Least likely colors to cause computer eye strain: Find yours

Our visual system seems to respond very differently to colors. In particular different collors seem less eye straining to different people. There is quick and easy way to give you an idea of which color might work best for you.

Open the Irlen institute site. At the top of the page you’ll see the following text: Change background color to see how color can help you with the following image next to it:

change background color Irlen test

Click on differently colored glasses to change background color. You should immediately feel better with darker backgrounds. If so read on to learn how you can achieve the same effects on your computer and find your personal best text-background combination.

Which colors to choose: my experience

I realized that computer screen brightness strained my eyes even at the lowest brightness setting several years ago. First I tried to further reduce screen brightness through a change of background color to light grey (here are 10 ways how to change text/backgournd color on your computer screen). My eyes immediately felt better! However, eye strain persisted.

Next, I inverted the colors: white text on black background. Again the first reaction was relief, but unfortunately not a permanent one. Subsequently I tried taming the contrast between white text and black background by changing the color of the text: green, blue, and grey – see below how it looks in MS Word). The outcome seems to be always the same – a certain combination initially feels good but eventually the positive effect wears out.

Different text and background colors as they appear in Word

I still frequently change text and background colors to try to accommodate to the lighting circumstances in different work environments (sunlight, reflections from outside, reflections from the surfaces in the office, etc…).

A great help has been to stabilize the lighting in my workstation about a year and a half ago. Since then I mostly work in windowless office with a reflection and glare free computer lighting setup. Since then I’ve mostly been using orange text on black background.

(I also try to take regular breaks and follow the resto of anti-repetitive strain injury tips.)

However, every now and then I still notice eye strain developing. I then change the background color or sometimes I just change the text color (for example from lighter orange to darker orange), in search of a combination that feels more comfortable to my eyes at that moment. This seems to be due to some subjective factors that I do not understand yet.

I’ve also been using f.lux software to maximally reduce blue light emitted by my screen.

Try also background colors with low blue light content

I recommend you try colors with low blue light content to reduce blue light emissions of your digital screen because blue light causes eye strain at weaker intensities than other light wavelengths.

By default white background normally covers most of any screen’s surface. Yet white is one of the colors with the highest intensity of blue light (compare spectral analysis data for different digital screens displaying white, blue, red or green).

Colors with low blue light content are: reds, oranges, or yellows for text and black for background or yellows, browns for background and black for text. (There should be a reasonable contrast between text and background colors).

The rule of thumb for picking colors with low blue light emissions is to pick the colors with low numbers in Green and particularly Blue color on the RGB (Red Green Blue) scale.

For example black is Red=0, Green=0, Blue=0; red is Red=255, Green=0, Blue=0; and one orange is Red=240, Green=78, Blue=0.

Note that white is Red=255, Green=255, Blue=255 – the highest possible blue light content, hence if you think you might be blue light sensitive, you should avoid white and blue backgrounds.

What have been your favorite text and background colors? Any other ideas on How to change background color and reduce screen brightness? Tell us in the comments! What is your favorite?

Ps: If you found this post Background color least likely to cause eye strain: a quick way to find out useful, please consider LIKING, REBLOGGING, and/or SHARING it below.



  1. How do I go about finding all of your suggestions for Mac IOS- my eyes are very strained….color controls and how to get this color? TY!



    1. Jean, hi and thanks for your questions!

      I don’t know much about any Apple products because I don’t use them.

      I looked at Apple products a while ago, but all their products have glossy screens. That in itself strains my eyes because I tend to use low brightness levels, and when you do that, you see disturbing, eye straining reflections of yourself (like ghost images) on the screen. It makes the eyes work even harder to focus on the content displayed by the screen. (In my mind Apple products are for those who can stand staring at them at full brightness – almost any young person can do that, but as you get into 30s, 40s, … well, things change. And for some people that change happens already in the early 20s).

      As far as smartphones go, you don’t have much of a choice, because most (if not all) screens are glossy. You might have to think about ways to reduce the time you spent using your mobile devices :(.

      Some of the things you can do with iOS products:
      blue light filtering screen protectors
      blue light filtering apps
      blue blocking glasses

      I hope that helps!



  2. Hello,

    could you tell me the specific background colors you are using in this site? Your background is relaxing and I would like to use it while reading pdf files.

    Thanks in advance



    1. Crux, thanks for your encouraging feedback (the background color was chosen with that purpose in mind and your comment confirms it was a good choice 🙂

      Here are the details for the background:
      Hex: #dfc7b2
      RGB: (223,199,178)



    1. Jason, thanks for this comment. Yes, I’ve been using Iris (commission link) for about a month. I wanted to test it, so I switched over from f.lux. I’ve been happy with it and I plan on writing a review in a few weeks (since computer eye strain is a chronic condition, it is prudent to wait 4-8 weeks before drawing conclusions and sometimes even that might be too soon).

      I haven’t found any objective data about the reduction of blue light emissions achieved with Iris. Have you? (f.lux does supply quite a lot of data here).

      However, based on my experience (I’d been using f.lux for 2 years before starting to test Iris), they are equivalent in terms of blue light reduction.

      I would agree, though, that Iris’ interface and some extra features make it more friendly to those with computer vision syndrome, i.e. computer eye strain (f.lux was designed for and is stilll focused on problems with insomnia).



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