Windows 11 High Contrast Mode

How to Enable High Contrast Mode in Windows 11

High Contrast mode in Windows 11 is a useful part of the Ease of Access options. It allows people with low vision to conveniently read the screen. Some of the apps and websites may have design issues, such as a gray text on a dark background, which are hardly readable for people with vision disabilities. The built-in High Contrast aims to solve this issue.

High contrast themes use brighter colors to make text and apps more visible. Window 11 includes four of them, Aquatic, Desert, Dusk, and Night sky.

Each of the themes includes its unique variation of colors to satisfy as many users as possible. All the themes don't include any wallpaper. They set the desktop background to a solid color, but you can change it manually to anything you want.

Enable High Contrast Mode in Windows 11

To enable High Contrast mode, you can use the Settings app, the legacy Control Panel, and a special keyboard shortcut. Additionally, you can turn it on right from the sign-in screen, and from File Explorer. Let's review these options in detail.

Enable High Contrast Mode in Windows 11 Settings

  1. Open the Settings app with the Win + I keyboard shortcut.
  2. Select the Accessibility item in the left pane.
  3. On the right, click on Contrast themes.
  4. In the Contrast themes drop-down menu select a theme you want to apply. The "None" option disables the high contrast mode and restores the colorful style of Windows 11.

You are done.

Alternatively, you can apply a high-contrast theme from the legacy Control Panel. It still includes the classic Personalizaton page, but it is hidden well in inside system files. You need to use a special command to open it.

Using the legacy Control Panel

  1. Press Win + R to open the Run dialog.
  2. Type the following command into the Run box: shell:::{ED834ED6-4B5A-4bfe-8F11-A626DCB6A921}. This will open the classic Personalization window directly.
  3. Under the High Contrast Themes section, pick a theme you want to apply.
  4. Selecting a theme from any other section will disable high contrast mode.

You are done.

Enable High Contrast Mode in Windows 11 with a hotkey

The easiest way to enable High Contrast Mode in Windows 11 is to press Left Alt + Left Shift + Print Screen. Pressing this key sequence will open a confirmation dialog titled "High Contrast".

Read the text and click Yes to turn on the High Contrast mode.

Finally, you can switch to one of these themes using File Explorer. All you need to do is to click the appropriate *.theme file.

Apply a High Contrast Theme from File Explorer

  1. If you have the Settings app open, then close it.
  2. Open File Explorer (Win + E), and head over the following folder: C:\Windows\Resources\Ease of Access Themes.
  3. Click on one of the following files to apply the theme.
    • hc1.theme
    • hc2.theme
    • hcblack.theme
    • hcwhite.theme
  4. Once you click it, Windows 11 will set the high contrast theme, and open the Settings app. Close the latter.

Done!

If the above methods is not enough, you can apply any of the high contract themes from the command prompt of powershell.

Turn on High Contrast Mode from Command Prompt or PowerShell

  1. Open Windows Terminal.
  2. Open it to the command prompt tab (Ctrl + Shift + 2).
  3. Type the following command: start "" "C:\Windows\Resources\Ease of Access Themes\hc1.theme" & timeout /t 3 & taskkill /im "systemsettings.exe" /f. Instead of the hc1.theme, you can use hc2.theme, hcblack.theme, or hcwhite.theme if they suit you better.
  4. If you use PowerShell (Ctrl + Shift + 1), type or copy & paste the following command: start-process -filepath "C:\Windows\Resources\Ease of Access Themes\hc1.theme"; timeout /t 3; taskkill /im "systemsettings.exe" /f. Correct the high contrast theme file name if required.
  5. Windows 11 will enable High Contrast mode and close the Settings app that automatically opens.

Done!

Note: These commands, along with the Theme Switcher app mentioned in the next chapter, have been reviewed in this post.

Using Theme Switcher

A freeware app, Theme Switcher, is a handy alternative to the command prompt or PowerShell. It doesn't open the Settings app, so it doesn't need a workaround to close it.

Download Theme Switcher using this link. Unpack the ZIP archive to any folder of your choice.

Open Windows Terminal to that folder, and run one of the following commands:

  • ThemeSwitcher.exe hc1.theme
  • ThemeSwitcher.exe hc2.theme
  • ThemeSwitcher.exe hcblack.theme
  • ThemeSwitcher.exe hcwhite.theme

Finally, you can apply a high-contrast theme right from the sign-in screen, before you log in to your user account. Here's how it can be done.

Enable High Contrast Mode from Sign-in Screen

  1. On the sign-in screen, select your user account.
  2. Click the Accessibility button in the bottom right corner.
  3. Enable the High Contrast option from the menu that opens.
  4. You can now continue signing in to Windows 11 with High Contrast enabled.

That's it.

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