Light mode is better for your eyes in most scenarios

Published: 14 August, 2022 | 5 mins(s) read | Tags: #productivity

Just like spaces and tabs, we have dark mode vs light mode. Dark mode is definitely the cooler and popular one right now. I don’t even remember seeing Spotify out of dark mode now that I think about it. So is dark mode better than light mode?

  • Dark mode is good for your eyes
  • Dark mode helps you focus
  • Dark mode is good for battery

These are some of the promises from dark modes. For me, in my experience, light modes have been helpful for most use cases. But there definitely are some good scenarios where you might want to switch your app to dark mode.

Light mode, dark mode, eyes and lighting

Dark mode is told to be easier on the eyes. But that is not entirely true. In fact, reading is harder for me in dark modes. Unless you are in pitch dark scenarios, dark mode is not only hard to read but also bad for your eyes. Light mode helps you read easy.

With dark modes, I often have glares from the sun or from the light source in the room. This makes it super hard for me to read. It makes me squint. This is immediately fixed when I switch to light mode themes. This is the same case even when I am in a well lit room. In fact, most companies touting dark mode as a clear winner observes that people are using their app in dark mode for longer periods. I ask myself, is that because people find it hard to read? And hence spending more time in an app than they should be? In your tablet or computer, use an ebook in dark mode and read. Continious reading unlike computer browsing might help you understand this better. Also, dark text on a light background is easier for your eyes to focus on than the other way around.

The researchers put this down to the fact that when we look at a bright background, our pupils constrict and increase acuity while scanning text. When looking at a black background, the opposite effect occurs, and dilated pupils make it harder to focus on the text. Mayr’s research initially proposed that these effects might be reversed for elderly populations, but found this wasn’t the case. However, this might be one of the keys as to why people spend longer on these apps when this mode is enabled – because it reduces legibility and makes reading more effortful.

And any other issue you might have could be due to the blue light emitting from the screens. Not an issue with light modes but rather the screens. You can fix the blue light issue using blue light filter apps. You could also use an eyeglass which has them as well. It really changes the experience for the good. Samsung phones comes with blue light filter. It is called eye comforting shield. On Linux, KDE, GNOME and Pantheon DE of ElementaryOS comes with blue light filter inbuilt. If you are using with other desktop environments or window managers, use Redshift. On MacOS/iOS, they should be having an inbuilt blue light filter as well.

There are scenarios where dark modes are better. Like if you are using am AMOLED screen and you use a complete black theme. It really improves your batter life. This is because AMOLED screen pixels are pitch black and they are turned off for black colour there by saving energy. This is why my AMOLED phone uses dark mode. Also, with pitch dark scenarios, just before you go to sleep and you are on your mobile? I found dark mode helpful and easier on the eyes then. Using a light mode which is desinged for night with blue light filters can tackle this to an extent. But even with that, I found dark mode far easier on the eyes than light mode. Why? Probably cos dark mode apparently reduces the emission of blue light compared to the light modes. So in pitch dark scenarios, they might be the way to go. Another good case for dark mode can be people with certain eye conditions. Dark mode might help you in scenarios like if you are sensitive to light etc. These kind of scenarios are rare, temporary or for shorter periods of time. But dark mode wins here.

So light or dark mode?

For majority of the screnarios, light modes should be easier on the eyes. Unless you have certain eye conditions which compels you to use a dark mode. Or for some rare scenarios, your eyes will say thank you for using light modes. Dark mode definitely looks cooler. But if you think functionality > aesthetics, you would use light mode. But this doesn’t mean we have to follow only light mode. Since dark mode is common, use it in scenarios where it excels. For the rest, just use light modes.


I have been wanting to write about this for a while. But Brent Roose’s post finally made me take the time and write it. Just like him, I recommend trying out the light modes for a week. #one-week-light-theme

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