Dark background is good for you 

I concluded long time ago that dark background is good for me. It will be

Recently, there has been a hot debate about the light/dark text/background. I've include the arguments on both sides here. If you don't have time to go through them all, check out the following points that I think that make sense to me.

Most above are just excerpts. Search below for the full message and the author, if it interests you.


documented on: 2006.10.10

my color theme 

Here is the screen shot of my light-on-dark theme.


documented on: 2007.01.01

my fluxbox theme 

Ok, here is the fluxbox theme that I look at day and night. It is nothing fancy at all,

But I like it because

but when you need to look at it day and night, you will like the it, the colors looks like calcite crystal growing in the dark. FYI, the color is not my invention. Actually, over 99% of the theme is code is not mine. I just looked at all the themes from fluxbox, and put together features that I like in one file.

The menu (big picture):


The active window (big picture):


The file is at: http://xpt.sourceforge.net/tools/CalciteCrystal

Note that if you use the theme and can see the background grid clearly, then your monitor brightness setting might be too bright.

documented on: 2008-03-29

Light text on dark background vs. readability 


To me this is an accessibility issue, the same way many people with impaired vision prefer light-on-dark text and may have problems similar to (or worse than) mine when reading dark-on-light text. As far as I know, I am not vision impaired. At least I have never been told so by an optician or an ophthalmologist. I still struggle with high-contrast, light-on-dark designs.

So if you want to use light text on a dark background, please provide an alternate stylesheet that turns the whole design, not just the content area, back to dark on light. You should also consider what Mark Boulton has to say in Five simple steps to better typography:

I haven't been able to find much recent research or usability testing that compares the readability of light-on-dark vs. dark-on-light designs. If you are aware of anything conclusive, please speak up.

Who else out there is having problems reading light-on-dark text? Who is not having problems and actually find it easier on your eyes? If you have used light-on-dark for a design, did you perform any usability testing? If so, what were the results?

I'd like to know if I need to have my eyes fixed.



Oddly enough, last year, I was having problems with eye strain and visitied the optician who suggested switching my work environment (primarily a text editor) to a light on dark colour scheme. Basically his advice was that since most of the screen is usually bright (in a dark on light scheme), you are staring into a light for some 8 odd hours a day. Since I switched, no more eye-strain. YMMV of course!

documented on: 2006-08-21, by SteamSHIFT


For reading text I definitely agree. The ease of reading with dark on light is considerably higher for myself. I've also had an older client in the past request I changed text from light on dark to dark on light because of readability. They said that almost all of their friends of the same age find it difficult to read, especially anything more than a paragraph. I took it to mind and try to use dark on light for any sites that will have a lengthy read.

But of course I don't mind using light on dark if the textual content is minimal.

documented on: 2006-08-21, by Mike Haugland


Like SteamSHIFT I have also been told by opticians that it is easier on the eyes to have light-on-dark colour schemes. I do actually have a problem with my vision and do find sites that use light-on-dark less tiring to read. However, as long as the contrast between the background and text is good then I do not mind too much. Too many sites exist that use a terrible combination of colours.

documented on: 2006-08-21, by Andy


In most cases, I actually enjoy reading light text on a dark background. Too white a background is like staring into a light bulb, and hurts my eyes if I have to look at too many of them all day. I find it helps to bump up the text size as well as the leading a bit more when using a dark background. Seems easier to read to me. (I have excellent vision, if that has any bearing on the situation.)

documented on: 2006-08-21, by Glen C.


I do remember a course on screen ergonomics recommended dark-on-light, but I forget the exact reason.

I think dark backgrounds are more effected by glare from the room / surroundings.

documented on: 2006-08-21, by Zephyr


I have some knowledge about this (which I too cannot back up with research citations) and the problems seem to be:

documented on: 2006-08-21, by Joe Clark


I'm among the few (obviously) who much preffer light-on-dark schemes. My eyes hurt like hell reading this (and other dark-on-light) sites.

But thanks to you I'm now starting to think about offering alternative stylesheets…

documented on: 2006-08-21, by Jernej


I too have problems with light on dark sites. They usually look good for a few minutes then are difficult to read for an extended period of time…

Disclaimer. I'm 50. I wear glasses. I work at a computer all day. Then I go home and may be on the computer up to another four or five hours if I'm working on a project. I try to keep it to a minimum so that I spend time with my family. Changing to an LCD monitor was a tremedous help in reducing eye strain. The other thing I've done is I bought a pair of I-Optix reading glasses. My eyes actually feel like they relax when I put them on.

documented on: 2006-08-21, by Tanny O'Haley


I prefer light text on dark background. Maybe it is because I'm using a CRT monitor (eMac), but a white page just has too much glare, and makes my eyes burn after using it for a longer time. I've set my editor, terminal and newsreader to use a light on dark scheme because it's much easier on my eyes.

I don't like white on black, because that looks harsh, but light colors on gray feel very comfortable to me.

documented on: 2006-08-21, by Arpan


OK, I'll bring the research.

A study at Stephen F. Austin University http://hubel.sfasu.edu/research/AHNCUR.html produced quite a lot of interesting data, particularly the observation that the optimal color combination can vary with the font in use — something that discussions of "light on dark" versus "dark on light" rarely touch on. If I'm reading correctly, their initial survey seems to have found that black on white was the most generally readable combination, while the more detailed followup did not replicate that; black on grey and (surprisingly) green on yellow were the best performers.

Another study, at the University of Missouri http://campus.umr.edu/lite/tech_reports/LITE-2003-04.pdf (link goes to PDF), looked at color combinations affecting a number of factors, including readability. The PDF, which was the only version of the paper I could find, does not appear to include the results tables, but if anyone could find a full version that'd certainly be interesting to look at, although the fact that they used participants' responses on a Likert scale, as opposed to objective measures of reading speed and retention, tends to make me wonder about the study's quality (also, unfortunate terminology errors such as substituting "hexagonal" for "hexadecimal" don't help its credibility).

A paper from the Wichita State University usability lab http://psychology.wichita.edu/optimalweb/text.htm touches briefly on the topic and summarizes the extant research; its references section provides a lot of potential leads for researching the topic, and their synopsis indicates that dark on light, in general, is better than light on dark.

There's a lot of reading in there, and I haven't quite finished all of it (these have been in my "to read" bookmark list forever), but hopefully it'll contribute to rational discussion about this (as opposed to "I like light on dark" vs. "I like dark on light").

documented on: 2006-08-21, by James Bennett


The most directly applicable research I know of is by Lauren Scharff, who did a study on the readability of several colour combinations, and a follow up http://hubel.sfasu.edu/research/Oxford.html .

However, I think it may be somewhat out of date, the issue with light on dark was:

With nicer TFTs common now, it would be worth re-doing the research.

My initial feeling is that it is probably symmetrical, but we are heavily swayed by what is 'normal', and sudden changes can seem harsh.

As part of our zoom testing last year, roughly 1/3 of the visually impaired participants preferred light text on dark background. My understanding is that people with certain cognitive issues (e.g. Dyslexia) sometimes also prefer a dark background, or at least less contrast.

Broadening this slightly to include contrast as well, this is the one area of accessibility that has conflicting requirements: Maximum contrast is needed for those with visual impairments, and more subtle shades for some people with cognitive impairments.

documented on: 2006-08-21, by AlastairC


I think another misconception is that you can compare a computer screen with a lightbulb better than with a piece of paper. When my screen is mostly black its so relaxing for my eyes. Thats also why a lot of CAD software works with a black background and white lines.


When I used to worked on CRTs I liked large light colored text on a dark background, because it was less eye strain due to the fact that I wasn't staring into a bright CRT bulb all day long.

Once I switched to LCD flat panels however, light text on black caused me a ton of eye strain. Whenever I come across a site with dark background and light text, I have to turn off all CSS styles in my browser in order to continue reading the site.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by Aran


I understand your point, but I think you're missing all the people who find it far easier to read light-on-dark schemes. My own site — hardly interesting content to most people, I'll admit readily — uses light-on-dark. Why? Because it's much easier for me to read comfortably. I've toyed with switching to dark-on-light a few times, but every time I do, I get several people telling me to switch back to the dark background. It's just easier on the eyes sometimes.

To each his own.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by Tigerblade


Actually, I don't have any eye disorder other than staring-at-a-computer-for-too-many-hours-a-day-itis …. ;-)

documented on: 2006-08-22, by SteamSHIFT


If I'm reading a magazine with light text on a dark background, I can hold it as close to my face as I want. If I'm using Internet Explorer on an old CRT monitor (like the vast majority of web users), it might not be so easy for me to achieve optimal viewing.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by joe


another +1 for light-on-dark. It was explained to me that the print industry uses dark-on-light not just because of ink and smudging, but because the light from paper is reflected light. Light on a computer screen, on the other hand, is emitted light; thus light-on-dark text is easier on the eyes.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by Eric J


I think light-on-dark is just oldskool, I still love it, i still code in light-on-dark, and i would rather most sites would have a light-on-dark option for reading purposes.

But I can understand, my background is unix, linux, dos, so I am quite used to the light-on-dark situation.

And, some people may say that light-on-dark is actually less aggressive to the eyes, after a long period.

dark-on-light might be easier in the short run, but light-on-dark is for hardcore ppl that spend hoursreading in a monitor. (and by that I mean more than 12hours a day, like myself)

documented on: 2006-08-22, by jao


Personally I find the dark text on a light background quite painful to read after any period of time. This is one of the resons I use a text browser in an XTerm for most sites. (I also have a visual impairment, which may skew my results.) The only times I find a light background at all bearable are those when I am forced into an environment with very high ambient light (which is painful in itself, no matter what I'm looking at.) I have heard claim that the Plan 9 people have usability testing favouring dark on light, but there's a significant enough number of people who prefer it the other way, even those without visual impairments, that any usable, accessible site or application should offer both choices. One of my problems with most desktop environments is that even with changes in colour scheme, many applications won't let you turn white on black to black on white. You are correct that a small area of video inverse to the main content can be quite distracting.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by Azure


I think you're picking nits here. I look at terminals all day that are either green on black or white on black. My eyes don't get strained and I don't get headaches from reading the text.

I want to know what is with pompous web designers who think they know everything there is to know about design.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by Kripto


I peronally like dark on light most of the time, but on some text heavy sites the light on dark really works well. Maddox's site, for example, which is about 90% text, is very easy for me to read and not as straining as looking at a glowing white screen with black letters.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by Tim


I use the light on dark scheme everywhere I can .. someone once described the dark on light scheme as trying to read the lettering on a switched on bulb.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by Megalomaniac


Actually I have the opposite point of view. To me looking at web pages that have the white background are difficult to view. To me it's like trying to see a black speck on a flashlight. The white color on a monitor is basically a bright light turned on while the dark pixels that make up the text are turned off.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by Michael


I don't know, I prefer a balance between the two. I find Light on Dark easier on the eyes, and sites like this where everything's bright except the text (and even the text isn't black, it's grey), actually hurt my eyes. However, on my sites, I realize that some people can't read light on dark, and other people's eyes hurt when they read dark on light, so I try to find a balance between the two so my eyes don't hurt on my own site, and other people can read the site.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by Louis C.


I tend to agree with Maddox on this one:

"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). Would you stare at a light bulb for hours at a time? Not if you want to keep your vision." Maddox (www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net)

documented on: 2006-08-22, by pxlmxr


I actually find it much easier on my eyes to look at a dark background than a light one. white backgrounded pages, while ubiquitous really strain my eyes.

I agree completely with Maddox.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by Patrick


Personally , having a large glowing area in front of me (the "white" background on most monitors is actually a very brightly glowing light - try it in a dark room if you don't believe - or better, take a picture (wihtout flash) of one) is very annoying.

I want passive, non-glowing displays (the old non-active-matrix LCD displays; my watch; paper) to be black-on-white; but any glowing display to be white-on-black.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by JMX


I've had a light on dark site since 1996, and while I keep trying to come up with a better design, I'm still stuck with it. It just works best for me.

I've never had any readability complaints, but then it's only been texty since 2004.

This seems to be more a matter of taste, since the biological/medical arguments seem to be going both ways. :)

documented on: 2006-08-22, by Jeff


I completely disagree with your article, I think it is to much from an individual perspective to be an article, where are you documentation that says what you say here is correct?

I have normal eyes and like dark on light sites, but for massive reading I think medium-light on medium-dark sites is better. I say medium, because I belive that eyes are not made for hard white on pure black or black on white light on a screen… the contrast too high (…and I believe that you are targetting white on pure black, and not seeing the broad perspective of shades that could be used) Screens are getting larger and larger and I can not understand why a large white rectangle with darker letters could be better than medium-bright on medium-dark, its like reading text on a transparent paper holding it up against the white sky..

Also from a usability perspective medium-light on medium-dark enables you to use colors another way. Orange, yellow, turquise, or pure red® blue(B) or green(G) and similar gets much more visible (think street lights at night) and can be used to grab the reader / viewer of a page in a much more visually and extensive way than a visual homogeny with white as background. Also think how clear the different stuff separated visually on dashboard is when it is dark outside.


I am a designer not a programmer, but do XHTML and CSS templates occasionally. I thought it was hard to differentiate the tags and content when everything floated together in one hard bright light, so I setup my editor to showing a medium-dark background, the .<p>content</p>. in a lighter shade (still dark, because the "Lorem Ipsum…kind of content is unessential when working with tags and structure") and the different tags in "neon" colors so they was easy to differentiate… The coders on my office saw my screen and thought I was weird…weeks later almost everyone had converted to my kind of setup, because it let them see the code easier differentiate elements and lower the strain on their eyes watching a screen 12 hrs everyday…

An alternative to not strain your eyes is to adjust your monitor light down when you want to read black on white on a screen.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by internetperson


I own and operate a comic site where I have a "white on black or brick red" color scheme because I feel the color scheme compliments the comic material there. As an artist, I've done a lot of research on the difference between reflected light (What you see when you read a book or a newspaper) versus projected light (what you see when you're reading off of a monitor). I've found in my research that, depending on what kind of monitor you have and the levels of contrast it's set to, the ammount of light entering the eye from projected light is anywhere between 50% to 400% higher than if you were to read the same material printed on paper of any color. This is possibly harmful to the eye. My comics (which are image files on the site) are still black letters in white balloons with artwork on white backgrounds, but the background for the site is black because I don't want people to get headaches from it without knowing why. I've begun steps myself to impliment selectable color schemes into my own site because not everyone shares my design sense either. I believe an option like this for most sites would please everyone if they're able to simply select a color scheme that works for them.

You raise certain points, but it's possible that you might have the contrast or resolution set too high too. Also, simply selecting the text inverts it for you if you were to run across a site with a design scheme you're not fond of with no ability to slect a color scheme you prefer better.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by glych


I find that I don't mind dark on light if it is an LCD. But if it is a CRT, or a very bright LCD, then I must have light on dark. It's just too hard on my eyes.

Of course, I prefer dark on light for mediums that reflect light, rather than emit it.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by


This is kind of absurd - it was proven long ago that light text on a dark background offers the best contrast and readability.

Apple, for better or worse changed this with the the Mac UI fairly early on and the move to white, bright, hard to read pages was born. If brightness and lack of contrast were desirable then we would all work with our screens facing the sunlight - but as we all know it is awfully hard to because the white sceen washes out.

In fact high contrast stylesheets are available on some sites (light text on a dark background), the sole purpose being to increase usability and readability - not to impair it - so I would say you have this backward - regardless of whether you were taught that a page should be white. For those with visual impairments a high contrast site with light text on a dark background has been proven to be the most legible.

documented on: 2006-08-22, by John Wozniak

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. https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/2108/

after installing the extension, i went here… http://userstyles.org/stylish

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

four golden rules 


The Tarkan Deluxe blog design adheres to these rules, but it is also practical. The nature of my blog is such that people will be reading and staring at the screen for a long time, and a monitor screen is not like paper, as you are in effect staring at bright light. So, white backgrounds can generally hurt the eyes after long periods, and dark backgrounds give more comfort to your reader.

documented on: 2006.10.10