High contrast mode is great for readability, but if you’re trying to read a PDF, you’ll need to do some tweaking in Adobe Reader. We’ll walk you through it.

Microsoft Windows’ High Contrast colour scheme is a built-in accessibility setting that helps improve readability. It uses a black background, reverses the text colour, and removes CSS backgrounds which makes everything easier to read. It’s easy to turn on with just Left Shift+Left Alt+Print Screen.

Using a high contrast setting is great for those with low vision. It reduces glare and works to eliminate white backgrounds as much as possible. Foreground images are still visible (but can be a problem if they have white backgrounds), and the Windows setting removes background images. Reducing distracting images on the page can make it easier to focus on reading. And, beyond its benefits for folks with reading disabilities, some people just prefer the black background.

High Contrast in Windows makes everything, including web browsers, appear in high contrast with one big exception: PDFs. You have to tweak your Adobe Reader settings separately to view PDFs with high contrast.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. If you open the Adobe Acrobat Reader program without opening a file, the program window should respect your existing high contrast colour scheme.
  2. Then, go to the main menu and choose Edit > Preferences.
    In Acrobat Reader, Preferences is the last option under the Edit menu. It can also be accessed with Control + K.
  3. In the Preferences, there’s a sidebar with an Accessibility option.
    In the Preferences dialog, Accessibility is one of the options under Categories which exposes all of the Accessibility settings for Adobe Reade
  4. The first option in the panel on the right is Document Colours Options. If you check “Replace Document Colours,” there are a bunch of choices including “Use Windows Colour Scheme.”
    A close-up image of the colour options available to you in the Accessibility menu
  5. Select “Use Windows Colour Scheme,” any of the high contrast combination options in the drop-down menu, or customize your own page background and text colours.
  6. Make sure “Only change the colour of black text or line art” is not checked.
  7. Check the option for “Change the colour of line art as well as text.” This will deal with any other text and background colours that are in PDFs.