Sometimes I need to flip from a light colour scheme to a dark one quickly, and I need it to apply not just to the desktop theme but also to any webpages that are open etc.

On the Mac there's a neat shortcut for this (Cmd+Alt+Ctrl+8) - it simply inverts all colours displayed, so the screen looks like a photographic negative.

Is there an equivalent of this that I can use in my debian/ubuntu desktop sessions?

  • What Desktop Environment/Window manager do you use? Gnome? Unity? Cinnamon?
    – terdon
    Mar 24, 2013 at 10:45
  • Thanks for the nudge - I'm using LXDE/Openbox, but I realise I was assuming the effect would happen lower down (in Xorg) - and there is an answer that does do this, hurrah. Mar 24, 2013 at 22:07

3 Answers 3


A window manager independent way is:

xcalib -invert -alter

From the xcalib man page

xcalib loads 'vcgt'-tag of ICC profiles to the X-server using the XVidMode Extension in order to calibrate your display.

You can install it using sudo apt-get install xcalib. To make it more convenient assign a keyboard shortcut to the command (e.g. Cmd+Alt+Ctrl+8).

  • It only inverts one of my two displays
    – Tristan
    Aug 12, 2016 at 8:23
  • @TristanT use -s 0 for first screen and -s 1 for second. See also.
    – q9f
    Dec 9, 2016 at 19:23
  • 1
    gotta be carefulnif you are using redshift superuser.com/q/874859/202217
    – scjorge
    May 12, 2017 at 19:42
  • Using redshift over here. All you've got to do after the blink is fire a redshift -o Also, I think xcalib may have been updated? Or is better compatible with some drivers. Works fine on all 3 of my connected displays. Dec 20, 2017 at 6:13
  • If you get "Error - unsupported ramp size 0", see askubuntu.com/questions/930084/…
    – sashoalm
    Sep 21, 2018 at 6:30

The following works on Pop-OS 21, which is an Ubuntu variant.

Settings > Accessibility > Zoom > Magnifier > Full Screen

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Settings > Accessibility > Zoom > Color Effects > White on Black

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  • 1
    This leaves a weird square trail behind my cursor, but otherwise works well. If someone knows how to use xcalib (or any other approach) in a way that doesn't affect my xrandr brightness settings, I'd love to hear! Until this is good enough - thanks!
    – joe
    Jan 9, 2022 at 20:16
  • @joe I confirm the "weird square trail." Annoying but merely annoying in my opinion for ordinary work. Would be bad for a screencast.
    – Reb.Cabin
    Jan 16, 2022 at 20:35

If you have Compiz, open CompizConfig Settings Manager and enable Negative. This will allow you to invert colors of a window (default shortcut is Super+n) or the whole desktop (default shortcut is Super+m).

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