Fix Light Text on Dark Background to Reduce Eye Strain

By Posted 2008 Updated   BloggingTutorials

I often encounter professional web designers who like to display light text on dark backgrounds (sometimes white text on black background), but have they ever wondered how much eyestrain it causes to the reader and how much difficult it is to read the text?

Annoyed by light text on dark background?

I really didn’t know how to echo my thoughts, till Ironic Sans provided me a way to inform webmasters that readability was an issue with their site, the eyestrain was not tolerable and keeping me away from visiting their site and reading their great content.

Try to read through the paragraph for yourself.

I dont know if Im seeing more and more blogs that use light text on a dark background lately, or if Im just getting more sensitive to it for some reason, but I dont think my eyes can take it any more. Sure, some sites look nice with that combination, but only when you first load them up. After reading a paragraph like this, the super high contrast gets to me. And the worst part is when I go to a different site and have the lingering after-image of the high contrast blog still burned in my retinas.

If you could not read through that, they provide a cool bookmarklet (drag and drop to your browser toolbar), that you can use when you encounter light text on dark backgrounds – simply click it and it will fix the site design with dark text on light background. Now that bookmarklet is a permanent addition to my tools.

Of course there are more ways to reduce computer eyestrain like increase monitor refresh rate or turn on ClearType, but this fix will surely enable me to read many more blogs.


6 comments on “Fix Light Text on Dark Background to Reduce Eye Strain

  1. goinglikesixty says:

    Don’t want to make a big issue out of this, but most readability studies are based on 1. ink on paper, or 2. really rotten design (ala Ironic Sans) example.

    Here is the result of a scientific study:
    * Green on yellow is the best colour scheme in the most conditions – except for italicised Arial, for which it’s the worst.
    * Times New Roman on average is much better than Arial. (Surprising when you consider that most usability experts recommend san-serif fonts for on-screen reading).
    * The combination which gives the fastest response time is italicised (!) green Times New Roman on yellow background.
    * Black-on-grey is much faster to parse than black-on-white.
    http://www.metalinkltd.com/?p=91

    Good design affects readability. Font, color, kerning, leading, all have an impact.

  2. Stanley Leung says:

    Personally I prefer light text on black background. I am quite surprised to find there are a lot of people who prefer the other way round. Most site currently have light or white backgrounds with dark or black text. It seems that the choice should be left to the users. Maybe a button on the browser that can let the users invert the color scheme easily if desired ?

  3. MK says:

    I agree with Stanley…I’m a programmer, so I work editing text 8,12, sometimes 20 hours at a time, using an editor set to light colors on a dark background, because I find this creates the LEAST eyestrain. Thus when I do a webpage I do the same thing. I do not like the very high contrast in your example tho; it would be more normal to use green or cyan. White on black is better for highlights. And by “dark” I do not necessarily mean #000000. Contrast is the real issue and it is not as simplistic or “black and white” as you put it here.

    • Peter Clifton says:

      Most terminals don’t use white, they use grey, to mitigate the issue. Try pure white text on a black terminal and it gets much more painful.

  4. Jack says:

    The article author is right. It hell strain my eyes and after reading that and staring away I see shadow lines in my vision. My mind then feels like orbiting and feels like to puke, some kind of migraine symptoms. It becomes a phobia. Grey won't help either.

  5. somebody says:

    There is nothing I despise more that a White / Light Background. It just kills my eyes. I have a general hatred to all white light, I don’t even have white lights in the house. They are various colors of CFL. The color bulb is usually determined by cheapest price but, I prefer blue or red. Green is okay in small doses but will really strain my eyes after a few minutes. Also, the way I see it, when you are reading printed text (White BG / Black Text) the paper has a matte finish to it, opposed to the ‘Gloss’ finish you can get from an LCD

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