Are there any common guidelines howto choose a color scheme (for example foreground/background color) for terminal, emacs etc. to minimize exhaustion of the eyes? If so, is there scientific evidence for such a guideline?

In particular are there ready to use eye-friendly color schemes for urxvtand emacs?


It would be also interesting to know, how the decision depends on the screen (matte, glossy) and on the environment (indoor, outdoor,...). In my case it is a Dell Latitude ATG which has a slightly glossy screen (not matte, but not a mirror). I use it indoors in office, in dark rooms and also outdoors.

In my case I first thought, that black font on white background is the best because the white background reduces reflections due to the glossy screen. And because black on white seems to be a high contrast. However it seems that the bright white tires the eyes...

I should point out, that I am not interested in personal opinions but in scientific evidence or at least in reasonable generally accepted guidelines based on experience.

  • 4
    I like the solarized colour scheme which I use for the editor and as dircolors.
    – Marco
    Jul 19, 2012 at 16:33
  • 1
    Why the close vote?
    – student
    Jul 19, 2012 at 19:07
  • 1
    The close vote is for "not constructive," ie., likely to elicit opinions rather than facts. Not mine, btw, I think the fact that you asked for evidence accompanying any answers clearly mitigates that.
    – jasonwryan
    Jul 19, 2012 at 19:54
  • I actually cast one of the close votes - it's a good question but not really on topic for U&L, since it's about color, human color perception, and eye health.
    – jw013
    Jul 23, 2012 at 18:01
  • 2
    @jw013 ...but it's also about computers and in particular linux programs. You may say it's about the "computer-human interface", so I doesn't think that it's off-topic...
    – student
    Jul 23, 2012 at 18:18

1 Answer 1


Taken from the solorized home page:

Black text on white from a computer display is akin to reading a book in direct sunlight and tires the eye. Solarized reduces brightness contrast but, unlike many low contrast colorschemes, retains contrasting hues (based on colorwheel relations) for syntax highlighting readability.

  • 5
    +1. As far as I know Solarized is the only color scheme that has been engineered. It's arguable that Solarized is best because science makes it so.
    – bahamat
    Jul 20, 2012 at 17:44
  • @bahamat actually that makes sense. I'm gonna give it a try. I love Monokai, but the argument they [Solarized] give is unbeatable. Sep 10, 2014 at 15:10
  • 6
    It's been meticulously engineered..to have properties..but none of those have been mentioned as being good for the eyes. Rather, they're based on what the designer of solarized finds/found soothing.
    – Info5ek
    Feb 16, 2017 at 8:01
  • 1
    After looking into this, this is really not a great argument. The question is what is an objectively good colour theme, Just picking colors that are mathematically far apart is not engineering for anything other than numerically far apart colors. Our vision is not symmetrically identical on all metrics, so why would we want a color theme to be so?
    – Jonathon
    Jan 25, 2023 at 19:56

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