What is the purpose of using a very dark color for text instead of a pure black?


I have seen that some web designs implement an almost black font color (hex #001c00) in their designs instead of a pure black color (hex #000).

Does the design actually benefit from this or is this practically the same as using a black color?

I am a hobbyist web designer and developer and can't seem to grasp the difference.

4/7/2015 8:16:00 PM

Accepted Answer

I always prefer a very dark grey to pure #000. The choice might look personal, but here's the theory behind it:

There are very little 100% black things in nature. All black objects you see have some for of light reflected on them, shadows are never completely black.

When you #000 in a design, it overpowers the other colors. It attracts too much attention, because it is not natural. Of course a website is not natural, but the brain reacts in a similar way nonetheless.

That's why lots of designers go for dark grey instead. You can do a search by color in sites like Dribbble. The difference is small, but noticeable: Dark grey is more frequent and looks better in lots of cases.

For example: Designing in the Dark: 10 Dark Sites and Their Color Schemes (none of them, I think, use #000 as part of their palette)

4/7/2015 5:46:00 PM

These are all interesting answers, but a tad esoteric. The reason is rather simple. Contrast is good for readability, but too much can be considered unnecessary at best, and detrimental at worst.

Nearly all printed text is black on white paper...but rarely is it pure white paper. It's often an off-white. And even then, because it's printed, it's using reflective light.

On screen, where it's projected light, 100% black with 100% white is the maximum possible contrast. This can be overpowering, hence the preference by many to use a dark gray on white, or black on light gray.

There are minimum contrast requirements to meet accessibility and general legibility standards. You definitely want to meet those, but that also doesn't mean you need to max the contrast out at 100%, either.

Plus, a lot of designers feel that it looks better. To relate back to print, dark gray text can be seen as a more luxurious look, as it's more expensive to print gray text on paper than black. (Gray text at small sizes typically requires a gray spot color).

Bottom line: using less than pure black black on white when on screen better emulates what we read offline, meets contrast requirements, and, for a lot of designers, just looks better.