BLACK BACKGROUND VS WHITE, WHICH IS BETTER?

By Ryan Solomon on December 12th, 2019

The chances are you spend a large portion of your day staring at a computer screen. Chances are you also spend a large portion of your free time with a device such as mobile phone, laptop or TV. All of these screens can cause eye strain, and you may be wondering if this has any long-term negative effect on your eyes.


Alternatively you may simply be wondering which colour combination on your screen affects your eyes the least, or which colours offer an optimal work environment. It's not as black and white as you might think. Read on below.



SCREEN COLOURS

As far as text is concerned the best colour combination is black text on a white background. The high-contrast black gives the sharpest impression on white, which in turn is easier on your iris. There is ample data to support this... and 50 million kindles can’t be wrong.


Subsequently white text on a black background is less effective because the iris is required to open-up and receive more light, causing the white letters to bleed into the black background (halation). This is particularly true for the 50% of people who have astigmatism.


Does this mean only monochromatic black on white is an acceptable user interface? Not at all. Remember that the worst colour combinations are caused by lack of contrast. For example, dark text on a darker background, or low contrast text on low contrast or multi-coloured background will cause eye strain.



EYE STRAIN

Without proper care, eye strain can cause major medical issues including blurred vision, macular degeneration and headaches.


Common symptoms of eye strain are:

  • Headaches

  • Physical fatigue

  • Red eyes

  • Blurred vision

  • Eye pain

  • Eye twitching


Beyond the colour of your computer screen, there are several other causes of eye strain that can be even more harmful, most commonly:

  1. Glare

  2. Screen brightness

  3. Posture

  4. Too little or too much ambient light


Your working environment is the most impactful change you can make to combat eye strain. Low-intensity, ambient lighting with reduced bright light from the outdoors is optimal, provided your screen is set to a similar low-light intensity.


Glare can result from bright surrounding walls and surfaces. Consider using an anti-glare display and, if possible, finishing your interior walls in a darker, matte paint.


Eyeglasses with an anti-reflective (AR) coating also reduce glare significantly.



WHAT ABOUT NIGHT MODE?

Many digital devices offer a setting to decrease screen brightness known as dark or night mode. It allows our eyes to adjust more easily to surrounding light, usually by displaying light-coloured text on a darker background.


Night mode is better for your eyes, but only under sufficiently low light conditions. It also needs to maintain a sufficient level of contrast to retain good readability. This is where some architects and programmers find themselves using black backgrounds with brightly coloured text or symbols to denote specific functions.

Typically, dark-backgrounded programs such as AutoCAD create contention with the white backgrounds of programs like Revit and Sketchup. While we encourage any user to create the most comfortable environment he or she can, we should question necessity and relevance. AutoCAD using rainbow coloured lines to define line thicknesses and wall types hardly seems relevant when the correct line-weights already display within a paper-simulated work space.



CHANGES THAT DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Generally, these adjustments to your screen can be beneficial:

  • Brightness: Your display should be similar to that of your surrounding work station. If your screen appears as a light source within the room it may be too bright, however a dull-grey screen may mean it has been set too dark.

  • Text size and contrast: Set your font size to something that can be comfortably read through when dealing with lengthy documents. A black print on a white background is usually recommended.

  • Colour temperature: This describes the spectrum of visible light emitted by your display. Blue light is short-wavelength visible light that is associated with more eye strain than longer wavelength hues, such as orange and red. Reducing the colour temperature of your display lowers the amount of blue light emitted by a colour display for better long-term viewing comfort.


Try to make use of a copy stand if you need to constantly glance back and forth between a printed page (or plan) and your computer screen. At the very least make sure the area is lit properly, with similar brightness to your screen. Make sure that the light doesn’t shine into your eyes or computer screen.


Posture contributes greatly to computer vision syndrome. Make sure your chair and work station are adjusted so that your feet rest comfortably on the floor and your computer screen is positioned 50-60 centimeters from your eyes. The center of your screen should be about 10 to 15 degrees below your eyes for comfortable positioning of your head and neck.



IN CONCLUSION

The colour of your background has very little bearing on both your eye health and productivity. If you prefer dark themes, go ahead. Whatever suits your style of working should prove optimal. As long as halation can be avoided, there is very little evidence to prove eye strain either way.


Feel free to select any background colour so long as you can achieve sufficient contrast, and as a result, visual clarity. Dark or light grey (off-white/black) have become popular with many programs as it softens the stark white of the standard background, at the cost of what is perceived to be negligible contrast loss.


Collaboration in most forms remains white across the spectrum. Web pages are typically white, most programs use white backgrounds and of course, printed media is white. If you are at odds with what to choose, we would suggest going with what has been the standard for thousands of years.




If you have anything you would like to share, or if you found this blog useful, please let us know down below.




Please note: We are not medical professionals, and don’t prescribe to give advice in any such way. This article is to serve as talking point only, and not be construed as any form of medical advice. We strongly recommend a visit to your optometrist if you are experiencing any eye-health issues, or looking to implement any major changes to your everyday life.



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