Since iOS 13, there are some new classes to let us customize bar appearance. We have UINavigationBarAppearance, UIToolbarAppearance and UITabBarAppearance which inherited from UIBarAppearance.

The properties we used before iOS 13 have been moved to pages named Legacy Customizations. However, they still work on iOS 13.

So a requestion comes to us–what should we use?

Legacy Customizations

The first answer may be using Legacy Customizations since they still work on iOS 13.

If we don’t need to change the appearance of UINavigationBar or UITabBar according to the UIViewController is showing, this solution is just fine.

But if we need, we can use navigationItem and tabBarItem in UIViewController to change bar appearance, only when this UIViewController is showing. We don’t have to change bar appearance in viewWillAppear(_:) and recover it in viewDidDisappear(_:) anymore.


So using the UIBarAppearance only on iOS 13 should be the answer?

It should be the answer, but there are still some issues here that we have to fall back to Legacy Customizations.

For example, UITabBarAppearance.selectionIndicatorImage doesn’t work at this time, we have to use to old one in UITabBar even they have the same name.

How to Use

The usage is similar for all kinds of bars, so let’s talk about UINavigationBarAppearance, for example.

Let’s check the official document first.

  • Use Legacy Customizations for UINavigationBar 🧐
  • Use UIBarAppearance for UINavigationItem

I can’t tell the reason why, but let’s check if it works.

Assume that we want to change the background color of the navigation bar to white and only remove the shadow when the root view controller is showing.

navigationController?.navigationBar.barTintColor = .white

let appearance = UINavigationBarAppearance()
appearance.configureWithDefaultBackground() // Have no affect to the result
appearance.shadowColor = .clear
navigationItem.standardAppearance = appearance

But this code will not work as expected since we set a brand new appearance to the navigationItem.

How about changing the shadowColor directly? It wouldn’t work since standardAppearance is an optional property, and the default value is nil.

We can tell the official document only works for the situations that you need totally different navigation bar appearances for each view controller. Setting appearance for each view controller is not smart when we have a base appearance and want to modify it in some situations.

Let’s try to fix the code above.

navigationController?.navigationBar.barTintColor = .white

let appearance = navigationController?.navigationBar.standardAppearance.copy()
appearance.shadowColor = .clear
navigationItem.standardAppearance = appearance

Still not working, it seems like Legacy Customizations will not affect the UIBarAppearance. So let’s implement the first line using UINavigationBarAppearance.

navigationController?.navigationBar.standardAppearance.backgroundColor = .white

It’s working! So it’s possible to achieve our goal by using the UIBarAppearance only.

But what if we have more than one navigation controller? Do we have to write the code above for each root view controller or subclass a navigation controller?

You may already know the answer—appearance(). If you have tried it, you may also notice there is no standardAppearance or any other appearance in code completion. But it seems like an issue of code completion; we can use them normally.

let appearance = UINavigationBarAppearance()
appearance.backgroundColor = .white
UINavigationBar.appearance().standardAppearance = appearance

We can’t achieve it like below since this is just a proxy; the default value of standardAppearance is something like nil.

UINavigationBar.appearance().standardAppearance.backgroundColor = .white


The object of appearance will be copied when you set it to strandardAppearance, so the code below works as the same as above.

navigationItem.standardAppearance = navigationController?.navigationBar.standardAppearance
navigationItem.standardAppearance?.shadowColor = .clear

If you find you can’t modify from appearance() by change some properties from the bar like below.

navigationController?.navigationBar.standardAppearance.shadowColor = .clear

You may have to modify it from appearance() directly. I have encountered this issue once in my work.

let appearance = UINavigationBar.appearance().standardAppearance.copy()
appearance.shadowColor = .clear
navigationController?.navigationBar.standardAppearance = appearance

The reason seems like we modify it too early, so we actually modify the default appearance and then be overridden by the proxy.


  • Use UIBarAppearance only to customize bar appearance on iOS 13
  • Set the appearance to the level we want and modify base on it
    • Application Level: appearance().standardAppearance
    • View Level (a bar shared with view controlelrs): bar.standardAppearance
    • View Controller Level: item.standardAppearance