Windows 10 has made life of those with light sensitivity and computer eye strain issues more difficult. In terms of text and background color adaptability to specific visual needs it is a step back when compared to Windows 7. But you can still have it your way. Below you may find detailed instructions on how to fully personalize your Windows 10 screen’s appearance to your, eye-friendly colors (anything, to any color). The instructions should also work in Windows 8.
This post is an update of the post 10 ways to change background color & reduce screen brightness which shows how to change text and background colors in Windows 7, PDF/Adobe Reader, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, and suggests a few apps which might help you decrease your screen’s brightness and glare.
Also, if you need some guidance in terms of picking the most comfortable colors for you (for example by using colors with minimal blue light content) see this post.
Disclaimer: My interest in computer screen colors comes from my problems with light sensitivity (photophobia), discomfort glare, and computer eye strain.
Disclosure: You can help sustain GLARminY – at no additional cost to you by “donating” a small percentage of anything you buy from Amazon by accessing Amazon through this link (commission link). Thanks!
Windows 10: How to change text and background colors
The intention of this post is to enable you to change the color of all the fields displayed by your Windows 10 screen (there will always be exceptions – icons, images, etc. – but they should be of minor importance). Moreover it should enable you to choose any color you like. You should be able to customize your visuals to the same extent as in Windows 7.
If you can live with the Windows 10 default options – changing most but not all fields to one of the 20 colors available:
Click on Windows icon in your task bar > Settings > Personalization > Colors > scroll down to the bottom and click High Contrast Themes > choose one of the High Contrast Themes from the Choose a theme drop down menu. Then click on appropriate color fields and choose your colors.
The instructions below assume you are currently using one of the Windows Default Themes. If you are already using a High Contrast Theme then you can skip to Step 5.
Step 1: Right click on desktop and select Personalize at the bottom of the drop down menu
Step 2: In the PERSONALIZATION window that opens up click on Themes (left column)
Step 3: Click Theme settings (in the right column – image above) to open another Personalization window (below)
IMPORTANT: review all the themes available in this Personalization window and remember which is currently highlighted (e.g. the Windows theme in the image above). That is your current theme. You need to know this in case you want to go back to your current color settings.
Windows Default Themes allow only very limited changes to the colors displayed on your screen. To gain access to the full range of colors you must first set your visuals to a High Contrast color theme.
Step 4: Click on any of the four High Contrast themes (marked in a red square in the image above)
This action will change the colors that appear on your screen. Depending on the theme selected your screen might now look something like this
Don’t get distressed when you see a radical change in your colors when you select a high-contrast theme. This is only your starting point. You will be able to change all of the colors so that in the end it won’t be a high-contrast theme if you don’t like that. You can only make deeper adjustments to the colors by starting with a high-contrast theme.
IMPORTANT: If at any time you want to return to your initial (default) theme, just click on it (in the Personalization window) and the colors will immediately change back to the initial ones.
You are now ready to really start personalizing the colors on your screen.
Step 5: Press Win+R on your keyboard
to open the Run command window:
Step 6: Type control color (as in the image above) and click OK
This opens up the following Color and Appearance window (click to enlarge):
As you can see Color and Appearance window allows you to choose colors of windows background, text, hyperlinked text, disabled text; and both foregrounds and backgrounds of selected text, active window titles, inactive window titles and buttons.
Step 7: Click on the corresponding button (second or third column) to get the following Color window:
Step 8: Select one of the 48 basic colors or find your favorite color by clicking on it in the square color palette to the right
If you know the codes of your favorite colors you can type them in the appropriate text boxes (bottom right).
Step 9: Click OK
Repeat Steps 7 to 9 until you are fully happy with the colors of your new theme
Step 10: Click Apply in the Color and Appearance window
This will apply the changes to all or most of the applications you currently have running (some browsers require you to reload the pages to make color changes effective – you can also disable your browser from adopting the system colors, i.e. the colors of your visual themes).
If you are not completely satisfied with what you see, continue making changes (Steps 7 – 9).
Step 11: Click Save Changes
When you’ve clicked on Save Changes in the Color and Appearance window, your new theme should appear at the top of your Personalization window, under the My Themes heading as the Unsaved Theme.
Until you give the Unsaved Theme another name you can continue making changes to it: the Unsaved Theme should be highlighted, if not click on it and proceeding from the Step 5 above.
Step 12: Name and Save your Unsaved Theme
To name and save the Unsaved Theme it should be highlighted (if not click on it).
Next, right-click on the Unsaved Theme and choose Save theme from the drop down menu. In the window that appears, name the new theme and click Save.
After this point you can’t change this Theme any longer (you can only delete it – right-click on it when not highlighted and click Delete Theme).
However, you can still use a named and saved theme as the basis for further modifications: in Step 4 click on the theme you want to use as a starting point (if the system is already using that theme you don’t need to click on it first). Then follow the above described procedure from Step 5.
Note: when you save your modified theme it will appear in Personalization/My Themes as the new Unsaved Theme, overwriting the previous Unsaved Theme (if there was one), but leaving the theme from which you started unchanged.
Changing the desktop color
If you want to change the color of (or put an image on) your desktop:
Right-click on your desktop, from the drop-down menu select Personalize to open PERSONALIZATION window.
In the left column Background should be highlighted. If not, click on it.
Select the image(s) you want to appear on your desktop, or (if you prefer solid color background) one of the following 24 default color options offered by Windows 10:
If you are not happy with the color options offered by Windows 10:
Press Win+R (as in Step 5 above) to open Run window.
control /name Microsoft.Personalization /page pageWallpaper
into the available text-box (as shown in the image below – Important: part of the above command is cut off in the image due to space limitation of the text-box – make sure you copy and paste entire command as specified above).
Press OK to open the following Desktop Background window:
To choose any color you want click on the More… (see it marked red in the image above). It will open the Color window (below), where you can select the color that is most comfortable for your eyes – or taste :).
Switching between different color themes is easy: once you’ve saved your customized theme you simply click on the theme you want in the Personalization window (see in the window on the right of the three Screenshots in the next section).
IMPORTANT: switching from one theme to another affects only what you see on your screen but not the colors of the saved documents. Note that in the Screenshots below the same MS Word and Excel documents are displayed in different colors depending on the theme in use.
To give another example: if someone sends you a black text on white background document and you open it, to you the document will look as specified by the theme you are currently using. (If you want to see its original colors you have to switch to one of Windows Default themes).
Also, reagardless of the theme you are using, if you make any changes to the text of that document, save it, and send it back to the author, it will still appear black on white to them (unless they’ve changed the visuals theme in the meanwhile).
The effects and limitations of changing color settings in Windows 10
With the above described procedure you can change nearly all of the colors displayed on your screen.
The images below show “milestone” screenshots of the above described color change process:
a Windows 10 Default Them (starting point)
a High Contrast Black Theme (at this point you would have completed Step 4)
a fully personalized theme – within Windows 10 possibilities – (Step 12 completed)
Overcoming the deficiencies of Windows 10 with Windows 7
If you compare the last two images above you can identify the areas that one cannot change in Windows 10. Principally it has to do with the background around the “paper” (MS Word) and the Menu bars (MS Word and Excel). If you know of the way to do it within Windows 10, please, let me know!
The colors of these fields can also be changed. But you need Windows 7 to create the theme, save it for sharing and then open/install it in Windows 10. (I haven’t tested this thoroughly, but it seems that with this procedure you can transfer to Windows 10 and make effective any change that is possible in Windows 7.
Don’t worry if you don’t have access to a computer running on Windows 7: I’d be happy to help you out. You just need to let me know the colors (RGB or a Print Screen/Snippet) you wish for your menu bars and the space “around the paper” and you’ll have the theme as soon as possible. You should be able to change the rest by following the above instructions.
If you have access to Windows 7
You might already have a theme that works well for you in Windows 7. In that case skip to Saving your theme for sharing. If not:
Use a Widows 7 machine to change the colors of your display following the instructions for Windows 7 but MAKE SURE YOU USE ONE OF THE HIGH CONTRAST THEMES AS YOUR STARTING POINT, or you won’t be able to change all the colors.
In the Items section of Window Color and Appearance pay particular attention to the colors of 3D Objects and Menu (see red arrows in the image below), because changes in:
- 3D Objects affect the color of the space around the “paper” in MS Word Print layout view
- Menu affect the colors of menu bars
Saving your theme for sharing
When you are happy with the theme save it for sharing as a Theme Pack (*.themepack) file. In the Personalization window (of your Windows 7):
- click on the theme you want to save for sharing
- right-click on it and select Save theme for sharing from the drop down menu
- give it a name
- select where** you want to save it, and
- click Save
** You’ll need to access this file from Windows 10 so save it on a portable storage device, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. or just anywhere on your Windows 7 computer and send it to your Windows 10 machine via e-mail.
Next, go to your Windows 10 machine, find the Theme Pack file and open it (double-click). This will automatically install the theme in Personalization/My Themes of your Windows 10 computer and simultaneously also change the color settings of your Windows 10 screen to the ones specified by the theme you just opened & saved.
If you’d like to try out how it works and what you will get, open in Windows 10 this theme (created and saved for sharing in Windows 7). It should make the colors on your screen in Windows 10 look something like this:
That’s all. Following the instructions above you should be able to change all the colors displayed by your screen (except the color of the icons, images and perhaps some other minor objects). If I’ve missed something important, please do let me know, so I can fix it.
Closing remarks: In case you are interested in my Windows 10 experience
I upgraded my laptop to Windows 10 and kept everything else as before:
- the same color theme as before (orange text on black background) that had worked well for me with Windows 7
- the same anti eye strain breaks, exercises, and total exposure routines I’d had, and
- the same lighting setup.
Hence, the only thing that changed was the operating system, yet my vision and visual stress deteriorated quickly and significantly:
- dry eyes – after a few days my eyes started feeling worse and worse
- focusing – about two weeks into working with Windows 10 I started having difficulties (was OK at the start of the day but progressively worse after each hour of exposure to the point I started thinking about glasses)
- general exhaustion – I also started feeling more tired after the usual daily computer screen exposure.
Downgrading to Windows 7. Within minutes of switching back to Win7 I knew it was a good choice by how my eyes felt. In a few days the above described symptoms improved.
Windows 10 issues with eye strain
I noticed a couple of issues that must be associated with eye strain:
- when opening a new document/application the screen first flashes white (this was particularly disturbing because I normally work with black background)
- f.lux blue light filter was disabled each time the screen is turned off and back on (this issue may have been fixed since or it is specific to some machines – I’ve installed Windows 10 on my other laptop to prepare this post and I haven’t noticed it there).
I find it difficult to believe there is nothing else to it!? If you’ve discovered any other issues that could be associated with eye strain, do let me know in comments or by writing directly to me.
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