CAD Ebony vs. Ivory Problem Solved: Living in Perfect Harmony

Without diversity you can’t achieve synergy: You simply get more of the same! There is great value in variety and differences of opinion. Vive les différences!

What background color do you prefer? Sounds like a simple question or decision to make. Beware! This is a classic, “My-CAD-Is-Better-Than-Your-CAD,” debate. Most designers seem deeply entrenched in one of the two diametrically opposed camps: black or white.

In the beginning of my CAD career I preferred a black background. It’s likely that I used black because it was the default. Upon further reflection, however, it is *generally* a better background to look at a wide spectrum of color hues. For example, thin yellow lines and text get washed out over a white background. In the old days, when I relied on pens for line thicknesses, it was necessary to take advantage of many colors to add more meaning to what I was looking at. Using only black and white was too limiting.

Black, or the absence light, is easier on your eyes. There is nothing to process or “work” on. Furthermore, old interlaced monitors create more flicker when the screen background is black. Indeed, looking at an old interlaced monitor is like looking at a flashing strobe light, which after extended use can produce, in extreme cases, either seizures or headaches, and unnecessary fatigue, not to mention eye damage.

imageAs monitor quality and resolution improved, software developers and users became more demanding and went after what was at the time “The Holy Grail:” WYSIWIG (What You See Is What You Get). That means providing a white background to emulate the white paper you print on. Smarter plotting style techniques and scalable on screen vector width thicknesses made using a white background with dark vector lines a pleasant option.

Revit, VectorWorks, ArchiCAD, Microsation, TurboCAD and many other programs tend to default to white.

Revit Architecture 2013:


TurboCAD LTE Pro V4:


Some really cool programs like 3D Studio Max, Maya, PhotoShop, SolidWorks, Inventor and a few others default, or have at some point in their history, to a shade of gray. That seems a nice compromise.

3D Studio Max 2011:


I use both backgrounds. My preference depends on the program and the context. For extended editing work, I tend to prefer a black background. I generally prefer to use a white background for teaching and publishing printed material. Plotting large blobs of black ink doesn’t work very well.

But it gets even more complex: I generally prefer different backgrounds for different programs. I rely on the background to remind myself which program I’m using so I don’t waste command attempts. Black puts me in AutoCAD command line prompt mode. White reminds me to use the ribbon, tool bars or menus. A gray background reminds me that I’m using a cool interface program like 3D Studio and that it’s time to have fun.

Most CAD programs today let you change the background color. You can even make it pink! I see switching programs and backgrounds as a welcome change of routine. How about you? Please share your thoughts on this on make sure to vote for your favorite background color here:

Explore posts in the same categories: 3D BIM CAD, Basic Essential CAD, Education, Training


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