Switching from solarized to gruvbox

Ever since 2012, I’ve been using solarized dark for everything I can possibly configure. From my web browser to my terminal, and everything in between, I was a solarized user. Alas, I was experiencing regular eye strain, especially at night, even using solarized dark with low monitor brightness. I use a large font size (large enough for people to comment on it regularly) and, as of my recent tests, I have at least 20/20 sight and no known ocular issues. Still, I was determined I could ease the strain on my eyes.


After a bit of research, it turns out there’s a lot of documentation on the affects of blue light on the eyes and sleep cycle, specifically when it’s viewed at night (for example). Could it be that the deep blue background I use, due to solarized dark, is exacerbating the problem?

Alternatives to solarized

There are too many to list, but one which caught my eye was gruvbox. Specifically, gruvbox has a pretty warm palette and minimal emphasis on blue, which is quite a change from my old setup. Here are some comparison images.

Adopting gruvbox everywhere

gruvbox itself was originally made as just a Vim colorscheme. In its official git repository, you won’t find support for any other programs. However, there is a gruvbox-contrib repository which has support for all sorts of themes for editors, shells, and GUI programs. I’m using the following:

Further blue light reduction

To take things a step further, I also installed Redshift, which globally affects the warmth of the screen’s colors based on the time of day. That is, as the sun goes down, Redshift will gradually make the screen have warmer colors, with the least amount of blue at night. Redshift is conveniently in the official Arch repositories and it works out of the box. I just added the following to my ~/.xinitrc:

# Remove blue light at night
redshift-gtk &


Has gruvbox with Redshift actually helped? When I’m using the computer, especially at night, my eyes do still feel strained. However, if I disable Redshift and switch solarized dark back on, it’s very tough to look at the screen again! There’s such a stark difference between looking at gruvbox + Redshift and looking at solarized dark. With that said, I consider this decision a definite win. I’d also note that gruvbox hasn’t seemed any more difficult to view than solarized during the day as well.

Surprisingly, Redshift works well even while playing games on Steam. While playing Rocket League at night, for example, Redshift warms up so much of the blue that it’s shocking when I temporarily disable it to compare.

As for the remaining eye strain, perhaps it’s best to just finish computing earlier at night and schedule more time for reading.