Dark mode was introduced to StackOverflow about a year ago (blog post), but as of now, it still isn't available on our site (or any other site as far as I know).

Back then, it was stated that

For now, we have no plans to bring dark mode to the many sites across the Stack Exchange network. Many of the designs on our sites have been around long enough that converting them to dark mode would require redoing the artwork completely. We would prefer to avoid giving anyone across our network a substandard experience and we don’t want to change those elements without the input of these communities.

and in the corresponding meta question:

At this point, the focus of Dark Mode is on Stack Overflow and we’ll eventually bring it to MSO. While the retheming we did across the network two years ago makes updating our LESS easier, creating dark versions of all of our sites, particularly the custom-designed ones, is going to be a huge challenge we’re not able to contemplate at this time. The artwork on some of those sites simply can’t be made dark because we don’t have access to the original art files and, to be honest, some of the themes will always be better as-is.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of dark mode and I would love to see it on RPG SE. However, the issues mentioned in the blog post are present on this site. Compared to other sites, I think we have an average* amount of artwork (in fact, I can't think of anything other than the top banner, "Role-playing Games" text, and the "boxy" background on the front page). Of those, I'd expect the banner to be the most difficult to modify, but there's already a black-and-white-version on meta, which could probably be turned into something dark-mode-compatible.
The remaining page elements are mostly of uniform colour, and as such should be fairly easy to modify. Also, as controversial as the change was, the introduction of the new network-wide unified themes does make the implementation of a dark mode easier.

*for example, worldbuilding has more artwork, while Board & Card Games has none at all

Based on the phrasing in the blog & meta posts, I don't expect SE itself to approach us with a dark mode design. Therefore, we would need to manually create at least a first draft that solves potential issues with our front page artwork and thereby proves the viability of a dark mode on this site. This, of course, still doesn't guarantee that Stack Exchange Inc. cares at all about implementing a dark mode provided by us users. However, as a consolation prize, we'd at least still have a community-designed dark theme that I'm sure could be applied individually with the appropriate browser extensions.

Being somewhat experienced in web design, I'd be happy to tinker with CSS variables and the like myself, but I'm unsure what to do about the front page artwork. And either way, I don't want to create a makeshift dark mode just for myself - the goal is to end up with a (more or less) full-fledged dark mode with support from the community that we would have an easy/easier time convincing SE to implement.

Therefore, before I create a draft that at least styles the front page (excluding the artwork), I want to query your opinion.
Do you approve of the potential introduction of a dark mode and would you use it? Do you think we should aim to approach SE Inc. with a community-designed draft at all, or do you think aiming for a theme that can be applied individually with the help of (for example) browser extensions is more realistic? Do you perhaps already have a custom dark mode script because you have to think of The Weeknd whenever you open RPG SE?

Obviously, any feedback from SE officials (especially on whether or not a community-supplied draft is helpful at all for them) is also welcome, although I personally wouldn't actively contact them without a usable first draft.

Given the fact that I managed to create a proof of concept (= it doesn't look great, but it proves that a dark mode is feasible), I consider the "realistically possible" aspect to be solved.

However, that still leaves the task of actually creating the respective style sheet and subsequently the task of attempting to get SE to implement a possibility for site-specific dark mode styling (as unlikely as getting them to do that is).
Concerning the former issue: I'll probably create a stylesheet either way, but I would very much appreciate support from others, especially if you have web development or design experience (as I'm unsure which colors would be well-suited).


3 Answers 3


Yes, I want dark mode on RPG.SE

I don't really have anything else interesting to say, nor do I have any knowledge about what it takes to implement it. I'm leaving this answer to simply measure support for "Yes, I want dark mode".

  • \$\begingroup\$ Even if the only way to have dark mode is for dark mode to ditch our custom styles, I'd still be in favor of it. Though I wouldn't want to lose the light mode custom style for those who like it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Red Orca
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 19:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I want Dark Mode. And I think we're a lot more likely to get it with a lot of votes on this answer. I'm hoping for 300, though that might be a bit overly optimistic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gloweye
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 21:53

Disclaimer since there seems to have been some confusion: yes, the proof of concept is fairly ugly. That doesn't matter, it's just a proof of concept - it doesn't have to look nice, just prove that the styling is possible. For a real theme, obviously, more effort than the 15-30 minutes of work I spent on the POC is required to get it done properly.

Proof of concept

I decided to starting tinkering a little bit with the CSS. Turns out it's probably easier than I thought; with the exception of some elements (that I'd probably figure out if I spent more time debugging), most of the page can be restyled by changing just a few variables.
My findings concerning artwork:

  • The header gradient is part of the image, aka it's preserved if you change the background (and the result looks good enough imho).
  • The background is composed of many small images. This image can't be directly styled via the browser, of course, but it can easily be modified with an image editing tool. For the proof of concept below, I simply inverted the colours to get a quick usable example, which took less than a minute (most of which was actually the GIMP startup time xD). Either way, if implemented by SE, hosting is trivial, and even if not, we could just upload the desired version to something like Imgur (although copyright has to be considered here).
  • The "Role-playing Games" header text is also an image, and while I didn't bother switching it out, it would probably only be marginally more complicated than adapting the background tile.
  • Figuring out viable dark mode colors is not trivial. Consider the colors used in the draft below temporary placeholders to showcase the possibilities.

In conclusion, I can only assume that the reason why SE doesn't want to introduce a dark mode network-wide is because

  1. it would probably require site-specific theming, which is obviously a significant amount of initial work, and would likely multiply the required effort whenever the design changes in one way or another
  2. some sites are likely REALLY difficult to style due to their artwork (which, as mentioned above, isn't the case for RPGSE in my opinion). It would, however, be difficult to justify styling just some sites while ignoring others with complicated artwork, and SE probably doesn't want to incentivize removing artwork in favor of dark mode support, as that would likely create drastic rifts in each site's community.

Either way, here's my draft/proof of concept:

enter image description here

The bright sidebar on the right is one of the tricky elements that I couldn't easily style (although I'm sure it can be styled somehow). I'm also aware that the text is mostly hard to read, but that's just because I was too lazy to edit every single detail. I'm certain that the text color can be changed as well.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Downvote. The grey-on-black text is basically invisible on my phone. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 20:49
  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 did you even read the answer? I state multiple times that it's a proof of concept, and to quote myself: "I'm also aware that the text is mostly hard to read, but that's just because I was too lazy to edit every single detail". It's a first draft to proof that a dark mode is possible, not the finished version. If it was, I wouldn't have had to post this question, because writing the question took longer than creating the proof of concept in the screenshot. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 21:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sure, but I don't like this design due to the aforementioned mobile accessibility issues. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 21:09
  • 11
    \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 that's my point. The grey-on-black text is only there because I changed the background, but not the text. It's just as unreadable on desktop, and in a final version it obviously would have a much higher contrast. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 21:15
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 for example, this is a higher contrast (but still temporary!) version: i.sstatic.net/d0XkN.png \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 21:19

RPG SE is almost-certainly one of those sites that “would require redoing the artwork completely”

Our banner includes material that probably cannot be “automagically” converted to a darker background. It includes gradients that fade into the light site background, and which will probably not “just work” against a dark background. The gradients use transparency, so there might be some hope, but even fading to transparent usually requires designing with at least some sense of what you’re fading to—and light or dark is one of the most basic things you’d need to know. PixelMaster has a demonstration of what it might look like, and it doesn’t look terrible, but there are some issues there and it seems likely to me that SE won’t go for it.

The artwork on some of those sites simply can’t be made dark because we don’t have access to the original art files

And this applies to us, I believe; I seem to recall having heard this before, specifically about our site. Any editing of the end file we see would likely look atrocious, so if “as is” doesn’t work for SE, they’re gonna be stuck. I believe the artist who created it no longer works for or with the company, as well.

They also probably want a consistent look and feel across both versions of the site, which means they want the same banner for both. If they cannot create a dark-mode version of the existing banner, that very likely means this would require a new banner altogether.

And they aren’t doing new banners like this, as far as I know.

So unless they substantially degraded the light-mode version of the site, they cannot provide a (consistent, good-looking) dark mode. It may be that they’re only willing to enable dark mode for us if we ditch the banner—in both dark and light mode.

I, for one, vehemently oppose losing our theme for the sake of dark mode

I don’t really care about dark mode one way or the other; I might use it if it’s there, but it’s not important to me. I certainly wouldn’t want to see the excellent theming of this site lost for the sake of dark mode. I would be fine with inconsistent theming for light and dark mode, but I suspect Stack Exchange would not, so this may be the choice we’re stuck with.

The point is largely moot for now

creating dark versions of all of our sites, particularly the custom-designed ones, is going to be a huge challenge we’re not able to contemplate at this time.

Stack Exchange isn’t offering to provide dark mode to anybody, not even the “easy” ones—and we’re one of the hard ones. We can’t realistically even decide what we, as a community, want, because we don’t even know what we’d be choosing between. If we got a true dark-mode version of what we currently have, I doubt anyone would have objections—but that may never be on offer. If there are some trade-offs involved, people have to know what they are before they can really vote on it.

Unofficially, maybe it could work

PixelMaster has suggested an “unofficial dark mode” created via user styles—that has some merit. Some other SE sites have things like that, e.g. SOUP (Stack Overflow Unofficial Patch) or the various Magic: The Gathering functionality for Board & Card Games. Code Golf even had an unofficial theme before they got their official one. Something like this may be plausible, but is unlikely to help much or in any way accelerate the launch of an official theme.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I couldn't agree more with this: "I certainly wouldn’t want to see the excellent theming of this site lost for the sake of dark mode." I would really like dark mode, but not enough to sacrifice the theme we have now. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 16:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov and KRyan: I've drafted a proof of concept showcasing the possibilities (the colours are all placeholders, I didn't put much thought into them). I don't consider the banner gradient to be problematic at all, as the gradient seems to be part of the image (pixels in most image formats can be partly transparent, which seems to be the case here). At the very least, it doesn't seem any more out of place than on the current light mode design. Anyway, see the question above for a screenshot. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster It might make more sense to include that as an answer rather than in the question, but yeah, I guess it looks OK. At this point, though, I’m a little confused what the question is? Is it “can we have dark mode?” If so, the answer is no—as quoted in your question. Is it “would this version of dark mode be acceptable to the community?” If so, that... seems like kind of a moot question since SE hasn’t made the offer to implement it, and probably won’t (if for no other reason than they’ll want to do it themselves and control the result). So I don’t really know what’s being asked here. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ you're right, an answer makes more sense (I'll change that). As for the question, my goal is to end up with a community-curated dark mode. Ideally, we'd present the result to SE and they implement it (potentially with slight changes, but I'm leaning on the quote "we don’t want to change those elements without the input of these communities" from the linked blog post here). If they don't (which, I agree, is probably the more likely outcome), well, then we can at least publish a community-created dark mode script along with a tutorial on how to enable it, so that dark mode users are satisfied. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 17:08
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster Ah, yes, I suppose a script/user style sheet could go a long way. I don’t consider a community-curated-but-official dark mode to be a thing that has any chance of happening, but unofficially-but-recommended could work very well as a stop-gap. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 17:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan that's what I was thinking. I'm not sure where we could reference such a potential style sheet, but at the very least a meta post similar to our forum list should be possible. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 17:13
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster Popular unofficial script and style fixes are out there; SOUP (Stack Overflow Unofficial Patch) is probably the biggest one. B&CG has scripts for displaying Magic cards on hover, IIRC, for a more site-specific example. If it’s purely CSS, I believe most browsers have built-in options for managing user styles, and I’m certain there are extensions that can handle it. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Aren't the original art files used to make the site header from the RPG Rifts? If SE paid the company who owns the rights to the artwork for a license to use it, couldn't they ask them for another copy of the original, unedited files? If they didn't, do they have the legal permission to use the artwork at all? \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 20:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 I’m about 90% sure that the header is original artwork made for SE. A quick search certainly doesn’t reveal any Rifts artwork that looks all that similar. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 20:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ While I... dislike... the proof of concept, I like the Dark Mode version on SO, and think a good job has been done there. While I can't speak to the feasibility, I think any similar-quality dark theme here would be awesome. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gloweye
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 21:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Jin made the art for this site, and for a number of others on SE. \$\endgroup\$
    – Laurel
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 1:47

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