I'm doing a dark interface for a program that includes a text editor. While the program uses different shades of dark grey and blue, my main "page" is currently white. This is positive because:

  • The page looks exactly like the printed version will;
  • The text editor looks like famous text editors in the market.

The problem is that the program needs to be dark because it's going to be used in dark rooms so it has to be extremely kind to the eyes, and white is not.

The options I have are grey and black. I'm thinking I'd go with black, because even if looks bad it's better for the eyes, and printing is not something users would be doing a lot, at least not directly. Is this the right call?

3 Answers 3


The compelling arguments for making it white seem to be a) it looks like the printed version and b) other applications use a white background.

Yet your users require something easy on the eyes, and they do not print often.

So in this case, using a darker (black) background would seem to meet the users' needs, which is the goal of a well designed solution. Just because other applications with a different use case do something doesn't mean you should necessarily do the same.

An additional option you may want to add to the application is a preferences/settings area where a user can change the default background to something else that will work for them.

This way you are going to set a default that works for most of our users but you aren't locking them in.

Visual Studio implements something like this which works pretty well:

enter image description here

  • 1
    Thanks for your answer. About the other programs using a white page, I meant almost all of the people who will be using the program are very used to word processors, but have hardly used a black page (we are terribly used to, with so much coding).
    – Yisela
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 1:09
  • One other thing to consider is that some platforms (like iPhones) have an auto dimmer feature, which you might need to take into account. If the display is going to be auto dimmed you may not need to mess with the contrast as much, however it would be interesting to do a study to see if a dimmed black text on white screen is less fatiguing on the eye than a white text on black at 100% brightness or at dimmed levels. Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 1:11
  • 1
    Instead of a highly detailed settings dialog as the above, it might be enough to supply a few (or even just two) profiles users may choose from. I find it hard to create a pleasing color palette using these long lists of items that I can manipulate. I'd rather choose from a few nice and balanced ones that were pre-designed for me.
    – André
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 9:12

You should go with what you think users will be most comfortable with.

You said that the editor is expected to be used in a dark room, so maybe you should go with the dark theme; white text on a black background.


In addition to the 'white-on-black' answers, there's another possibility (which could still be a user preference): don't use a pure white background for the 'paper', but a desaturated grey background instead. This would still have most of the properties of a white page (i.e. dark or black text will show up on it), but would be considerably less bright when working in a dark environment.

Adobe Illustrator actually has an option similar to this in its Preferences. It too has a dark interface (by default) with a white canvas area to represent paper, but you can choose how 'white' that canvas appears on-screen.

enter image description here

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.