How to Build Support for Dark Themes in Android with Material Design Components

How to Build Support for Dark Themes in Android with Material Design Components

Themes play a critical role in creating an engaging app experience. Every mobile app user’s design preference is unique. And themes allow you to creatively address that uniqueness. Dark themes have lately become a popular choice among app users of most age groups. Android added user-selectable dark themes in version 10. However, dark themes are not new to Android. The default theme for the Android OS was dark until Lollipop (Android 5.0).

In this blog post, we will discuss how you can build support for dark themes in Android apps. The compatibility with dark themes is likely to make your Android app development project more fascinating.

Why Dark Theme Support is Important
Your apps need to support dark themes for a variety of reasons. The benefits range from design elements to user engagement. Dark themes reduce the luminance emitted by the device’s screen. Dark themes also improve the functional design by reducing eye strain and adjusting brightness to current lighting conditions. They save battery by facilitating screen use in dark environments.

In addition to all the above-noted benefits, dark themes have another key advantage: apps users love dark themes. In fact, Android added the system-wide dark theme design after it became one of the most user-requested features.

Adding Dark Theme to Your App
Adding a dark theme to your app using material design components (MDC) involves various steps.

Change your theme
First, you need to change your theme to extend from one of the ‘Theme .MaterialComponents .DayNight’ themes. Here’s the code:

<style name=”Theme.MyApp”
       parent=”Theme.MaterialComponents.DayNight”>    <!– Other theme attributes –></style>

Choose the app mode
Choosing the mode of the theme is optional. But it enables you to support devices running on versions before Android 10. Most smartphones do not have a system-level dark theme setting. So, apps can provide their in-app setting to allow users to choose specific themes according to the app.

Test the dark theme
Once you have created the basis of a dark theme, you need to test it by checking each part of the app in both light and dark theme modes. While testing, look for any dark test on dark backgrounds. Also, be on the lookout for hardcoded colors that do not have enough contrast against dark backgrounds.

Characteristics of Material Dark Theme

Grey vs. Black
The default background for Android apps in dark themes is dark grey, not black. This has already spurred grey vs. black debates. The short explanation is that the dark grey color creates a trade-off between app usability versus power saving.

If you use pure black color as the background on the platform, the system consumes minimal power when they are open on OLED displays. However, when you use this on apps, things are different. Apps use complex colorful vector animations, bright images, and contrasting surfaces, among other things.

Color Palette
You would usually choose the color palette based on the assumption of a light or white background. Hence you need to make some tweaks to the color palette for running apps in a dark theme.

The Material Color System
The material color system is central to the overall look and feel of your dark theme. This system defines colors as a series of tones within each color.

The primary color of your app is the most displayed color other than background and surface colors. You need to make sure that the primary color is legible in dark themes.

The process for creating the secondary color is the same as the primary color. You can create it by using a less saturated and more luminous tone. However, the baseline material dark theme treats the colorSecondaryVariant a bit differently.

Surface Colors
You can use bold-colored surfaces to express your design or brand in common components like cards. But the legibility of such bold colors is usually not optimal. If the user sets the device or the app to a dark theme, the app should read this as an intention from the use that they wanted a less bright.

Elevation Overlays in Dark Themes
Shadows in the Material System are created by multiple light sources. As you lift surfaces using elevation, you lift them toward the light sources. Shadows occur when those light sources are blocked by surfaces. Besides, the closer the surface is to light, the more surface is lit.

Widget Support & Custom Views
The Material Design Components support elevation overlays. These include the top app bar, bottom app bar, and navigation drawer, among others. So, the standard elevation APIs automatically apply an elevation overlay.

You can also create a custom view for the app. The elevation overlay support is built into ‘MaterialShapeDrawable’.

Wrapping up
The dark theme support development process enables you to create a more engaging app experience for app users. It also helps you burs up your skills as an Android app developer. Last year, Android added a device-wide setting. It enables users to have more control over the device’s theme.

At Android Developer, a leading app development company, our team uses best-in-class design tools to create dark themes for apps. Most of our clients hire Android developers from us to fulfill wide-ranging development requirements. Follow our blogs to stay informed about all things Android.


Q. How much does it cost to build an Android app?
The development cost for an Android mobile app depends on what kind of app you need. Costs are lower for an app with a basic design and simpler features. If you need a high-performance app with more advanced features, the cost will be comparatively higher. We offer competitive pricing for every kind of app.

Q. How long does it take to develop an Android app?
The development time of an Android mobile app depends on your requirements. If your requirements are limited and predefined it takes comparatively less time. We build design-rich mobile apps in truly short turnaround time.

Q. What technology is used to develop mobile apps?
Android app developers mainly use Java and Kotlin for creating mobile apps. Other technologies used on mobile app development include Swift, Flutter, PhoneGap, and React Native.