Apologies if this question doesn't fit the rules here.

I am digitising a large amount of remote footways and I will be panning, zooming a lot and I've done 2 days on this so far and always get quite a bad headache. Is it the colours I'm using?

I have a pre-existing footway/road layer that I am adding features to. A polygon of footway which I am creating new features over, a buffer around this footway and a plain polygon layer that I use to cover areas I have completed.

Can somebody recommend some alternative colours to use to minimise eye strain and headaches?

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  • How normal is this kind of thing for you?
    – Nathan W
    Jun 13, 2014 at 9:30
  • Not every day but a solid 2 weeks or so every couple of months
    – Alan Carr
    Jun 13, 2014 at 9:42
  • 1
    Maybe you just need a micro pause a little more often to stay alert. :)
    – Martin
    Jun 13, 2014 at 11:32

1 Answer 1


Research on color preferences (I don't remember seeing things specifically for head-aches) tend to be mixed (see MacEachren's How Maps Work for an overview). I personally do not like when there are multiple, fully saturated colors (and that example gives me a headache as well), but user studies typically do not find unanimous preferences, e.g. some people like red as opposed to blue, some people like saturated instead of pastel etc. (I'm making the jump from preferences to head-aches, so let me know if there are actual studies about head-aches and if they have different findings.)

So in your situation I would likely change the areas you are digitizing to lighter pastel shades (and/or make them semi-transparent), and then change the purple background color to either a lighter shade or change it to a different shade of grey. I'm skeptical if there is advice that extends to everyone though.

You could also try inverting the color scheme, using a dark background and then having the features light (see here and here for some examples on my blog where I discuss this). The UX site has several discussions of this, and some of the recommendations also talk about the background ambient light. You may consider trying to invert the color scheme and if you have the ability to dim the lights in your office. Below are some references from the UX site on the topic of dark backgrounds in which it comes up in the discussion:

(Some of these are marked as duplicates of the others, but they did not merge the answers so there are very good answers to each of the questions.)

  • +1 for your recommendation of a light background (light grey, light colors) and the interesting links at UX. If you have a paper draft I would not recommend a dark background (your eyes then have to switch between light paper and dark screen while digitizing).
    – Jens
    Jun 16, 2014 at 6:54
  • I haven't had to do tedious digitizing like this @Jens, so I do not have experience in that regard. But the printed maps with a dark background I've had good experience in user groups disseminating crime maps with dark backgrounds (community meetings - often with elderly people in darker lit rooms).
    – Andy W
    Jun 16, 2014 at 11:57

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