I am designing a theme for our web application & I really like the new Adobe Photoshop layout (which is dark, though not black), so I took the cue & created my own dark layout. However, our designer shot it down by saying that we shouldnt use dark theme as it constricts the space & users will not like the layout & besides the layout in Adobe PS is only for the interface, when a user starts a project, they get a white box.

I would like to know the design community's opinion on this please, are there web applications which have successfully pulled off the dark theme?


2 Answers 2


Dark interfaces work in very specific scenarios.

From the ones I've used, Photoshop and Lightroom, for example, come with the option of a dark theme, because it drags the focus to the images or the artwork (as Koen mentions). Visual Studio and programming software in general also come with nice dark interfaces - they are perfect for coding for hours without losing your eyes.

I've personally only designed two interfaces with a dark theme, and they were both for dark environments (one for a stock market and one for a radiology room). While a light interface can generate a lot of eye strain in dark spaces, dark interfaces can also be a nightmare when there is glare. So unless the use is very specific I'd highly recommend offering two theme options: one dark, one light. And unless it's necessary for it to be dark, I'd advice to always go light.

  • +1 for suggestion to make it an option to use dark or light. Especially on web applications where you (usually) don't know what screen sizes, light conditions and tastes of the users are going to be like.
    – leugim
    Apr 11, 2013 at 4:15
  • www.codeacademy.com recently changed from a light theme to a dark one and there are a few comments on twitter asking for an option to switch to a light color theme.
    – leugim
    Apr 11, 2013 at 4:18
  • @leugim I hadn't seen it lately (I confess I abandoned my javascript course halfway through) but I definitely don't mind it being dark. It was a good candidate for a dark UI, cause it has one focal point, and it's used for coding. Only downside would be it's not as 'friendly', for me, as it was before. But I like it!
    – Yisela
    Apr 11, 2013 at 4:37
  • @Yisela thats what I may end up doing, i.e. have two themes, one dark (default) & then later add a lighter one. Cheers
    – Kayote
    Apr 14, 2013 at 3:32

The dark GUI of Photoshop is there so it doesn't distract from the artwork your working on. It's also neither black nor white to provide a neutral background that doesn't interfere with your judgement of the brightness of the artwork.

Take StackExchange for example. If everything was dark, but this main column would stay like it is, that would totally put the focus on the main content. However, your designer is right, it would feel like a constricted space instead of the bright and spacious feel of the current design. There are other, more effective ways to put the focus on the main content.

Kuler is a web app with a dark main layout. There are probably a lot of others that work well. However, you should carefully judge if it would be an improvement for the application you are designing.

  • Thanks Koen, ColorSchemeDesigner is another one (my preferred).
    – Kayote
    Apr 10, 2013 at 9:53

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