Light text on dark background vs. readability

Light text on dark backgrounds is easier on the eyes than the traditional black text on white backgrounds. That is why the classic Windows Accessibility color scheme recolors Windows to have large light text on black backgrounds. Also, black text on white backgrounds is, contrary to what one might think, is very demanding on the eyes. That is why you'll sometimes notice that you have to re-read some sentences because you missed reading them the first time. It is this very reason why many colleges and schools choose to print black text on pastel-colored paper, such as light red, light green, and light blue. The pastel colors are easier on the eyes than plain white.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by masamunecyrus



I've chosen a black background for most of my text because it's easier on the eyes than staring at a white screen. Think about it: your monitor is not a piece of paper, no matter how hard you try to make it one. Staring at a white background while you read is like staring at a light bulb (don't believe me? Try turning off the lights next time you use a word processor).

documented on: 2006-08-22, by chrono13


The best (at least for coding, but I imagine in general) is green on black. The human eye is naturally more sensitive to green than any other color. This is why certain file formats and color schemes have more bytes set aside for green than they do for red and blue.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by JJVH


I totally agree, I've been staying/working/playing in front of the PC whole day for quite a long time and I definitely think that light text on dark background is tiring out the eyes much less than the classic black text on white/light background. I also use semi-dark themes for the OS and my browser (firefox) so they ease my daily life.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by Etherion


i've been thinking about this a lot lately, mostly because i've had so many headaches due to the almost universal black-on-white or grey-on-white that i'm seeing around the web2.0 these days.

digg me down if this is totally obvious to you, but i found a nice firefox extension called stylish which has mostly solved my problems.

after installing the extension, i went here…

and under "global styles" i found "light text on black background" which immediately made everything immensely more comfortable.

i hope this helps someone else!

documented on: 2006-08-22, by kingfelix


There's good reason dark text on a light background tends to be easier to read, particularly as one gets older. For most people, it's harder to focus at close distances than infinity, and as eyes age it gets even harder (re: presbyopia). If text is displayed on a light background, though, the brightness of the background helps to close down the pupils to produce smaller apertures, which makes it easier to focus, much like how a pinhole camera works without a lens.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by streak


I think John Gruber's site highlights the problem with a blanket statement like this.

It's light on dark, and one of the most legible sites on the web.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by picaman


Monitors , TVs and other displays all use more power when displaying a white background than when displaying a black background. It takes power to produce light .. the more light , the more power.

The exception is LCD screens that use a constant backlight and then block the light depending on the desired pixelcolor.

Look it up , or better yet , measure the powerusage of your monitor displaying black and then white. My 19" CRT monitor uses about 40W more when displaying white than when displaying black. My 17" LCD uses the same amount of power no matter what it displays.

Also a black background doesn't strain the eyes like a white one does. One reason for that is that the pupils in the eyes have to contract in order to look at a bright light .. relaxed pupils are open pupils. Another reason is that monitors have refresh rates that causes the eye to constantly adapt to a flickering light .. the lower the refresh rate , the more flicker and the more eyestrain.

A black background however outputs no light (or at least very little in the case of LCD's) and when there is no light , the light cannot flicker .. thus there is no eyestrain.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by CeeJayDK


They are much easier to read. If you look at all of the old terminals (which were meant to display text/data to users for hours a day) they all use a dark background, and when I setup a client to emulate those terminals (like old VT100's & VT510's), I set them up with a similar light text-on-dark background for the same reason (same goes for the web design I've done). Think about it, it's easy to focus on a star in the night sky, but if it were the other way around, a brightly lit sky with points of black, would you even be able to see them? Not likely…

documented on: 2006-08-22, by Karyyk


Linux distros generally default to light backgrounds for the terminals, which is the first thing I always change (I use black terminals).

I've detailed here some settings required for various terminal apps, for when you change the terminal background to black:

documented on: 2006-08-22, by pixelbeat_


for people on both sides of the aisle.. make a firefox book mark of the code below.. clicking on the bookmark will invert the colors on a website.. from white text on a black background to black text on a hite one and versus vice.

javascript:(function(){function RGBtoHSL(RGBColor){with(Math){var R,G,B;var cMax,cMin;var sum,diff;var Rdelta,Gdelta,Bdelta;var H,L,S;R=RGBColor[0];G=RGBColor[1];B=RGBColor[2];cMax=max(max(R,G),B);cMin=min(min(R,G),B);sum=cMax+cMin;diff=cMax-cMin;L=sum/2;if(cMax==cMin){S=0;H=0;}else{if(L

documented on: 2006-08-22, by xgravix