A Black Background for More Restful PDF viewing

I find that large expanses of white on my screen can be hard on the eyes, so I’ve customized the colours of my main applications to yellow or white on black. For example, this is what my Emacs window looks like:

Emacs screen capture

I also have MATLAB (via Preferences – Colors) and Thunderbird (via various customizations) set to a black background.

I recently realized that I can get a black background in my two PDF viewers.

Acrobat Pro or Acrobat Reader (Windows or Mac)

Set preferences via

Edit - Preferences - Accessibility - Replace Document Colors 
     - Use High Contrast Colors

which gives the option for white, yellow or green on black, or you can choose a custom background and foreground color.

SumatraPDF (Windows)

Call SumatraPDF with the -invert-colors option, for example as

SumatraPDF.exe -reuse-instance -invert-colors paper.pdf

This is an excellent PDF viewer for use with LaTeX, as it refreshes the view when the PDF file changes, unlike Acrobat.

Skim (Mac)

Unfortunately, for Skim it only appears to be possible to change the colour of the border, not the background or text.

6 thoughts on “A Black Background for More Restful PDF viewing

  1. On Linux, Acrobat Reader has the same options as in your post. I find it useful to also turn off “Only change the color of the black text or line art”.
    However, I dislike Acrobat Reader. For KDE fans, Okular has the same (albeit a bit limited) option in Settings > Accessibility.
    My personal favorite, due to its speed and low system requirements, is xpdf. Here, we have command-line options:
    xpdf -rv -papercolor “#333333” file.pdf
    “rv” stands for “reverse video”, which — not very surprisingly — reverses colors, while “papercolor” changes the background if you wish it to be different than white or (if reversed) black.

    1. Another fast and easy-on-the-system viewer for Linux is Atril. I switched to it since my last comment above, due to more modern interface than xpdf. It has “Inverted Colours” in the “View” menu or as the shortcut `Ctrl+I`.

  2. For Windows, Ive changed theme to gray on black with orange details, and checked “Change document colors to Windows colors in Settings>Options. Works even better than Inverse Colours!

  3. I use evince (default gnome pdf viewer) on Mac: just `brew install evince` then checkbox the invert colors under the wrench icon.

  4. I found a better solution for Windows. My setup is all black boarders and black start-up screen and total black in full-screen with white text.

    Setting/Advanced Options, add line **GradientColors** to **FixedPageUI** then choose your hex color. Here is mine setup for all black and white.

    MainWindowBackground = #000000
    EscToExit = false
    ReuseInstance = false
    UseSysColors = false
    RestoreSession = true

    FixedPageUI [
    TextColor = #ffffff
    BackgroundColor = #000000[enter image description here][1]
    SelectionColor = #f5fc0c
    WindowMargin = 2 4 2 4
    PageSpacing = 4 4
    GradientColors = #000000

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