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Ltryptophan's avatar

What color combination is best for reading on a sheet of paper?

Asked by Ltryptophan (11810points) September 18th, 2021 from iPhone

For instance, most books I’ve ever read are black text on white paper.

If I’m not mistaken green is the easiest color for the eye to see. Would green text be optimal?

Since we are used to black and white, maybe that’s the least distracting.

I guess this would also apply to backlit displays, but maybe the effect of the additional light source changes something.

By optimal I mean: least eye strain, most visible, perhaps mood effect…

Just thinking about this I get the idea of books written with color in mind on the page to enhance what is being read.

Hero going into an enchanted forest? The pages get darker, the words just perceptible. Hero receives some great honor? The letters are gold foil against the hero’s representative color.

But, I’m interested more in which two colors would be optimal for the eye, instead of maybe cost considerations. Perhaps black ink is least expensive, perfectly sufficient, and a new color could only lessen eye fatigue imperceptibly.

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11 Answers

rebbel's avatar

Whenever I write a note in my Google Keep app I don’t think I’ve ever found a pleasant color combination (the ‘paper’ is colored, the text is in black.
In Instagram Stories, where you can choose from a few colored ‘papers’, but quite some text colors, I also never think “hey, that’s easy on the eyes”.
Black and white is not common for nothing, I think.

Ltryptophan's avatar

I think white as the color of the paper is something that can be a definite set convention. Since, white seems to expose any mark at all.

Likewise, black may be the most definite contrast to white’s purity. The idea after-all is to be able to precisely determine the writer’s intention. The marks the writer chooses therefore must be unquestionably precise in most matters. A book happens to be a copyrighted object. Any obscurity would hinder those rights protections.

But, I’m not sold on black as the letter color 100%

Jeruba's avatar

Some paperback books used to come on very slightly tinted pale green paper, said to be easy on the eyes. The paper was coarse pulpy stuff, with black print. This was years ago. I haven’t seen it anytime lately. I never noticed any difference reading it.

Look around you, though. Many “pure white” things, especially paper and packaging, are actually slightly off white. So it’s hard to say exactly what we’re comparing.

For what it’s worth, I would dislike reading a book with special color effects. I have read two of those, and the color interfered with my visualization of the words. One was House of Leaves, and the other was…darn, I forget. Something about fish in, I think, Australia—a rather strange novel. The color of the print changed as the book progressed.

I object as well to those books that change typefaces for alternating chapters from different characters’ points of view. Annoyingly cutesy and intrusive. I want the effects to take place in my mind and not on the page.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Black and white offer the most contrast. I suppose red and green would be pretty jarring and high contrast but reading a page would get tiring.
There is a reason we spend money making paper white and the ink dark.

kneesox's avatar

We can compare black on “white” with black on pale green right on this page.

Or is the print really black? Now I’m not sure. It looks greenish to me.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Black text on yellow paper is apparently the easiest to read

smudges's avatar

When I used to type letters on paper rather than email, I often used navy as my text color and a very light off shade of white as my paper. Loved it! I wish all books were printed in navy. It’s not as jarring or stark as black, but not as distracting as some other colors would be.

Jeruba's avatar

Here’s the novel I was trying to think of: Gould’s Book of Fish, by Richard Flanagan. Color effects ran through the whole book.

When I look back through my reading journal, I’m amazed at how many books I can’t remember at all, not even just that I read them. No doubt some number of them were touted as “unforgettable,” which often seems to mean “You’ll remember this for a week or two—maybe more!”

zenvelo's avatar

Cheap paperbacks books yellow pretty quickly yet are still very legible. The paper itself isn’t that “white” to begin with.

I know when I am reading on a monitor that a dark blue is less taxing than black.

JLeslie's avatar

My dad is red green colorblind and so are a lot of other people, I think it is something like 8% of the population, which is significant in my opinion. It would be impossible for him to read some sort of combination of red and green without a lot of strain. The two colors would look different from each other, but not by much.

If it was very off-white paper and green ink he still would not have a lot of contrast, it would be like you reading from off-white paper and an earthy brown ink.

I think slightly off of white paper and black text is the easiest to read. Very white paper can sometimes be too bright in certain lighting, but it is still ok.

That’s my opinion anyway.

SnipSnip's avatar

Medium grey/blue background or paper with white text is my preference.

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