What are good colors to use for a terminal window (text and background) to minimize eye strain/damage? I feel like someone, maybe a design or medical professional, must have done research on this topic, but my search has only turned up results based on what people think is pretty.

I'm hesitant to ask on SU because I suspect there's no single perfect answer, but even general guidelines -- light on dark vs. dark on light, complementary color combinations -- would be helpful.

EDIT: I used to like light gray on black, myself, but my new work monitor leaves greenish and purplish tinges around the edges of the letters with gray on black. I suspect it's an LCD thing. That's what motivated the question, anyways.

  • 5
    "I suspect there's no single perfect answer" -- sounds like Community Wiki then!
    – Arjan
    Oct 1, 2009 at 18:43
  • Good for eyes would be same colors which are good for text, namely black text on green-gray backround (e.g. #E2E2D8). For the console I suppose you can only use monospace font - the best bet is "Courier New bold" for Windows and "Courier 10 pitch" for linux.
    – Mikhail V
    Mar 14, 2016 at 1:34
  • Still there are problems - all monitors have different colors, so you should tune the bg color yourself. Also, the lighter is the room, the lighter must be the background color (more contrast).
    – Mikhail V
    Mar 14, 2016 at 1:45

4 Answers 4


I recall reading, years (decades?) ago, that the amber on black color scheme of some old monochrome monitors was easier on the eyes than the green or white on black. The RGB values are 185, 128, 0.

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Some say black on white is really the easiest on the eyes (it certainly works here), but it just doesn't seem to work in a command window.

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  • Black on white looks great on Mac OS X's Terminal ;-). Oct 1, 2009 at 20:00
  • 1
    Yes, there were two common variants: green on black, and orange on black. Orange wasn't quite the same as in your picture, though. A little brighter, and a little more yellow. Font also plays a part in here ... ah, the good old times on ibm terminals :)
    – Rook
    Oct 1, 2009 at 20:23
  • black on light grey is viewable in a prompt, but give me white on black anyday.
    – Phoshi
    Oct 9, 2009 at 14:45

I prefer green on black. But a good 'invention' of mine is setting your root shell's colors to yellow on red; it's absolutely obnoxious, but that's good, if you're trying to force yourself to spend the absolute minimum amount of time as root. This way being lazy and doing everything as root is nearly impossible, as my eyes start to tear with that color scheme within 15 minutes.

  • 4
    +1 Yellow on red, great solution for root access.
    – jumpnett
    Oct 6, 2011 at 19:22
  • 2
    -1 question was about eye strain, not about personal preferences
    – Mikhail V
    Mar 14, 2016 at 17:06

Text on paper is dark text on light background, and it's the default in most modern (i.e. not retro) environments, so I prefer it. But it seems wrong to me that the brightest light my monitor can generate should be my background color; I think old web browsers with their default gray backgrounds were on to something, but went a bit too far, perhaps due to limited gradients available. I am currently using off-white (#dcdad5) for my backgrounds in terminals and text exitors, etc, and I never notice that it isn't 100% white except when side by side with a web page with a white background.


OS X has/had quite a problem with their default color scheme, in that one of the blues was unreadable. As a result, a very beautiful theme was created, which you can find in The last TextMate theme you'll ever need.

Ever since discovering it, I've liked it on Linux, etc. as well.

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