A colleague asked my thoughts about dark vs light modes, so here's the quick answer I gave him. It doesn't have my usual list of references, you can do your own research this time!

Generally speaking, our eyes work less when reading dark text on a light background. When trying to read light next on a dark background, our pupils dilate, resulting in the text being fuzzier and both our eyes and brain working harder to read.

There are exceptions you might see, such as older footage of air traffic control at night where the text is orange. But that's only text, not our graphics-heavy displays, and those orange (or green) choices were based on some science.

Reducing screen brightness and color range may--probably does?--help reduce eyestrain in a dark environment. I haven't checked the research on that.

Personally, I generally configure my computer/apps this way:

  • Use a dark, non-distracting wallpaper (often a single color)
  • If the app allows, use darker backgrounds for "background" areas.
  • Use dark text on light backgrounds.

I use f.lux to manage my screen color/brightness. I find it better than Windows's built-in utility. I've adjusted it to what's comfortable for both day and night (do enable the extended color range). If I ever have to edit images at night, I need to disable f.lux if I care about color accuracy.

One other concern I have--my opinion, not researched--is that our brains are evolved to be more afraid in dark environments and light text on a dark background might be triggering my sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight). I don't want any more stress in my life than needed.

Dark modes look cool, but I abandoned them quite a while ago based on the evidence as I understand it.

I take it back: here's one reference.

Dark mode isn't as good for your eyes as you believe | WIRED UK