ArcGIS Online

Create a Light or Dark Version of Any Map in Two Seconds

Sometimes I’ll spend a fair amount of time getting a map just right. Then a little cartographic muse whispers into my ear…how would a dark version of this map look? Do I have to start over replacing all the symbology to a dark (or light) version? Not necessarily.

Here is a lovely plate of birds, accessed from the Boston Public Library’s digital commonwealth collection.

lithograph of 22 bird species

If I simply invert the image colors, all the tones are flipped so that light is dark and the hues are inverted to their opposites on the color wheel.

Color-inverted lithograph of 22 bird species

Now, if I apply a hue rotate effect, the hues are counter-inverted ⁠—returning them to their original hues while leaving the light/dark tones inverted.

Color-inverted, and hue-rotated, lithograph of 22 bird species

Reds are reds, blues are blues, but the relative lightness and darkness of the colors remains inverted. We’ve created a “dark mode” version of the image. If the image was originally dark, we would have created a light mode.

If you are curious how this looks for basemaps, and not just lithographs of birds, we’re in luck because “invert” and “hue rotate” are both available as effects in the ArcGIS Online Map Viewer. Here are some examples.

Here is the OpenStreetMap basemap:

OpenStreetMap style basemap

OpenStreetMap with the invert/hue-rotate trick resulting in a dark version of OpenStreetMap cartography without having to edit any styles:

Dark mode OpenStreetMap style basemap

The green natural areas are still green, water is still blue, roads are still magenta and orange. Only the tones have reversed so that light is dark and dark is light.

Here is the beautiful new Outdoor Map with its lovely naturalistic palette:

Outdoor Map basemap

Here is a dark mode version:

Outdoor Map basemap dark version

And here is the beautiful National Geographic Style Map:

National Geographic Style Map

And here it is in dark mode:

National Geographic Style Map dark mode

If you are interested in exploring the dark or light versions of your maps, it’s so simple and fun. Here is a how to…

Happy inverting! John

About the author

I have far too much fun looking for ways to understand and present data visually, hopefully driving product strategy and engaging users. I work in the ArcGIS Living Atlas team at Esri, pushing and pulling data in all sorts of absurd ways and then sharing the process. I also design user experiences for maps and apps. When I'm not doing those things, I'm chasing around toddlers and wrangling chickens, and generally getting into other ad-hoc adventures. Life is good. You might also like these Styles for ArcGIS Pro:

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