I recently attended a conference where the presenter was using a whiteboard marker to explain and most of the times the items he drew or wrote on the board were not visible due to the lack of ink in the marker. I just interrupted and asked him to use a bright colored marker so that the items are visible.

One of my colleagues corrected me saying that I should have asked for "dark color" instead of bright color.

Having said that, I am really confused on the contextual usages of bright and dark and I would be really grateful if someone clears this for me.

  • 4
    yellow, for example, is typically a "bright" color, but it would be a terrible choice for a whiteboard marker. Asking for a dark color provides maximum contrast and would be most visible. – Jim Dec 28 '17 at 5:52
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    @Krishna PS I understand your confusion, probably If I were you, I would be asking a 'brighter' color as well. The logic behind is our conditioned brain and what word we usually use to convey something. For example, in your case, probably you are used to say something that is 'more visible' is associated more to 'bright' instead of 'dark' which is in other meaning, 'less visible'. We tend to use 'words that'we use most often, in this case: dark is associated with 'less visible' and bright is associated with 'more visible'. – Flonne Dec 28 '17 at 6:10
  • @FlonneLightberry Yes. You are right. – Krishna P S Dec 28 '17 at 6:44
  • You and your colleague are both right. After all, the presenter could have picked up a thin, black marker and the audience would have been no better off. It seems to me that your goal was to say “more visible”, and that “brighter” says this more than “darker”, given that we see so many things on screens these days. – Global Charm Jan 22 '18 at 18:55
  • I think this is more a question of perception than of any absolute about "color".. For most people the more contrast writing has on its background, the easier the writing is to read. So, on a whiteboard, black would be the easiest to read. "Pure" white reflects all colors, "pure" black no colors. "Pures" are hard to come by, but nearly "pure" blacks and whites are common. On a whiteboard , I would take "dark" over "bright" if they were the only choices. "Bright" and "dark" contrast with each other, but black contrasts best with white, as a whiteboard.. – J. Taylor Feb 12 '18 at 18:22

When talking about colourspaces, brightness general refers to things that reflect a large amount of light. It's also useful to refer to it as an HSL coordinate.

What you were really asking for was a colour that (all else being equal such as line thickness) had better contrast with the whiteboard. There a couple of issues regarding your colleague's correction.

High brightness so frequently results in high contrast elsewhere in life, there's a tendency to use the two terms interchangeably. However, in this particular instance, a darker (less bright) colour would provide better contrast and thus better visibility against a white background. If the presenter was writing on a black chalkboard in a dark (e.g. dark brown) colour, you would be right to ask for a "brighter" colour (e.g. bright yellow) to provide a greater contrast and hence visibility.


A less confusing answer might have been to use a marker with a higher contrast with the whiteboard. In short, avoid making a request where terms introduce sources of error or incorrect interpretation. Allow the performer to evaluate the result of using the marker of their choice.

The Whiteboard has a white or high luminance level.

Brighter - having or reflecting elevated luminance level.
Lighter - having or reflecting elevated luminance level.
Darker - having or reflecting reduced luminance level.

A fresh black marker would have been better to preserve a contrast necessary for optimal legibility.

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