A common discrepancy that you'll often hear the average Android user complaining about is the lack of theme support on Android. While some individual manufactures may pack proprietary theme support into their heavily skinned and modified versions of Android, and individual users may go the path of rooting their devices and installing custom ROMs with theming support.

One of the most commonly requested themes on Android is a full, system-level dark theme (especially so on AMOLED devices). And it's been impossible to achieve on unrooted devices until very recently, with the launch of Substratum for Android Oreo. Today, we're going to walk you through how to get a dark theme on your Android Oreo running device, without needing root.

What is Substratum?

If you're into customising your rooted phone, you've probably heard of Substratum by now. If you haven't, it's a theme framework that's been around for a little while now on rooted devices. What Substratum brought to the table was a clever combination of from Layers and CyanogenMod's own theme engine, enabling for the best of both ecosystems in a single, more versatile tool that had many improvements over the original 2. Substratum was restricted to rooted devices until recently; that is until Google incorporated Sony's new Overlay Management Service theming framework into Android 8.0 Oreo. The developers behind Substratum got at work, and last month they announced full, system-level theme support for all Android Oreo devices, regardless of root status via a new add-on package and desktop client combo for Substratum, called Andromeda.

The advantage of such a versatile theme framework embedded within the OS itself is that it enables modifications to the entirety of the Android system, third-party apps, system fonts, per-app emojis and plenty of other domains that were only to be considered with rooted devices some time ago. And that's what we will be taking advantage of today.

Step 1: Download the Substratum theme engine and purchase the Andromeda add-on

The first thing you will need is the Substratum Theme Manager app, which is necessary in order to manage and organise themes on your device. You can grab it from the link below:

The Andromeda add-on for your device that enables the theme engine backend is a paid application that you'll have to purchase. It's $2.49, and we definitely think it's worth your money.

The final piece to the puzzle is installing the Andromeda desktop client, which is available for Mac, PC and Linux, so you're only left out if you haven't installed a proper OS on your Chromebook.

Step 2: Enable USB Debugging

This is an important step for getting the Andromeda client on your computer and on your phone to play nicely with one another. It's a simple process:

  1. Enable developer mode on your device by going to Settings -> About device and taping "build number" 7 times.

  2. Open the developer options screen in Settings.

  3. Toggle the USB Debugging setting.

Before continuing, quickly open up the Andromeda app on your phone. It should show the connection status as being "Disconnected", as shown below.

Step 3: Proceed through the Andromeda setup on your computer.

Start this step by connecting your phone to your computer. The process itself may differ slightly depending on the operating system you're using, but it remains the same at its core; it runs a series of ADB commands to ensure that Substratum's permissions are elevated, and that Substratum and Andromeda can function independently of a computer.

If the process has been successful, the Substratum application should immediately open up on your device; signifying that the process has been completed and Substratum can now manage themes on your phone. You can quickly verify this by opening the Andromeda app; the connection status should now show a green "Connected" instead.

And now we've installed Andromeda! The next step is simply to obtain a theme and install it through Substratum.

Step 6: Find a dark theme of your choosing and install it!

The dark theme we're using is a very popular dark theme called Swift Black. The reasons for its popularity mainly stem from its beautiful aesthetics, fluid performance and utilisation of most of Substratum's best features.

Install it from the link above, and then follow these steps to set up the theme. However, do note that this guide will work for any Substratum theme from the Play Store, not just this one so you're free to choose.

  1. Open the Substratum app and select Swift Black, or the theme of your choice, from the list of themes.

  2. You will be presented with a list of different sections or "overlays" that can be modified your likings, such as the Android System, System UI, Settings menu, Navigation buttons, and more. If you want to quickly install this dark theme as it is, then simply click "select to toggle all overlays". If you wish to modify and customise it to your liking, then do so.

  1. Now that you've customised your theme to your liking, check the box next to each item you would like to theme. Then, tap on the floating paint roller button and select "Build and Enable". This may take a few minutes, depending on the theme and personal modifications of your choosing, but after a few minutes, you should receive a "Success" message.

And that's it! Your phone is now themed to your liking.


Substratum is an incredibly versatile piece of software with countless features and overlays and themes available to explore. And that's exactly what we advise you to do: explore! Try out different themes and overlays in different applications and parts of the system. Find what works best for you, because everyone has different preferences and taste. Substratum allows you to make your device truly yours, which is why if you have an Android Oreo device we give it our wholehearted recommendation.

What do you guys think? Will you try out Substratum on your Oreo device? Are you relieved at finally getting to apply a dark theme to your device? Let us know what you think in the comments, or post over in the forums with your thoughts.

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