether. However, creating a dark user interface often is accompanied by numerous risks and pitfalls and will not fulfill the expectations if implemented poorly. Before diving into the “dark side,” designers need to think twice before jumping in. here are the pros & cons:

When to use dark interfaces will be a real pro:

If it is justified by the brand’s color scheme.

The design is modest and minimalistic with several types of content only.

Suitable for context and use, such as nightly entertainment applications, etc.

It is necessary to reduce the strain on the eyes, for example, analytics pages that are in use for a long time, dashboards, etc.

To create a bright, effective look.

To evoke controversy, strong emotions, add a halo of intrigue and mystery.

Create a sense of luxury and prestige.

Maintain visual hierarchy.

When to stay away from dark interfaces is a better idea:

A lot of text is there on the website (difficult to read on a dark background).

Lots of mixed content on the screen.

For B2B applications with a lot of forms, components, and widgets.

If the design requires a wide range of colors dark mode UI design will also be a con.

In the case, you have more proof of right, and wrong dark theme uses, we welcome your suggestions.


Do you want to create your own website?

The decision to apply a dark theme UI design for your next interface instead of the traditional one must be approached with extreme realism. It should not be chosen for the wrong reasons, either business or users – to look stylish, fashionable, to be different from others, or to imitate someone else’s design, etc.

Designers need to have a compelling justification for their choice and consider the content, context of usage, and the device on which the design will be displayed. And justify the business goals of the product. Hire professionals to help with that when feeling hopeless.


Thus, awesome dark themes may be suitable for some unique digital products but challenging to implement for the regular ones without a real necessity. Simplicity is the key to success. They will be a good solution for presenting minimalistic content, data visualizations, media sites, and entertainment platforms. And are more likely to poorly fit some complex B2B platforms with varieties of data, many text blocks, or pages with varied content. So, take your time to think it over and make the right decision.


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