I've heard people say that websites with pure black text on a white background can cause exhaustion when reading, and that it's better to use a very dark gray text or a light gray background color to decrease the harshness of the contrast.

Does anyone know of any research that was done to support this?

I'm scouring the internet, but not finding anything that was done recently even though you can look at many prominent content sites and see plenty of examples of this in practice.


4 Answers 4


High contrast and dyslexia

True black, especially on pure white, can appear as blurred or moving for dyslexic people.

There’s a reason the text you’re reading now is not pure black (#000000), and the background is not pure white (#FFFFFF). It’s because many dyslexic users are sensitive to the brightness the high contrast colors cause. This can cause the words to swirl or blur together.

Here is another highly revelant question, regarding of dyslexia accessibility

Sources :


The problem with Pure Black is that it's not natural, There is no colour in nature coded #000 when you take pictures of them, even the darkest shadows or letters on a book have a slight brightness.

The other problem with it is when you use pure black on pure white, you are maximising the contrast, high contrast is good for readability but maximum contrast is not.

maybe this paper would help you: Legibility and Large-Scale Digitization

  • The problem with these articles' premises, and I have not read that one yet, is they compare photographs of the world to typography and computer monitor display. Computer monitors with text are not natural viewing items but some seem to think we must emulate them for text. The natural world is not pure black and white but print and computer monitors are not the natural world. If one wants something to be more readable, you do not blend it more into its background color (white in this case).
    – Rob
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 13:52

You could test the contrast with an accessibility contrast tool such as: http://accessible-colors.com/

To understand the different levels: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/2414321/why-wcag-made-3-level-a-aa-and-aaa

Text that is larger and has wider character strokes is easier to read at lower contrast. The contrast requirement for larger text is therefore lower. This allows authors to use a wider range of color choices for large text, which is helpful for design of pages, particularly titles. 18 point text or 14 point bold text is judged to be large enough to require a lower contrast ratio. (See The American Printing House for the Blind Guidelines for Large Printing and The Library of Congress Guidelines for Large Print under Resources). "18 point" and "bold" can both have different meanings in different fonts but, except for very thin or unusual fonts, they should be sufficient. Since there are so many different fonts, the general measures are used and a note regarding fancy or thin fonts is included.

  • Could you copy the relevant portions into your post?
    – Mayo
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 17:17

So comparing with Apple IOS, MACOS dark modes and photoshop, I'm assuming that MACOS and photoshop are more confortable than IOS?

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But IOS looks like to have more contrast to me except the blue link on the top: enter image description here

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