Coner Murphy

Published on 7 Jun 2022 | 9 Minute Read

How to make a flicker-free dark theme toggle with Next.js, TailwindCSS, and `next-themes`

Here's how to build a dark/light theme toggle in Next.js using TailwindCSS and the next-themes npm package to make it load and transition flicker-free.

How to make a flicker-free dark theme toggle with Next.js, TailwindCSS, and `next-themes`

Have you ever added a theme toggle to a website? Have you also tried to remember the user's preference so they see the same theme when they visit again?

Yes? Then my final question is, have you ever been greeted by a flash of the wrong theme on page load before switching to the correct theme after a few seconds?

Well, in this blog post I'm going to show you how to resolve just that. Today, we're going to add a dark/light theme toggle to a Next.js application using TailwindCSS with no theme flickering at all. 🙌

Here is an example of what we will be creating from my website.

conermurphy.com theme switching example.

Next.js and TailwindCSS initial setup

To follow along in this tutorial you will already need to have a Next.js application up and running, if you don't you can follow the Next.js documentation here. I will be using TypeScript in my project but you don't have to, this tutorial will work absolutely fine with standard JavaScript.

Once you have your Next.js application up and running we need to install TailwindCSS. Tailwind has a great guide for this on their website.

Now with your Next.js application working and TailwindCSS installed, we're ready to get started.

Home page setup

For this tutorial we are going to be showcasing a basic home page design that switches colors based on the theme we are in. Once, we're finished it will look something like this.

Finished tutorial theme switching.

If you wish you can create a more detailed home page to switch between light and dark themes but the premise of toggling themes will remain the same. So, for this tutorial, a simple example page will suffice.

To get started, replace the contents of `./pages/index.tsx (TS)` or `./pages/index.jsx (JS)` with the code below.

TypeScript logoindex.tsx
1import type { NextPage } from "next";
2import Head from "next/head";
3
4const Home: NextPage = () => {
5 return (
6 <div>
7 <Head>
8 <title>Create Next App</title>
9 <meta name="description" content="Generated by create next app" />
10 <link rel="icon" href="/favicon.ico" />
11 </Head>
12 <main className="h-screen w-screen flex flex-col items-center justify-center">
13 <h1 className="text-3xl font-bold">Hello world!</h1>
14 </main>
15 </div>
16 );
17};
18
19export default Home;
tsx

Setup a TailwindCSS dark theme in Next.js

Adding a dark theme to a TailwindCSS website is incredibly easy. In fact, Tailwind supports dark themes straight out of the box via the `dark` variant. This means when a dark theme is enabled on an OS or the `prefers-color-scheme` CSS media feature is set to `dark`, the dark theme stylings are applied automatically.

However, for this tutorial, this doesn't quite cover everything we need. So, we're going to do some extra configuration to enable toggling between themes.

To configure theme toggling, we need to amend our `tailwind.config.js` file at the root of our project. We need to add in the below line of code to tell Tailwind we want to manually control the enabling and disabling of a dark theme.

TailwindCSS logotailwind.config.js
1module.exports = {
2 darkMode: "class",
3 // rest of the config
4};
js

With this small piece of configuration done, we are now ready to add some dark styles to our application and test it with a manual toggle by changing `html` class names.

For our minimal example, we are going to amend our home page `h1` text to be blue in the light theme and red in the dark theme as well change the background from white to black. To configure this, change your `index.tsx` (or, `index.jsx`) to be as per below.

TypeScript logoindex.tsx
1import type { NextPage } from 'next';
2import Head from 'next/head';
3
4const Home: NextPage = () => {
5  return (
6     <div>
7      <Head>
8        <title>Create Next App</title>
9        <meta name="description" content="Generated by create next app" />
10        <link rel="icon" href="/favicon.ico" />
11      </Head>
12
13      <main className="h-screen w-screen flex flex-col items-center justify-center  bg-white dark:bg-black">
14        <h1 className="text-3xl font-bold text-blue-500 dark:text-red-500">
15          Hello world!
16        </h1>
17      </main>
18    </div>
19  );
20};
21
22export default Home;
tsx

With the addition of `text-blue-500 dark:text-red-500`, we are telling Tailwind to set the colour of the `h1` tag to be blue on light theme and red on dark theme. (If you're interested in seeing all of Tailwind's shades, click here.)

We have also configured our background colour to change from white on the light theme to black on the dark theme by adding the styles `bg-white dark:bg-black` to the `main` tag wrapping the `h1` element.

Now, we are ready to test our configuration by editing the classes applied to our `html` element and seeing our application's dark theme for the first time. 😎

Testing our themes

To test if our themes are working correctly, open up your Next.js application by running `npm run dev` in your terminal. A new browser window should then open to `http://localhost:3000` and you should see your application with the light theme enabled.

To switch to the dark theme we need to edit the `html` tag in the DOM, so open up your developer tools and add `class="dark"` to the `html` tag so it becomes `html class="dark"`.

You should then see the dark theme we created, to change it back to the light theme, edit the class attribute to be `light` instead of `dark`.

Now, we have verified the themes work, let's now add a toggle to our Next.js application to enable flicker-free theme switching at the press of a button.

NOTE: If you're interested in reading more about dark themes in TailwindCSS, you can do so here at their documentation.

Making the `Toggle` component

Before jumping into building the toggle, I want to briefly talk about how we will persist the theme a user selects across page reloads and multiple visits.

Typically, this is done via the `localstorage` API in the browser, upon page load we would run a script which detects if there is a `localstorage` item previously set to take the value from. If there is then great, if not then we fall back to `window.matchMedia('(prefers-color-scheme: dark)')` to dictate the theme.

This method works and has been used countless times but there is one issue with it. It relies on the page loading before running the script that sets the theme, this is what gives us the flash of content in the wrong theme if the user's preferred theme doesn't align with the default.

There are workarounds to this like blocking the page loading to run a JS script to set CSS variables on the page. So then any content rendered uses the correct theme. I've seen this method work but I've also had varying levels of success with this method and couldn't quite get it work with TailwindCSS and Next.js

But, fear not, there is a solution.

Let me introduce you to the `next-themes` package. This brilliant package handles all of the theme controls and storage for us. We no longer need to worry about writing and running the scripts and blocking page loads to ensure the content renders in the right theme, this package handles it all for us. 🙌

To get started using `next-themes`, we need to install it which you can do with `npm i next-themes`.

Then we need to amend our custom `App` page to utilise the `ThemeProvider` component provided by the package. So, our completed custom `App` file (`./pages/_app.tsx`) looks like this.

TypeScript logo_app.tsx
1import "../styles/globals.css";
2import type { AppProps } from "next/app";
3import { ThemeProvider } from "next-themes";
4
5function MyApp({ Component, pageProps }: AppProps) {
6 return (
7 <ThemeProvider attribute="class">
8 <Component {...pageProps} />
9 </ThemeProvider>
10 );
11}
12
13export default MyApp;
tsx

Now, we can go make our `Toggle` component to handle the actual toggling between themes.

For this, we need to create a new component. So, first of all, create a new directory at the root of the project called `components` and then inside that directory create a new file called `Toggle.tsx` (or, `Toggle.jsx` if you're using JS).

Then inside of this component add the following code.

TypeScript logoToggle.tsx
1import { useTheme } from "next-themes";
2import React, { useEffect, useState } from "react";
3
4export default function Toggle() {
5 const [mounted, setMounted] = useState(false);
6 const { theme, setTheme } = useTheme();
7
8 useEffect(() => {
9 setMounted(true);
10 }, []);
11
12 if (!mounted) {
13 return null;
14 }
15
16 return (
17 <button
18 onClick={() => {
19 if (theme === "light") {
20 return setTheme("dark");
21 }
22 return setTheme("light");
23 }}
24 type="button"
25 className="opacity-75 p-6 text-xl text-black dark:text-white"
26 >
27 Toggle to {theme === "light" ? "dark" : "light"} theme
28 </button>
29 );
30}
tsx

Let's now quickly walk through what is happening in this code snippet. To start we import the custom hook `useTheme` from the `next-themes` package, this hook gives us two things:

  1. The currently displayed theme
  2. A `setTheme` function to handle switching the themes

Inside of the component we start by defining a piece of state that controls whether or not the component is mounted on the page. Ultimately, this piece of state will handle the rendering of the component and force it to be rendered on the client.

This is important because without it, you encounter an issue where the `useTheme` hook doesn't know the theme being displayed so the button shown doesn't align with the active theme. What I mean by this is you see a button saying "Toggle to dark theme" when the dark theme is active. Now, this issue does sort itself after a few toggles but it can be avoided completely by just forcing the toggle to render on the client which in my opinion is the better option.

So if the code is not on the client, we return `null` to skip rendering the toggle. But, as soon as it is on the client, `useEffect` fires and updates the `mounted` state to be `true` allowing the component to render, giving the user the ability to toggle the themes with no button mismatches.

After this we get to the main part of the component; the button we return for the user to trigger the theme change. The key part of this is the `onClick` handler we define in the button. In this function, we call the `setTheme` function from the `useTheme` hook to change the theme to be the one that is not currently active. That is if we are on the `light` theme right now, change it to the `dark` theme and vice versa.

With this our `Toggle` component is complete and all we need to do is add it into our home page from earlier like so.

TypeScript logoindex.tsx
1import type { NextPage } from 'next';
2import Head from 'next/head';
3import Toggle from '../components/Toggle';
4
5const Home: NextPage = () => {
6  return (
7    <div>
8      <Head>
9        <title>Create Next App</title>
10        <meta name="description" content="Generated by create next app" />
11        <link rel="icon" href="/favicon.ico" />
12      </Head>
13
14      <main className="h-screen w-screen flex flex-col items-center justify-center bg-white dark:bg-black">
15        <h1 className="text-3xl font-bold text-blue-500 dark:text-red-500">
16          Hello world!
17        </h1>
18        <Toggle />
19      </main>
20    </div>
21  );
22};
23
24export default Home;
tsx

And, just like that our application is complete and we should now be able to change back and forth between light and dark themes in Next.js using TailwindCSS flicker free including on page reloads and revisits.

Finished tutorial theme switching.

Conclusion

Hopefully you now have a working Next.js application that let's you toggle between light and dark themes using TailwindCSS styles with ease thanks to the `next-themes` package. I hope you found this post helpful and if you'd like to see the complete code for this project, check it out on the GitHub repository here.

Thank you for reading, until next time.

Coner



👥

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