How to disable transparency effects on your Mac

By , Feb 3, 2016


Public release of OS X Yosemite in 2014 has given the Mac’s user interface a fresh coat of paint in part through adopting much of the transparency effects that Apple added to iOS 7 in prior year.

Transparency is used throughout OS X Yosemite and El Capitan and can be observed on the desktop and seen in drop-down menus, title bars, sidebars and toolbars.

This post will teach you how to disable transparency for all user interface elements that have a translucent appearance in OS X.

Why reduce transparency throughout OS X

It’s, of course, a matter of personal preference.

Not everyone is a fan of translucency effects, which Apple uses subtly to let users see what’s behind their active windows. Still, there are definitely people out there who find OS X’s frosted glass appearance overbearing.

Also, the nostalgic types who’ve become accustomed to years of OS X’s understated grey appearance may have trouble getting used to transparent UI elements.

Here’s an example of how drop-down menus appear with transparency enabled…

OS X Yosemite Menus Transparent Mac screenshot 001

…and without transparency. As shown, after reducing transparency certain UI elements like menus will no longer pick up color cues from content behind them.

OS X Yosemite Menus Opaque Mac screenshot 001

Although transparency in OS X is realized through GPU-accelerated graphics, these effect take a toll on the battery so that’s something to consider as well. In that regard, disabling transparency may even boost the frame rates of the user interface, especially on older hardware.

People who suffer from motion sickness may also prefer a more opaque appearance of their Mac’s operating system. Whatever your reason for hating frosted glass appearance may be, here’s how you can reduce transparency effects throughout OS X Yosemite and El Capitan.

How to reduce transparency of the Mac’s user interface

Step 1: Launch System Preferences on your Mac.

Step 2: Select the Accessibility preference pane.

OS X Yosemite System Preferences Reduce Transparency Mac screenshot 001

Step 3: Click Display in the lefthand column.

Step 4: Tick the box next to the Reduce transparency option.

This will turn the transparent areas of the desktop and app windows gray so instead of the default UI elements like a transparent Dock…

OS X Yosemite Dock Transparent Mac screenshot 001

…You’ll now have an opaque one.

OS X Yosemite Dock Opaque Mac screenshot 001

Transparent window elements like sidebars…

OS X Yosemite Windows Transparent Mac screenshot 002

…will adopt an opaque appearance.

OS X Yosemite Windows Opaque Mac screenshot 002

Windows titlebars that used to be transparent in apps such as Photos…

OS X Yosemite Photos app Transparent Mac screenshot 001

…will no longer provide visual cues as to what’s behind them.

OS X Yosemite Photos app Opaque Mac screenshot 001

You can also make the borders of buttons, boxes, and other items on the screen darker to make them more visible by ticking the box next to the Increase Contrast option in System Preferences → Accessibility → Display.

OS X Yosemite Finder window Increase Contrast Mac screenshot 001

What are your feelings on transparency in OS X? Would you choose opaqueness over transparency or are you content with OS X’s frosted glass appearance?

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  • Remus Cirlan

    Why would you wanna do that?!?
    In my opinion, it looks way better with transparency.

    • One way to extend battery life and increase frame rate, for example

  • Peter Belsley

    Wasn’t Yosemite released in 2014?

  • Jackson Grong

    Sorry for off topic, but looks like Google is advertising scam websites??

    • Morgan Freeman

      You are trying to bypass iCloud lock, what do you expect? I hope your phone gets cancer.

      • Jackson Grong

        I hope too, in this first year, so I get a brand new one.

      • James Earl Jones

        Morgan, eat a snickers. You turn into an asshole when youre hungry.

      • Morgan Freeman

        Quiet down, Jim. You know I’m right.

  • Mr_Coldharbour

    I recently upgrade my mid-2009 15inch MacBook Pro to the mid-2015 15inch MacBook Pro (non-baseline model/config), so the machine is fairly beastly in its performance which means that it flies through virtually anything and I even have transparency turned OFF (or in this case reduce transparency is checked) on this one. As Christian said with the frame-rates, I don’t need the extra eye-candy which will only yield in poorer frame-rates and performance. Performance, to me, takes the front seat!

    • rockdude094

      I didn’t notice any difference actually it’s just aesthetically pleasing to some people.