Imagine you received an email, which looks like this: enter image description here

I guess there's an adjective to express that either the background or the font color should be changed, because it's really hard to read. My assumption is that this adjective matches the pattern eye*ing (like eyebreaking)

  • 3
    Not enough contrast.
    – Robusto
    May 6, 2015 at 9:24
  • 3
    I'd say "illegible".
    – Hot Licks
    May 6, 2015 at 17:40
  • I agree. Illegible is most apt.
    – Jimi Oke
    May 6, 2015 at 18:13
  • unreadable
    – ermanen
    May 6, 2015 at 18:17

3 Answers 3


This isn't exactly what you're looking for, but it will help get the idea across.

The mail has poor contrast

differences in colour or in light and dark, used in photographs and paintings to create a special effect

...and therefore is illegible.

difficult or impossible to read


As for your requirement, the best I could come up with is:

the mail is written in eye-popping colors,

but that wouldn't be very apt here, as eye-popping is generally used in a positive sense, and not always in context of colors.

  • 1
    If you use white letters on dark red background, the contrast will be OK, while readability will not.
    – Oleksii
    May 6, 2015 at 9:29
  • @javaNoobs: And that is why I included illegible in the answer. Btw, I disagree that legibility of white on dark red isn't better than that in the OP's picture
    – Tushar Raj
    May 6, 2015 at 9:30
  • Blessings on you guys for a fight-back against this nonsense. I've seen light yellow on darker yellow, howzat? Somebody obviously thought it was cool. As for words, this non-geek would naturally go for "illegible" with a side-order of expletives. BTW Area, I've escaped from Africa, my WiFi is now Swiss.
    – David Pugh
    May 6, 2015 at 9:45
  • @DavidPugh: Good to have you back :) Also, I'm waiting desperately for my 30-day username lock to run out so people start referring to me by my actual name. I'm Tushar.
    – Tushar Raj
    May 6, 2015 at 9:49
  • @DavidPugh: Light yellow on dark yellow?! What a CSS travesty!
    – Tushar Raj
    May 6, 2015 at 9:49

Probably, indecipherable. At the heart of this adjective is cipher, which means "code".

Something that's indecipherable can't be understood. If you can't figure out the meaning of something, it's indecipherable. (vocabulary.com)

  • an indecipherable message or font.

Readable color combination might be a suitable phrase.

When two similar matching or saturated colors are combined on a web page, you could call the final result: unreadable color combination

the most readable color combination is black text on white background; overall, there is a stronger preference for any combination containing black. The two least readable combinations were red on green and fuchsia on blue. [...] Also, in every color combination surveyed, the darker text on a lighter background was rated more readable than its inverse (e.g. blue text on white background ranked higher then white text on blue background).

Source: On the readability of inverted color schemes

The expression contrast, as suggested in the comments and by Tushar Raj, is perhaps the most widespread term where web design and readability is concerned. I might describe white text on lime-green background as having low contrast. From the same article:

In any event, the white on blue contrast provides especially good contrast in low brightness environments. And, as William told me, this was very useful when refresh rates were slower (i.e., less than 60 Hz). The white on blue contrast in such situations reduced perceived flicker [...]
Very high contrast is absolutely a readability problem: but white on black is just as high a contrast as black on white.

One web designer appears to have some strong feelings on the subject. In fact the webpage is called contrast rebellion :)

Low-contrast font color and unreadable texts?
To hell with them!

Because a website's content is primarily there to be read.
Don't give your visitors a headache only because gray or any other low-contrast font color looked better on the design comps than black.

Let's put an end to this low-contrast, light gray nonsense and use typography for its purpose: MAKING TEXT READABLE.

P.S. It's actually a very eye-catching and well-designed page by Zoltán Gócza and written by Richard Gazdik

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.