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I'm working on a program that requires a dark interface, because it's mostly used in dark rooms. After some thought I decided to add a light version too and let the user swap them, but both still have the same requirement: They need to be very kind to the eye, because we are talking about many hours inside a dark environment.

What are good colors (both light and dark) to avoid eye fatigue/strain?

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Loosely related, you may appreciate the following question which was asked on UX. The question is regarding display contrasts, eye-strain and accessibility. Still, you may find some valuable information from the discussion (ux.stackexchange.com/questions/26331/…) –  RLH Jan 29 '13 at 13:33
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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

As mopsyd mentioned, just stay away from high contrast between your foreground and background. High saturation colors should be used sparingly as well. They are best when used for critical action or navigation items. Despite the great scientific stats behind it, I think mopsyd's red recommendation is a bad idea: too much saturation.

Working from that perspective, a combination of dark and light greys or neutrals is a good general starting point.

Here's a range of warm greys that work well. Warm tones tend to have a more calming presence that may or may not be necessary.

I think mopsyd is inferring a bit much from his very accurate explanation of the color spectrum. I have never seen anything that indicates warm tones on screen producing less eye fatigue. Cool greys can work just as well and may be more fitting for your branding.

Here's a very simple palette that gives you good range with just five colors. You have a nice dark and light neutral tone (I might go a touch lighter) and some vibrant monotones for contrast/emphasis.

enter image description here

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Anything low on the spectrum, or a tone, shade, or slightly tint of a color low on the spectrum. Red is the lowest on the spectrum, which is why it is used in darkrooms, because it is too low on the spectrum to develop film. Warmer colors tend to have longer wavelengths, and hence be lower on the visible spectrum because individual light waves hit your eye fewer times within the same span of time.

Things to avoid are high contrast and intensely complementary colors in your color scheme. An analogous color scheme of shades and tones of warm colors is probably well suited to this.

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Look into the work of Ethan Schoonover, who made the Solarized color theme.

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Welcome to GD.SE! Your answer seems promising but it'd be more helpful if it was less dependent on the link (in case the link goes down someday). –  Brendan Jan 29 '13 at 15:23
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