I'm working from a design where the grey shade F0F0F0 is used as a subtle contrast on list items to lift them from the pure white background, eg:

list with light grey background

I have a two monitor setup, and on one monitor, I can see the grey background of the cards, on the other I can't. The problem monitor has no built in or driver based hue/saturation/gamma settings. Playing with contrast and brightness doesn't help

My guess is there is some percentage of users who have a similar monitor, and even more who could configure their monitor but simply don't know that they should, or how to do it.

Now the solution would be to darken the grey - but I want to find the sweet spot where as many users as possible can see the grey without making it too dark to be subtle on well calibrated monitors.

Has anyone dealt with this before and have some suggestions - or are there any statistics on safe shades of grey to use on the web.

Here is a blog post talking about the same problem


I came across the material design color palette. Looking at the grey scale they provide, I see that 50, 100 and 200 look the same on my bad monitor, but the difference between 200 and 300 is noticeable yet subtle on both the calibrated and bad monitor : enter image description here

Is this the case on anyone else's monitor? Then maybe using a light grey(200) as background instead of white, with a darker grey for items(300). It would be a minimal change for correctly calibrated monitors, but may improve the design's visibility for the average monitor.

  • Maybe the monitor is linear
    – joojaa
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 12:12
  • 2
    Have you condisered that your other monitor may be the one in hundred.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 12:14
  • Have been trying to spot the difference between the shades in the one/two/three/four list for a good couple of minutes. I guess that's what I get for not reading lol.
    – Summer
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 12:14
  • 1
    Im sitting in a room with about 100 or so uncalibrated handheld devices. I tested with a few of the crappiest ones i coud come by and all of them could differentiate the color difference. Now if i can get these >10 year old things to start up then maybe i have chance.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 12:17
  • @joojaa I just checked around the office and all other monitors can distinguish between #f0f0f0 and white - it looks like the bad monitor is the odd one out Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 12:48

1 Answer 1


You can not put a safe margin, essentially many monitors suck and some do not even have 8 bit per channel color capability. Essentially peoples monitor should be calibrated but in fact less than 99% of actual monitors have ever been calibrated. Even if the monitor has some hue, saturation and gamma settings having such settings actually make things worse!

But here is the thing, color and contrast depend on not just the hardware but also the surrounding ambient lighting conditions. So even if the hardware is calibrated it does not really help. Mobile devices move about and all that.

The best you can ever do is assume the monitor is a correctly calibrated sRGB device. and your device should be calibrated to sRGB with a hardware calibrator. Beyond that all color your clients ad users get are crap shot, essentially something that way but never hitting the mark.

  • 3
    Even if you can a F0F0F0 is frigging 16th of the way on the scale if your monitor can not show 4 bits of color then nothing can really help. Be glad that it is not bright green.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 12:04
  • 1
    Thank you @joojaa. I thought as much. Could you take a look at the Edit in the question? Do you know if there is a better chance of monitors being able to distinguish between medium greys rather than light greys - it seems to be the case on my monitor Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 12:15
  • 7
    Less than 99% of monitors have been calibrated, that's true. I'd even say it's less than 1%, which I think is what you meant.
    – Vincent
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 13:31
  • @Vincent probably. But i can not personally derive an estimate kts hard to say wether its one in 200 or pne in 10,000. Many panels havent been checked since the panel factory
    – joojaa
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 15:31
  • 4
    @Vincent I think joojaa means that "Less than 99% are calibrated" proves "OP cannot assume the users' monitors are calibrated, as OP want 99% compatibility in the title", so it is not a typo of 1%.
    – jingyu9575
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 18:04

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