How to use dark or light backgrounds for Notes on iPhone and iPad

For many people, dark mode is a handy feature that makes it comfortable to view the screen. Instead of all that brightness, you could have your device and the apps carry a soothing, dark appearance.

Plenty of apps offer built-in options to enable or disable dark mode, giving you a choice to use it or not. On the other hand, many apps just follow your system’s default appearance setting. That is, if your iPhone is in dark mode, the app will also be in that mode.

In this tutorial, we show you how to use both dark and light backgrounds in the Notes app on iPhone and iPad. Plus, we have included a handy option to permanently keep the Notes app in dark mode, even if your iPhone is in light mode.

Dark and light backgrounds in the iPhone Notes app

Enable device dark mode

In order for Notes to use dark mode, your device must use it as well. Here’s how to manually enable it on iPhone and iPad:

  1. Open Settings and select Display & Brightness.
  2. At the top, tap the option for Dark.
  3. Optionally, you can set dark mode to turn on automatically with the Automatic toggle.
iPhone 12 Display and Brightness Dark

Now, open the Notes app to use it in dark mode.

For more on setting up a dark mode schedule or turning on the feature from Control Center, check out our full tutorial for enabling Dark Mode on iPhone and iPad.

Enable or disable Notes dark mode

Once your device is set to dark mode, a new option pops up in the Settings for the Notes app called Note Backgrounds. By default, enabling dark mode on your device will enable it for Notes. Here’s where to find the setting:

  1. Open Settings and select Notes.
  2. Tap Note Backgrounds. Remember, this option will only appear when your device is set to Dark.
  3. Select the option for Dark to use dark mode or Light to disable dark mode for Notes.
Notes Background Dark on iPhone

Change individual notes’ background

After you enable dark mode for your device and also use it for the Notes app, you can change specific notes back to a light appearance:

  1. Open Notes on iPhone or iPad.
  2. Select the note you want to change.
  3. Tap the three dots on the top right.
  4. Choose Use Light Background. Just like the above option in Settings, this one will only appear when you have dark mode enabled on your device.
Notes Background Light in Dark Mode on iPhone

You’ll then see the background for that note as white while the remaining notes and the app itself are black. You can change additional notes to use the light background as well.

So now you might be wondering if you have to do this for those same notes every time you disable and then re-enable dark mode. The answer is no. Any notes you change to use the light background will continue to use it if you turn dark mode off and then back on again on your device.

How to permanently keep the Notes app in dark mode

The Notes app uses dark and light modes based on your system setting. Thus, if you switch to light mode, the same reflects in the Notes app. But thanks to Per-App Settings on iOS 15 and later, you can force an individual iPhone app, like Notes, to always have a dark appearance. This isn’t exactly dark mode, but rather Smart Invert which reverses the colors of the display, except for images, media, etc.

Smart Invert is fine for text and images in the Notes app. But if you draw with white ink, Smart Invert may invert the white drawing to look black, which may not be visible on an already black background. With that being said, you can try this feature out and see if it suits your needs or not.

Follow these steps to permanently keep your iOS Notes app in dark mode:

  1. Open Settings on your iPhone or iPad and tap Accessibility.
  2. Scroll down and tap Per-App Settings.
  3. Tap Add App and then tap Notes from the list.
  4. Tap Notes once again.
  5. Tap Smart Invert and choose On.
Force Notes app to dark mode on iPhone

Now, go to the Notes app, and you’ll see that it has a dark appearance even when your iPhone is in light mode.

Notes app with Smart Invert

To delete this rule, go to Settings > Accessibility > Per-App Settings. From here, swipe left on the Notes app and delete it.

What do you think about dark mode on iPhone in general? Is this something that you find helpful, or do you prefer to stick with light mode?

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