How to reduce screen brightness is important if you have light sensitive eyes (some level of photophobia), or if you use your computer in dimmer environment. Either way extended computer screen viewing will likely cause eye strain (eye fatigue or computer vision syndrome). This post should help you solve your screen brightness and text-to-background eye strain problem principally by showing you how to change background color and text color in Windows 7 (affects Word, Excel, and other MS Office programs), Adobe Reader, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, … Windows 10 users see this post.

 

White background normally covers most of your screen’s surface to contrast with black text. However, high brightness contrast is the definition of glare which is a common cause of eye strain . To avoid or reduce eye strain it is therefore essential to reduce screen brightness and text-background contrast.

Although glare is a common cause of eye strain, each person seems to react differently to glare exposure. Therefore I do not pretend to provide the solution to your screen brightness problem. Instead this post is a collection of tips that should help you find the solution to your screen brightness problem.


Related posts:


Contents: Changing colors in/with:

Windows and most other MS applications, namely Word, Excel, etc. (if you have experience with how to change background and text color in other operating systems and would to share it I would love to publish it as a guest post)

PDF/Adobe Reader

Internet Explorer

Firefox

Google Chrome, and some additional tips on:

How to change Google Chrome theme

Change background color with f.lux software, a bluelight filter app

Reduce brightness of images and videos with T-bar

Reduce screen brightness with Dimmer (black filter)

Reduce screen brightness with ssOverlay (8 different colors)


A quick test: how you respond to reduced screen brightness and different background colors

There is quick and easy way to determine whether reducing screen brightness will help you (more here). You will also get an idea of which background color might work for you.

change background color Irlen test


1. Windows: how to change background color and text color

Here are the steps that should help you change the background in Windows. By following these steps you can also automatically change the background color in Word and other MS Office applications. PDF reader, Internet Explorer, and Firefox may also be set to use system’s text and background color settings.

Short instructions: Right click on desktop – Personalize – Window Color – Items (select each item and change background and text colors).

Detailed instructions:

1.1. Right click on desktop and select Personalize at the bottom of the drop down menu (see image):

How to change background color in windows

Note: In the images I will be using different text and background colors to give you a flavor of it (I hope not to cause confusion).

 

Your Personalization window will appear on your screen looking something like this (the My Themes section will be different in your case):

How to change background color in windows-Personalization

You can now click on the different themes to see how your background color, text color and all the rest changes.

1.2. To personalize Yourtheme I recommend that you start from one of the High Contrast themes (if you start from the other themes, the background in internet browsers won’t change automatically – my favorite starting theme has been the High Contrast Black theme).

Next, at the bottom of the Personalization window click on Window Color, to open the Window Color and Appearance window.

How to change background color in windows-Color and Appearance

1.3. Go to the drop down menu, called Item, which appears at the bottom of the Window Color and Appearance window (see below).

How to change background color in windows-Item drop down menu

Select the items one by one and change background and text colors for each of the items in the boxes to the right of the Item window. You can choose one of the preset colors (see below), or any color you whish by clicking on the Other… button.

How to change background color in windows-Item-Color

Most changes are immediately visible in the preview section of the Color and Appearance window (top half).

To change text color (also font and bold/italics typeface) pay attention to the drop down menu called Font at the bottom of Color and Appearance window (see below).

How to change text color in windows-Item-Color

For the changes to become effective click the Apply button, and when you are done click OK.

1.5. Save your new theme: click on the Unsaved Theme (top left theme in the Personalization window).

Next, right click it and choose either of the options that open a dialog box where you can name your new theme.

Further changes to your own background and text color theme

You can always go back and further change the background colors and text colors of your themes:

Open the Personalization window (step 1.1.). In the step 1.2. you select the theme that you want to tweak and proceed with the step 1.3..

Note that as soon as you start making changes to a theme Windows automatically creates a new theme called Unsaved Theme. If such a theme already exists it overrides it without prompting you. So if you have an Unsaved Theme that you want to keep make sure you save it first.

2. How to change PDF text and background color

When you change background color or text color in Windows, the theme change may not necessarily affect all the programs you might be using. One such application that we tend to use frequently is Adobe reader. If you use a dark background in Windows and then you open a pdf document, you will be blinded by the glare from the white background in your pdf reader, its default setting. If you continue reading black-on-white text your eyes will quickly strain. Luckily, you can change text and background color settings. You can also enable your Adobe Reader use system settings.

Short instructions: Open Adobe Reader – Edit – Preferences – Categories – Accessibility – Document Colors Options – check Replace Document Colors – change background and text color

Detailed instructions:

2.1. Open Adobe Reader. From the Edit drop down menu choose Preferences (at the bottom).

How to change PDF background color

2.2. In the Categories section (left column) of the Preferences window select Accessibility. Now you can see the Document Colors Options section, where you will be able to change background color and text color in your pdf reader.

How to change PDF background color - Accessibility

2.3. Make sure the Replace Document Colors is checked.

2.4. Next, you have three options:

  • use Windows Color Scheme; this is handy, if you want to change text and background color in your PDF reader with just one or (at most) two clicks by changing the color theme in Windows (see previous section). Unfortunately in the already open pdf documents, text and background color does not change automatically upon a system change in Windows. What you have to do is close and reopen the document for the colors to change.
  • use High-Contrast colors; the four options include green, yellow or white text on black background or black text on white background.
  • use Custom Color; clicking on this option will allow you to change text and background colors of your PDF reader to any color combination and will not follow the text/background changes you might make in Windows.


3. How to change background color and text color in Internet Explorer

To save your eyes from eye strain it is also handy to reduce screen brightness in your web browser. Next, I will show how to change text and background color in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome.

By default Internet Explorer background and color change very well following text/background change in Windows (section 1). However, you also have the option to change background and text colors independently in Internet Explorer.

Short instructions: Tools – Internet Options – General – Appearance – Colors – change background and text colors

Detailed instructions:

3.1. Click on Tools icon in the top right corner of Internet Explorer and select Internet Options from the drop down menu (see below).

How to change background color and text color in Internet Explorer

3.2. In the window Internet Options which you have just opened (see below) click on the tab General (top left) and then click on the button Colors (bottom left).

How to change background color and text color in Internet Explorer - Internet Options

3.3. In the window Colors which opens up (see below) you have two options. You may use Windows background and text colors, in which case you want to have Use Windows checked.

If you prefer to have different text and background colors in Internet Explorer you should uncheck Use Windows and change background and text colors.

How to change background color and text color in Internet Explorer - Internet Options - Colors

4. Adjusting Firefox background color and text color

Short Instructions: Menu – Options – Content – Fonts and Colors – change text and background colors

Detailed instructions:

4.1. Click on the Menu icon (top right corner of your Firefox browser window) and select Options from the drop down menu to open the following window:

How to change background color and text color in Firefox - Options

4.2. Click on Content (top row) and click on the button Colors to open the window Colors you can see in the image below.

How to change background color and text color in Firefox - Options - Colors

4.3. In the Text and Background section you can either check the box Use system colors to have Firefox change text and background color in line with your chosen Windows theme (see section 1 above).

Alternatively you can uncheck Use system colors and set your preferred colors to appear in Firefox (you are allowed to choose from a palate of 70 colors).

I recommend that you also check Link Colors because the default colors are quite dark. If you will be using dark (black) background color you will have very difficult time reading hyperlinked text.

There is one drawback with respect to text and background colors in Firefox. Text and background colors don’t change automatically when you already have several pages loaded and you decide to change the color theme in Windows. To solve this problem you either have to individually reload the pages you want to view, or simply close and reopen Firefox (if your Firefox is set to open automatically all the windows and tabs from previous session).

5. How to change Google Chrome background color and text color