Eye Colour
June 17, 2010 10:14 PM   Subscribe

What colours are best for screen reading? I recently (forget where I) read that it is not black on white, yellow on black perhaps? Google surprisingly hasn't found me the article, or anything other that reconfirming that black on white really is the least straining on the eyes. Okay, thanks everyone!
posted by Benzle to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Try googling for legibility, the terms screen text color legibility give me stuff like this, which is probably what you are looking for.

Remember also that cultural factors may play a role in this: I find light green text on a black background very soothing, other people might prefer tiny gray text against a professional white background.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:20 PM on June 17, 2010

I have heard "Color overlays" suggested.
posted by novalis_dt at 10:22 PM on June 17, 2010

Black on light yellow. Try Readability to make any page on the web have that color scheme and see how you like it.
posted by Idle Curiosity at 10:24 PM on June 17, 2010

Black on Yellow. Recently on AskMe.
posted by Night_owl at 10:31 PM on June 17, 2010

Black on Green is the most legible.

Dark letters on a light background is better for people who have astigmatism. (Light letters on a dark background will have fringes around them, even with correcting eyeglasses.)

A single color is easier to focus than white. (That's because a lense is also a prism.)

And green is the color our eyes are most sensitive to.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:33 PM on June 17, 2010

Black text on a white background, according to this study.
posted by Susan PG at 11:57 PM on June 17, 2010

I roll with light green on dark green, seems to work for me.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:23 AM on June 18, 2010

For those advocating black on yellow etc, it appears from the links that that combination is optimum for visibility and legibility, which is not what the OP is asking for. They are asking for the easiest combination on the eyes.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:32 AM on June 18, 2010

According to the computer vision article in the Handbook of Optics, Vol III, there are many answers to your question. The bulk of the actual documented science research was done in the 1960's by people designing control panels for fighter jets. One thing that people probably do not appreciate is the light which hits your retina off center has a large effect. You do not want your computer screen to be sitting against a dark wall and no light in the room besides your monitor.

This guy had the best online information the last time I looked into this topic at any length:

Poynton link
posted by bukvich at 5:47 AM on June 18, 2010

100% black on 100% white can be harsh because the contrast is too high. Very dark gray on slightly off-white can be easier to read. Colour Contrast Check lets you test different foreground/background color combinations to see if they meet accessibility guidelines.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:22 AM on June 18, 2010

The other things in the environment makes a big difference. If you were in a dark movie theater, black text on a white background would likely be quite uncomfortable. Out in the sunlight, that's probably optimal.

I suspect the font is part of the problem. Light courier on a dark background makes my eyes hurt. But a heavier font looks much better.

The background should blend in, the font should jump out. But not too much.

(Example- I had a car whose dashboard guages were red and green text on a dark background. Both were quite visible, but one color was always "in front" of the other. It took a tiny moment to refocus on one color or the other.)
posted by gjc at 6:43 AM on June 18, 2010

It's not simply a question of colors. It's also a question of brightness. Most people have their monitors set extremely bright, which also tends to pump-up the contrast too much (though, on some monitors, contrast is also adjustable)

Essentially, you want a color combination that mimics the contrast/brightness ration of a printed book, which is rarely, if ever, black on bright white. The paper in a printed book tends to be a softer, warmer white, which reduces contrast and is much easier on the eyes.

Take, for instance the text entry field on this very page. It isn't pure white. It's a very light gray, which makes the text very easy on the eyes. It could actually be even lighter and still be very on the eyes.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:27 AM on June 18, 2010

i went throught this at work a few years ago...my eyes started to really bother me staring at a screen for 8+ hours. (i have 20/15 vision, am in my early 30s and have had no prior eye trouble...not braggin', just sayin') i cut the contrast as much as i could stand...also changed the background from that bright white to a light grey, and changed the deep black of the text to a dark, but dull blue. also smoothed edges of screen fonts using 'clear type' and increased font size to 115%. the deep black of some screens i use at work (drafting) bothered me too, so i changed them to a dark grey. all of these things helped to cut the overall contrast, and helped me immensely.
softer light / muted paint colors in your work area can help too.
incidentally, the blue / green of mefi / askme make my eyes all swimmy, esp. when i switch back to my normal light grey.
posted by g.i.r. at 7:51 AM on June 18, 2010

Almost always the first thing I do when I plan on working on a computer for a long time is make the backgrounds non-white/yellow/bright. A light blue/grey is nice to the eyes and still "neutral" enough that most things read well.

If I'm working with something with a black screen and light text, I change the text color to something light but not glaring (I prefer warm oranges, myself).
posted by yeloson at 9:01 AM on June 18, 2010

« Older The Case of the Missing Breath Mint   |   What the heck is this vacant dome thing? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.