I've been reading the very useful information in these two threads:

I understand the answers in context of websites and most applications. While I have my Kindle app set to dark on light, on command line and in my text editor when I'm developing I'm unable to work with anything other than light on dark. Even though I have an astigmatism and this answer suggests that this should make me more inclined towards dark on light.

The use of dark themes is consistent with every developer I work with.

I'm interested in what makes these particular use cases special?

Thanks for any thoughts in advance!

[EDIT: Removed a bit so to widen the scope of answers]

  • I am only speaking for me when I say this: the dark themes make it easier on my eyes. I am looking at a monitor for at least 12 hours a day. The lower light of a dark theme allows me to concentrate more on what I am doing, not adjusting my sight for a better view. Commented Mar 2, 2014 at 19:45
  • It's tradition and psychological for me. Command line gets light on dark [background] because DOS accustomed me to it. Also, since it requires a lot of knowledge and you do get very precise control in command line, you're like the lord of the underworld (the world beneath a bright UI). For code editing, it's like typing on paper as carried over from writing on paper with a pen and using a typewriter. Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 3:38
  • The choice/preference for one or the other often is a result of a whether a person suffers from astigmatism or not. Generally people with astigmatism will find a light background much easier to read. (Sorry, lost the link to the article describing why). Commented Mar 6, 2014 at 15:02
  • Light/dark UI decisions are often centered around two factors: Eye strain (light sensitivity) and battery life (darker = less light = more battery life). All other influences of this debate are a matter of taste and aesthetic, from what I understand.
    – ewittke
    Commented Mar 6, 2014 at 18:04
  • I noticed that it seems to be a "guy thing", and the developers that prefer to work this way tend to be passionate about it. I suspect there is a certain degree of "I'm a real nerd" snobbery. I spent 5 years in jobs where I often had to work with light on dark and I found it dreadful.
    – Franchesca
    Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 20:39

2 Answers 2


The way I think of it is that paper (or a Kindle) reflects ambient light, while a screen is itself a light source.

With a surface that reflects light, you want that surface as bright as possible, to give you more contrast. If the printed page were black, with little white lines, the reflected light would be insubstantial and therefore difficult to distinguish.

With a surface that is itself a light source, making the background bright and the details dark makes the reading surface too bright. It is the equivalent of trying to read the wattage on a lightbulb while the bulb is turned on. In this case, the light is hard on the eyes. For such a surface, making the background black is like turning off the lightbulb. The white letters are themselves lit up (they don't need the background to provide their light), and so they are easy to see without introducing extra light into the situation.


I saw a similar question about whether light-on-dark colour schemes for computer screens were better for programmers asked on Skeptics StackExchange and thought the comments were quite interesting.

I am inclined to guess that like everything about design and UX, there are several different factors at play here, and it is important to also take into account the environmental factors that complicate matters further.

In summary, I think there is no correct answer for this question because there are other factors that influence the impact of the screen as it is presented to the user.

  • Another factor is that if you go back to the days of CRT displays, at least some people (I happen to be one) could see the raster scan moving down the screen, if it was a light background. Watching that for long periods gave me (and others I talked to) rather nasty headaches.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 5:45

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.