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.

20 thoughts on “Least likely colors to cause computer eye strain: Find yours

  1. Does the blue light emitted from computer screens also damage skin? I read this on several sites. That it causes wrinkles, premature aging, etc. I read that the blue light goes into the skin deeper and is stronger than UVA and UVB rays put together. That is scary for a skin cancer survivor.

    1. Ruth Ann, hi and thanks for writing.

      Unfortunately, I am unable to help you with your question, because my focus is on digital screens and vision. I haven’t spent any time researching possible implications of blue light on our skin.

      Perhaps watching some of these videos would answer your question (the presenter, Alexander Wunsch, is a medical doctor and researcher focusing on light and its effects on human body – he also presents in a relatively easy-to-understand fashion).

      Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful. Best wishes,

  2. Thedefault color this screen is just awful on the eyes. I had to use invert lightness in chrome to change it.

    I have been changing background colors on the computers I use since the early 1990s. It used to be easy to do that on early Mac Machines. Windows has made it harder over time. It used to be possible to choose colors in Windows very easily. I’ve taken to using a high contrast theme.

      1. You are welcome.

        Just think of it: black background means no background at all as only the letters/objects/images are visible. So, much less energy to be received by our photo receptors, much less fatigue.

        The green color for the letters may be visible even with very low level of light emitted, for reasons which are explained at the link I gave.

        So this is the solution for eyes which are not in danger, first of all, as it happens with the blue light, according to the latest scientific papers, on the other hand, the image perception is done with the less possible effort from our vision.

        And this is not a reference just for the darkness…

      2. In general I agree with you. I am a user of black background (but with orange text – had been using green text, among others, before that). I’ve learned thought that what works for me may not (in fact often doesn’t) work as well for others.

        The trouble is also that black pixels on LED backlit computer screens emit some blue light (it is quite obvious if you try viewing it with or without reasonable blue blockers). Not surprisingly, my eye strain improved a lot when I started using blue blockers.

        Also, in normal lighting conditions black bacground reflects objects (like a mirror) – even if it is not a glossy screen. That may also lead to eye strain. This is why I needed to come up with glare and reflection free computer lighting.

        So yes, your comment and the link are very valuable for other readers! Thanks! (I just wanted to add a bit of caution, because there seems to be no one best solution for everyone. I hope you don’t mind).

      3. Uros, in reference to your last comments: (there is a technical problem and it is not possible to answer to you at your comment).

        The orange, (amber), text on the black background, a solution used by BMW for it’s cars, is just a compromise for those who have color blindness. Especially for the middle ages, for those with presbyopia, adds an extra tension.

        Going from the blue everywhere, screens, cars, sky, (e.t.c. e.t.c.), to have a problem from the blue light emissions of a totally deemed, with black background, screen can be a kind of hysteria? At least the sky will be, (at the extend the God wishes so), always blue.

        Having one laptop with glossy screen, (LG), and one with anti glare, (SIEMENS), can say that the anti glare has no reflections, (minimum), with the black background at day, and in any case is much less eye straining than the usual blue-grey-white windows background.

        The principles about our vision are valid for the average human, in a perfect health, not having any particularities.

        Of course I don’t mind if someone really knows what is the perfect solution for him.

        I am grateful for your positive comments.

        Hellenic Vanagon

      4. Hellenic Vanagon: thanks for your comments. Again good and valuable.

        As we agreed in our private correspondence, what may appear as disagreement in our comments is due to different perspectives on the issue.

        As you state in your comment you talk about the principles “valid for the average human, in a perfect health, not having any particularities”.

        My point of view is that of a person who in terms of vision does not belong to that group. GLARminY is for (and by) people who experiement above average sensitivity to light, blue light and glare.

        So yes, blue light will stick around, and that is good, because it is very important to our well being (perhaps more than we know). But some of us need to find ways to cope with our above average sensitivity to blue light. This site trys to help those people find solutions to this problem faster.

        Thanks again and best, 🙂

  3. 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!

  4. 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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