Light Mode vs. Dark Mode for Email Marketing

Do you use dark mode to save battery and save your eyes? Learn more about how dark mode for email marketing impacts email readers and your emails.

Do you use dark mode to save battery and save your eyes? Learn more about how dark mode for email marketing impacts email readers and your emails.

Dark mode has taken off in popularity, and for good reasons, it helps save battery life. Now it’s taking over the inbox. With dark mode, email marketers are facing new challenges.

What is Dark mode?

Most often, we see an email with a light background and dark text. In dark mode, the color scheme is reversed with a dark background and light text. In addition to the typography, UI elements, iconography (icons) on dark backgrounds are all reversed, causing one of the most significant changes (now trending) in digital design, in a long time. 

Many users have switched over for a few reasons:

  • It’s much easier on your eyes:

    Eye strain is reduced when reading light text on a dark background. This is especially true in low-light situations. It’s beneficial for people with visual impairments, or those with migraines and other visual disorders.
  • Drastically reduces screen brightness:

     Without a doubt, this one is a battery saver.
  • Text is more legible:

     Making it easier to read the content.
  • Preferences:

     A number of users actually prefer dark mode and will use the dark interface almost all the time (as opposed to those who default to the auto-detect time of day setting that determines dark or light mode).

Which email clients support Dark Mode?

The following email readers offer dark mode today. It’s offered either as a manual user setting or auto-detected.

  • Mobile apps
    • Gmail (Android, iOS
  • Outlook (Android, iOS)
    • Desktop
      • Apple Mail
    • Outlook 2019 (Mac OS, Windows 10)
      • Web clients
      • Gmail (manually set) 
        • Browsers
          • Google Chrome
          • Safari
          • Mozilla Firefox

        Ok, so what do email marketers need to do differently when sending out dark mode emails?

        To answer this, you’ll need to understand the three different types of color schemes available when applying dark mode to emails.

        #1 There is no change in color:

         You read that correctly. Your email code doesn’t have any impact on how it’s rendered. Dark mode or light mode, your email will look the same. Email clients (e.g., iOS and Apple mail) will always render using light mode by default (unless you hard code the email with a dark mode trigger).

        #2 Partial color invert: 

        Dark mode detect those areas with a light background and inverts them, so the light background is now dark, and the dark text is now light. It will leave any areas already dark alone, so the look and feel is full dark mode. 

        On a good note, most email readers that support this method also support dark mode targeting. You can override the default dark theme of the reader. An example of a partial invert for a dark theme is

        #3 Full-color invert:

        This one is the most invasive. This impacts not just light backgrounds, but also dark backgrounds as well. Ironically, if you have designed your email to use a dark theme specifically, it will flip the already dark background to light.

        While full-color invert is the most radical of email changes that can be made, most email readers haven’t figured out how best to implement the full dark mode request. What ends up suffering is legibility and accessibility.

        So, what email clients actually support which color schemes?

            Email ClientColor Scheme

          Gmail App (Android) – Partial color invert

          Gmail App (iOS) – Full color invert

          Outlook (Android) – Partial color invert

          Outlook (iOS) – Partial color invert

          iOS Mail – No color changes

          Apple Mail – No color changes

          Outlook 2019 (MacOS) – Partial color invert

          Outlook 2019 (Windows) – Full color invert

 – Partial color invert

        Are there any other things regarding dark mode email marketing you should know about?


         Probably, a good rule would be to have transparent backgrounds. If not, then make sure you’ve left enough padding around the main object of the image to avoid it looking awkward.

        Test, test, test

        Email clients are always changing, adjusting, and tweaking their applications to keep up with trends, so as a rule, always test first before sending.

        Respect your readers

        The main reason dark mode is used is to combat eye strain. If your users make a conscious decision to use dark mode, it’s best to build your emails, so they comply with dark mode theme.

        Final thoughts

        There is some added value for a few brands when choosing dark mode over light mode email marketing. It remains to be seen how far this style of email marketing will go as dark mode is not fully mature.

        Keep in mind dark mode is great at night and less so during the day. Most people will still use the auto-detect feature on their device or app settings. For this reason, your email marketing campaigns should optimize for using both light and dark mode.

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