A teaser image showing the new MacBook Pro model released in 2018 with True Tone display technology

All MacBook Pro models introduced in 2018 take advantage of Apple’s True Tone technology that makes images on the built-in Retina display and Touch Bar appear more natural. By matching the display’s color temperature to the surrounding light, True Tone helps reduce eyestrain. Here’s how to use this super-handy feature on your MacBook Pro notebook.

TAKEAWAYS:

  • MacBook Pro models introduced in 2018 rock True Tone technology.
  • It makes onscreen images and Touch Bar appear more natural.
  • True Tone adjusts display color and intensity to match ambient light.
  • It can also adjust external displays connected to your Mac with its lid open.
  • True Tone relies on multichannel ambient light sensors located next to the camera.

True Tone technology is likely to find its way into all Macs over time.

True to its word

An advanced ambient light sensor in 2018’s MacBook Pro continually assesses brightness and color temperature (older models have a sensor that measures brightness only).

Using sensory data, the macOS software dynamically adjusts the display’s white balance to match the light around you. What you’re ended up with is an accurate viewing experience that not only reduces eyestrain but makes the images appear more natural.

It’s all about perception, really.

The illustration depicting the effects of the True Tone feature on an iPad Pro display's color temperature under different lighting conditions

True Tone made its debut on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro model in 2016

What this color-matching basically does is fool your brain into believing that your subjective perception of display color is the same regardless of your actual surroundings. Rather than adjust apps or their graphic assets, True Tone simply alters the display’s white balance and color temperature to match the light around you.

TUTORIAL: Using Night Shift on Mac to reduce exposure to sleep-depriving blue light

This in Apple talk “paper-like” viewing experience can be likened to how a sheet of white paper appears to look warmer and yellower or cooler and bluer under different lighting conditions.

Although True Tone is currently limited to 2018 MacBook Pro models, it’ll be making its way into other Macs as they’re refreshed. True Tone debuted in the original 9.7-inch iPad Pro back in 2016 before it was subsequently added to the iPhone 8/8 Plus/X/XS/XS Max/XR phones, 2017’s iPad Pros (10.5 and 12.9-inch models) and 2018’s MacBook Pros.

True Tone in clamshell mode

On the MacBook Pro models released in 2018, True Tone relies on a multi-channel ambient light sensor found next to the FaceTime HD camera at the top of the display. If an external display is connected to the notebook, however, the lid must remain open for True Tone to work.

True Tone supports these Thunderbolt 3/USB-C external displays:

Again, True Tone on an external display doesn’t work when the notebook is in clamshell mode.

How to use True Tone on your Mac

You can turn True Tone on or off in the Displays preference pane.

1) Open System Preferences via the Apple menu, Siri, the Dock or your Applications folder.

2) Click the icon labeled Displays.

3) Now click the Display tab.

4) Tick the box next to True Tone to turn the feature on.

Conversely, untick the box if you’d like to turn True Tone off.

A macOS screenshot showing the Display preference pane with a True Tone toggle

The following display accessibility features might disable True Tone:

  • Invert Colors
  • Increase Contrast
  • Grayscale

Don’t see the True Tone toggle in display preferences? That’s because your Mac model has a less-capable ambient light sensor that can measure brightness but not color temperature.

As we mentioned, continually adapting display brightness and temperature to make the onscreen colors appear consistent under different lighting conditions helps reduce eyestrain.

If you use your computer late at night, it may also be a good idea to turn Night Shift on, which was designed to automatically cut down on sleep-disrupting blue light emission.

You can use True Tone along with Night Shift.

True Tone and pro work

It should be noted that True Tone isn’t necessarily an enemy of creative professionals who depend on precise color reproduction. If you’re editing video, touching up photographs or working on an illustration, Apple’s ColorSync color management system already takes care of accurate color reproduction across screens and operating systems.

A press image showing the refreshed MacBook Pro models for 2018 featuring a True Tone-enabled Retina display

If you’re a pro user, enabling True Tone will tweak the display’s color temperature so that your project is perceived in the same way no matter your lighting conditions.

And that’s how you use True Tone on your Mac like a pro!

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