CSS Color Adjustment Module Level 1

Editor’s Draft,

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This module introduces a model and controls over automatic color adjustment by the user agent to handle user preferences, such as "Dark Mode", contrast adjustment, or specific desired color schemes.

CSS is a language for describing the rendering of structured documents (such as HTML and XML) on screen, on paper, etc.

Status of this document

This is a public copy of the editors’ draft. It is provided for discussion only and may change at any moment. Its publication here does not imply endorsement of its contents by W3C. Don’t cite this document other than as work in progress.

Please send feedback by filing issues in GitHub (preferred), including the spec code “css-color-adjust” in the title, like this: “[css-color-adjust] …summary of comment…”. All issues and comments are archived. Alternately, feedback can be sent to the (archived) public mailing list www-style@w3.org.

This document is governed by the 03 November 2023 W3C Process Document.

1. Introduction

This specification introduces three new features related to controlling how/when colors are auto-adjusted by the user agent:

Together with the prefers-color-scheme, prefers-contrast, and forced-colors media queries [MEDIAQUERIES-5], this module allows color scheme negotiation between the author and the user.

1.1. Value Definitions

This specification follows the CSS property definition conventions from [CSS2] using the value definition syntax from [CSS-VALUES-3]. Value types not defined in this specification are defined in CSS Values & Units [CSS-VALUES-3]. Combination with other CSS modules may expand the definitions of these value types.

In addition to the property-specific values listed in their definitions, all properties defined in this specification also accept the CSS-wide keywords as their property value. For readability they have not been repeated explicitly.

2. Preferred Color Schemes

Operating systems and user agents often give users the ability to choose their preferred color scheme for user interface elements. This color scheme is typically reflected in the user agent’s rendering of its navigation interface as well as in-page interface elements such as form controls and scrollbars.

A UA can also allow the user to indicate a preference for the color scheme of the pages they view, requesting that the author adapt the page to those color preferences. (It is not required to express such a preference; users can have preferences for operating system interface colors that they do not want imposed on pages.)

The most common color scheme preferences are:

The light and dark color schemes don’t represent an exact color palette (such as black-and-white), but a range of possible palettes. To guarantee specific colors, authors must specify those colors themselves. Note also that, consequently, pairing default or <system-color> colors with author-specified colors cannot guarantee any particular contrast level; it might be necessary to set both foreground and background colors together to ensure legibility [WCAG21].

To enable pages to adapt to the user’s preferred color scheme, user agents will match the prefers-color-scheme media query to the user’s preferred color scheme. [MEDIAQUERIES-5] Complementing this, the color-scheme property defined here lets the author indicate appropriate color schemes for UA-provided UI and colors in the page.

User agents may support additional color schemes, however CSS does not support negotiation of additional color schemes: user agents should pursue standardization of these schemes, so that prefers-color-scheme and color-scheme can reflect the additional values.

2.1. Opting Into a Preferred Color Scheme: the color-scheme property

Name: color-scheme
Value: normal | [ light | dark | <custom-ident> ]+ && only?
Initial: normal
Applies to: all elements and text
Inherited: yes
Percentages: n/a
Computed value: the keyword normal, or an ordered list of specified color scheme keywords
Canonical order: per grammar
Animation type: discrete

While the prefers-color-scheme media feature allows an author to adapt the page’s colors to the user’s preferred color scheme, many parts of the page are not under the author’s control (such as form controls, scrollbars, etc). The color-scheme property allows an element to indicate which color schemes it is designed to be rendered with. These values are negotiated with the user’s preferences, resulting in a used color scheme that affects things such as the default colors of form controls and scrollbars. (See § 2.2 Effects of the Used Color Scheme.)

Note: Because many pages were authored before color scheme support existed, user agents cannot automatically adapt the colors used in elements under their control, as it might cause unreadable color contrast with the surrounding page.

Host languages can define the page’s supported color schemes, a list of color schemes supported by default for all elements on that page.

Note: [HTML] specifies a color-scheme meta tag which can be used to set the page’s supported color schemes.

Values are defined as follows:


Indicates that the element supports the page’s supported color schemes, if they are set, or that it supports no color schemes at all otherwise.


Indicates that the element supports a light color scheme.


Indicates that the element supports a dark color scheme.


Forbids the user agent from overriding the color scheme for the element.


<custom-ident> values are meaningless, and exist only for future compatibility, so that future added color schemes do not invalidate the color-scheme declaration in legacy user agents. User agents must not interpret any <custom-ident> values as having a meaning; any additional recognized color schemes must be explicitly added to this property’s grammar.

Note: To avoid confusion, authoring tutorials and references should omit <custom-ident> from their materials.

The normal, light, dark, and only keywords are not valid <custom-ident>s in this property.

Note: Light and dark color schemes are not specific color palettes. For example, a stark black-on-white scheme and a sepia dark-on-tan scheme would both be considered light color schemes. To ensure particular foreground or background colors, they need to be specified explicitly.

To determine the used color scheme of an element:
  1. If the user’s preferred color scheme, as indicated by the prefers-color-scheme media feature, is present among the listed color schemes, and is supported by the user agent, that’s the element’s used color scheme.

  2. Otherwise, if the user has indicated an overriding preference for their chosen color scheme, and the only keyword is not present in color-scheme for the element, the user agent must override the color scheme with the user’s preferred color scheme. See § 2.3 Overriding the Color Scheme.

  3. Otherwise, if the user agent supports at least one of the listed color schemes, the used color scheme is the first supported color scheme in the list.

  4. Otherwise, the used color scheme is the browser default. (Same as normal.)

Note: User agents are not required to support any particular color scheme, so only using a single keyword, such as color-scheme: dark, to indicate a required color scheme is still not guaranteed to have any effect on the rendering of the element.

A page that responds to user preferences for light or dark display by using the prefers-color-scheme media feature to alter the colors it uses can easily opt the browser-controlled UI (scrollbars, inputs, etc) to match with a simple global declaration:
:root {
  color-scheme: light dark;

If a page limits itself to using only the <system-color>s, the color-scheme declaration, above, will support the user’s preferred color scheme even without the author needing to use @media at all.

If a page cannot reasonably accommodate all color schemes, such as for branding or theatrical reasons, color-scheme can still indicate which color schemes the page can support, causing the UI to match.

If the page’s color scheme is primarily light, the following will indicate that explicitly:

:root {
  color-scheme: light;

While if the page is primarily dark, indicating that explicitly will make the page look more coherent as well:

:root {
  color-scheme: dark;

However, it is better to support both color schemes, of course.

A page might be generally capable of handling multiple color schemes, while still having a sub-section that needs to be rendered in a particular color scheme.

For example, a style guide might give several UI examples that are using light or dark colors, showing off the light or dark theme specifically. This can be indicated as:

:root {
  color-scheme: light dark;

.light-theme-example {
  color-scheme: light;

.dark-theme-example {
  color-scheme: dark;

Only the subsections rooted at .light-theme-example or .dark-theme-example will be opted into the light or dark themes specifically; the rest of the page will respect the user’s preference.

Note: Repeating a keyword, such as color-scheme: light light, is valid but has no additional effect beyond what the first instance of the keyword provides.

2.2. Effects of the Used Color Scheme

For all elements, the user agent must match the following to the used color scheme:

On the root element, the used color scheme additionally must affect the surface color of the canvas, and the viewport’s scrollbars.

In order to preserve expected color contrasts, in the case of embedded documents typically rendered over a transparent canvas (such as provided via an HTML iframe element), if the used color scheme of the element and the used color scheme of the embedded document’s root element do not match, then the UA must use an opaque canvas of the Canvas color appropriate to the embedded document’s used color scheme instead of a transparent canvas. This rule does not apply to documents embedded via elements intended for graphics (such as img elements embedding an SVG document).

Note: Aside from the small list of adjustments given above, user agents generally do not further adjust a page to match the user’s preferred color scheme, because the chance of accidentally ruining a page is too high. However, when particular color choices are required by the user (for accessibility reasons, for example), more invasive changes might be applied; see § 3 Forced Color Palettes.

2.3. Overriding the Color Scheme

If the user has indicated an overriding preference for a particular color scheme, and the author has not disallowed this (by using the only keyword), the user agent may override the color scheme, forcing the used color scheme to the user’s preferred color scheme. If the element does not support that color scheme, the user agent must also auto-adjust other colors into this chosen color scheme, such as by inverting their brightness, while preserving any color contrast necessary for readability of the page. In this case, UA may also auto-adjust colors within replaced elements, background images, and other external resources as appropriate.

Note: The specifics of such auto-adjustments are UA-defined, and can differ from UA to UA. But it is not intended to force all colors into a fixed palette, as forced colors mode does, only to force all colors on the page to conform to either a dark or light color scheme.

For example, a UA might have a “dark room” mode, which forces all pages into a dark color scheme.

For pages that already support dark color schemes, and have indicated so using the color-scheme property or color-scheme meta name, this has no effect other than reporting a dark value for the prefers-color-scheme media query and selecting a dark used color scheme.

But for pages that do not explicitly support a dark color scheme, and have not explicitly forbidden this auto-adjustment by specifying color-scheme: only light, this mode triggers auto-adjustment of the page’s colors to force the page to conform to the desired dark color scheme.

3. Forced Color Palettes

Forced colors mode is an accessibility feature intended to increase the readability of text through color contrast. Individuals with limited vision often find it more comfortable to read content when there is a particular type of contrast between foreground and background colors.

Operating systems can provide built-in color themes, such as Windows’ high contrast black-on-white and high-contrast white-on-black themes. Users can also customize their own themes, for example to provide low contrast or hue contrast.

In forced colors mode, the user agent enforces the user’s preferred color palette on the page, overriding the author’s chosen colors for specific properties, see § 3.1 Properties Affected by Forced Colors Mode. It may also enforce a “backplate” underneath text (similar to the way backgrounds are painted on the ::selection pseudo-element) to ensure adequate contrast for readability.

To enable pages to adapt to forced colors mode user agents will match the forced-colors media query and must provide the required color palette through the CSS system colors (see [CSS-COLOR-4]). Additionally, if the UA determines, based on Lab lightness, that the Canvas color is clearly either dark (L < 33%) or light (L > 67%), then it must match the appropriate value of the prefers-color-scheme media query and express a corresponding user preference for color-scheme. This will allow pages that support light/dark color schemes to automatically adjust to more closely match the forced color scheme. Behavior between the above dark vs. light thresholds is UA-defined, and may result in assuming either light or dark as the user’s preferred color scheme.

3.1. Properties Affected by Forced Colors Mode

When forced colors mode is active and forced-color-adjust is auto (see below) on an element, colors on the element are force-adjusted to the user’s preferred color palette.

Specifically, for each of the following properties:

if its computed value is a color other than a system color, its used value is instead forced to a system color as follows:


UAs may further tweak these forced colors mode heuristics to provide better user experience.

3.2. Opting Out of a Forced Color Palette: the forced-color-adjust property

Name: forced-color-adjust
Value: auto | none | preserve-parent-color
Initial: auto
Applies to: all elements and text
Inherited: yes
Percentages: n/a
Computed value: as specified
Canonical order: per grammar
Animation type: not animatable

The forced-color-adjust property allows authors to opt particular elements out of forced colors mode, restoring full control over the colors to CSS. Values have the following meanings:


The element’s colors are automatically adjusted by the UA in forced colors mode.


The element’s colors are not automatically adjusted by the UA in forced colors mode.

Authors should only use this value when they are themselves adjusting the colors to support the user’s color and contrast needs and need to make changes to the UA’s default adjustments to provide a more appropriate user experience for those elements.


In forced colors mode, if the color property inherits from its parent (i.e. there is no cascaded value or the cascaded value is currentColor, inherit, or another keyword that inherits from the parent), then it computes to the used color of its parent’s color value.

In all other respects, behaves the same as none.

Note: This value is intended solely to get a reasonable behavior from embedded SVG elements that expect to receive the outer document’s text color (and stay consistent with adjustments from forced colors mode), while otherwise defaulting SVGs to preserving their exact colors, as forced colors mode can’t generally be usefully applied to illustrations.

In order to not break SVG content, UAs are expected to add the following rules to their UA style sheet:

@namespace "http://www.w3.org/2000/svg";
svg|svg { forced-color-adjust: preserve-parent-color; }
svg|foreignObject { forced-color-adjust: auto; }

UAs must propagate the forced-color-adjust value set on the root element to the document viewport (where it can affect e.g. the canvas background). Note that forced-color-adjust is not propagated from HTML body.

4. Performance-based Color Adjustments

On most monitors, the color choices that authors make have no significant difference in terms of how the device performs; displaying a document with a white background or a black background is approximately equally easy.

However, some devices have limitations and other qualities that make this assumption untrue. For example, printers tend to print on white paper; a document with a white background thus has to spend no ink on drawing that background, while a document with a black background will have to expend a large amount of ink filling in the background color. This tends to look fairly bad, and sometimes has deleterious physical effects on the paper, not to mention the vastly increased printing cost from expending the extra ink. Even fairly small differences, such as coloring text black versus dark gray, can be quite different when printing, as it switches from using a single black ink to a mixture of cyan, magenta, and yellow ink, resulting in higher ink usage and lower resolution.

As a result, in some circumstances user agents will alter the styles an author specifies in some particular context, adjusting them to be more appropriate for the output device and to accommodate what they assume the user would prefer. However, in some cases the document may be using colors in important, well-thought-out ways that the user would appreciate, and so the document would like some way to hint to the user agent that it might want to respect the page’s color choices. This section defines properties for controlling these automatic adjustments.

Name: print-color-adjust
Value: economy | exact
Initial: economy
Applies to: all elements
Inherited: yes
Percentages: N/A
Computed value: specified keyword
Canonical order: per grammar
Animation type: discrete

The print-color-adjust property provides a hint to the user-agent about how it should treat color and style choices that might be expensive or generally unwise on a printer or similar device, such as using light text on a dark background. If user agents allow users to control this aspect of the document’s display, the user preference must be respected more strongly than the hint provided by print-color-adjust. It has the following values:

The user agent should make adjustments to the page’s styling as it deems necessary and prudent for the output device.

For example, if the document is being printed, a user agent might ignore any backgrounds and adjust text color to be sufficiently dark, to minimize ink usage.

This value indicates that the page is using color and styling on the specified element in a way which is important and significant, and which should not be tweaked or changed except at the user’s request.

For example, a mapping website offering printed directions might "zebra-stripe" the steps in the directions, alternating between white and light gray backgrounds. Losing this zebra-striping and having a pure-white background would make the directions harder to read with a quick glance when distracted in a car.

UAs must propagate the print-color-adjust value set on the root element to the document viewport (where it can affect e.g. the canvas background). Note that print-color-adjust is not propagated from HTML body.

4.2. The color-adjust Shorthand

Name: color-adjust
Value: <'print-color-adjust'>
Initial: see individual properties
Applies to: see individual properties
Inherited: see individual properties
Percentages: see individual properties
Computed value: see individual properties
Animation type: see individual properties
Canonical order: per grammar

The color-adjust shorthand allows an author to set all of the performance-motivated color adjustment properties in one declaration. (Currently, there is only one such property—​print-color-adjust—​but more might be added in the future.)

The color-adjust shorthand is currently deprecated. Authors should use the more specific print-color-adjust property, to avoid accidentally resetting performance-based color adjustments in other contexts than the one intended.

5. Privacy and Security Considerations

Applying user color preferences via color schemes or forced colors mode exposes the user’s color preferences to the page via getComputedStyle(), which can increase fingerprinting surface.

Avoiding this comes with unfortunate drawbacks that were deemed too significant to be ignored. Namely:

See Issue 5710 for discussion on this topic.

Additionally, it may be possible for an embedded document to use timing attacks to determine whether its own color-scheme matches that of its embedding iframe or not.

6. Acknowledgements

This specification would not be possible without the development efforts of various color adjustment features at Apple, Google, and Microsoft as well as discussions about print adjustments on www-style. In particular, the CSS Working Group would like to thank: Alison Maher, François Remy, イアンフェッティ

List additional MSFT / Apple / Google people here.

7. Changes

Changes since the 10 February 2022 Candidate Recommendation Snapshot:

See also Changes prior to Candidate Recommendation.


Document conventions

Conformance requirements are expressed with a combination of descriptive assertions and RFC 2119 terminology. The key words “MUST”, “MUST NOT”, “REQUIRED”, “SHALL”, “SHALL NOT”, “SHOULD”, “SHOULD NOT”, “RECOMMENDED”, “MAY”, and “OPTIONAL” in the normative parts of this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119. However, for readability, these words do not appear in all uppercase letters in this specification.

All of the text of this specification is normative except sections explicitly marked as non-normative, examples, and notes. [RFC2119]

Examples in this specification are introduced with the words “for example” or are set apart from the normative text with class="example", like this:

This is an example of an informative example.

Informative notes begin with the word “Note” and are set apart from the normative text with class="note", like this:

Note, this is an informative note.

Advisements are normative sections styled to evoke special attention and are set apart from other normative text with <strong class="advisement">, like this: UAs MUST provide an accessible alternative.


Tests relating to the content of this specification may be documented in “Tests” blocks like this one. Any such block is non-normative.

Conformance classes

Conformance to this specification is defined for three conformance classes:

style sheet
A CSS style sheet.
A UA that interprets the semantics of a style sheet and renders documents that use them.
authoring tool
A UA that writes a style sheet.

A style sheet is conformant to this specification if all of its statements that use syntax defined in this module are valid according to the generic CSS grammar and the individual grammars of each feature defined in this module.

A renderer is conformant to this specification if, in addition to interpreting the style sheet as defined by the appropriate specifications, it supports all the features defined by this specification by parsing them correctly and rendering the document accordingly. However, the inability of a UA to correctly render a document due to limitations of the device does not make the UA non-conformant. (For example, a UA is not required to render color on a monochrome monitor.)

An authoring tool is conformant to this specification if it writes style sheets that are syntactically correct according to the generic CSS grammar and the individual grammars of each feature in this module, and meet all other conformance requirements of style sheets as described in this module.

Partial implementations

So that authors can exploit the forward-compatible parsing rules to assign fallback values, CSS renderers must treat as invalid (and ignore as appropriate) any at-rules, properties, property values, keywords, and other syntactic constructs for which they have no usable level of support. In particular, user agents must not selectively ignore unsupported component values and honor supported values in a single multi-value property declaration: if any value is considered invalid (as unsupported values must be), CSS requires that the entire declaration be ignored.

Implementations of Unstable and Proprietary Features

To avoid clashes with future stable CSS features, the CSSWG recommends following best practices for the implementation of unstable features and proprietary extensions to CSS.

Non-experimental implementations

Once a specification reaches the Candidate Recommendation stage, non-experimental implementations are possible, and implementors should release an unprefixed implementation of any CR-level feature they can demonstrate to be correctly implemented according to spec.

To establish and maintain the interoperability of CSS across implementations, the CSS Working Group requests that non-experimental CSS renderers submit an implementation report (and, if necessary, the testcases used for that implementation report) to the W3C before releasing an unprefixed implementation of any CSS features. Testcases submitted to W3C are subject to review and correction by the CSS Working Group.

Further information on submitting testcases and implementation reports can be found from on the CSS Working Group’s website at http://www.w3.org/Style/CSS/Test/. Questions should be directed to the public-css-testsuite@w3.org mailing list.


Terms defined by this specification

Terms defined by reference


Normative References

Elika Etemad; Brad Kemper. CSS Backgrounds and Borders Module Level 3. URL: https://drafts.csswg.org/css-backgrounds/
Elika Etemad; Miriam Suzanne; Tab Atkins Jr.. CSS Cascading and Inheritance Level 5. URL: https://drafts.csswg.org/css-cascade-5/
Chris Lilley; Tab Atkins Jr.; Lea Verou. CSS Color Module Level 4. URL: https://drafts.csswg.org/css-color-4/
Chris Lilley; et al. CSS Color Module Level 5. URL: https://drafts.csswg.org/css-color-5/
Florian Rivoal; Rachel Andrew. CSS Multi-column Layout Module Level 1. URL: https://drafts.csswg.org/css-multicol/
Daniel Glazman; Elika Etemad; Alan Stearns. CSS Pseudo-Elements Module Level 4. URL: https://drafts.csswg.org/css-pseudo-4/
Tantek Çelik; Rossen Atanassov; Florian Rivoal. CSS Scrollbars Styling Module Level 1. URL: https://drafts.csswg.org/css-scrollbars/
Elika Etemad; Koji Ishii. CSS Text Decoration Module Level 4. URL: https://drafts.csswg.org/css-text-decor-4/
Florian Rivoal. CSS Basic User Interface Module Level 4. URL: https://drafts.csswg.org/css-ui-4/
Tab Atkins Jr.; Elika Etemad. CSS Values and Units Module Level 3. URL: https://drafts.csswg.org/css-values-3/
Tab Atkins Jr.; Elika Etemad. CSS Values and Units Module Level 4. URL: https://drafts.csswg.org/css-values-4/
Bert Bos; et al. Cascading Style Sheets Level 2 Revision 1 (CSS 2.1) Specification. URL: https://drafts.csswg.org/css2/
Daniel Glazman; Emilio Cobos Álvarez. CSS Object Model (CSSOM). URL: https://drafts.csswg.org/cssom/
Elika Etemad; Tab Atkins Jr.. CSS Fill and Stroke Module Level 3. URL: https://drafts.fxtf.org/fill-stroke/
Dirk Schulze; Dean Jackson. Filter Effects Module Level 1. URL: https://drafts.fxtf.org/filter-effects-1/
Anne van Kesteren; et al. HTML Standard. Living Standard. URL: https://html.spec.whatwg.org/multipage/
Dean Jackson; et al. Media Queries Level 5. URL: https://drafts.csswg.org/mediaqueries-5/
S. Bradner. Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels. March 1997. Best Current Practice. URL: https://datatracker.ietf.org/doc/html/rfc2119
Amelia Bellamy-Royds; et al. Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 2. URL: https://svgwg.org/svg2-draft/

Informative References

David Baron; Elika Etemad; Chris Lilley. CSS Conditional Rules Module Level 3. URL: https://drafts.csswg.org/css-conditional-3/
Michael Cooper; et al. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. URL: https://w3c.github.io/wcag/guidelines/22/

Property Index

Name Value Initial Applies to Inh. %ages Anim­ation type Canonical order Com­puted value
color-adjust <'print-color-adjust'> see individual properties see individual properties see individual properties see individual properties see individual properties per grammar see individual properties
color-scheme normal | [ light | dark | <custom-ident> ]+ && only? normal all elements and text yes n/a discrete per grammar the keyword normal, or an ordered list of specified color scheme keywords
forced-color-adjust auto | none | preserve-parent-color auto all elements and text yes n/a not animatable per grammar as specified
print-color-adjust economy | exact economy all elements yes N/A discrete per grammar specified keyword

Issues Index

List additional MSFT / Apple / Google people here.


In all current engines.

Edge (Legacy)?IENone
Firefox for Android?iOS Safari?Chrome for Android?Android WebView?Samsung Internet?Opera Mobile?


Edge (Legacy)NoneIENone
Firefox for Android?iOS Safari?Chrome for Android?Android WebView?Samsung Internet?Opera Mobile?


Edge (Legacy)NoneIENone
Firefox for Android?iOS Safari?Chrome for Android?Android WebViewNoneSamsung InternetNoneOpera MobileNone