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Coloured overlays

About coloured overlays

Coloured overlays are sheets of transparent tinted plastic that are placed over printed reading material to colour the page and text beneath. They help relieve Visual Stress and can significantly improve the rate and accuracy of reading.

Individuals with migraines, concussion, learning difficulties and other neurological conditions that experience light sensitivity often find reading difficult. They may experience the movement of letters, words or whole lines of text, flashing in the white spaces of the page, intermittent blurring, or the appearance of coloured auras or rainbows around words.

How do overlays reduce Visual Stress?

The right colour of overlay can reduce Visual Stress by:

  • calming the bright white of the page;

  • reducing the contrast of black text against the white page; and  

  • altering the striped pattern created by text printed across the page.

Without help, the symptoms of Visual Stress can make it harder to concentrate when reading and lead to eye strain, fatigue, headaches, nausea and sore eyes.  

With the right overlay colour, reading becomes faster and more accurate, tracking improves as fewer words or lines are skipped, and discomfort is reduced because the material is less stressful to look at. 

teal overlay, teal paper and teal tnted lenses

Eye examination

It is essential that a full eye examination is completed to rule out and correct for any visual anomalies that may be contributing to these symptoms. Reading difficulties can be caused by the need for a simple prescription change or eye exercises. 

Opticalm carries overlays in wide range of colours and saturations.

Reading book with pink overlay

​How do I find the right overlay colour?

If you are unsure of the colour you need, we offer a trial packs of reading ruler sized overlays on our store. These are useful for finding the right colour – or combination of overlays (mixing colours) that works best to reduce visual stresssymptoms. ​ 

Choosing the right overlay

What size should I get?

  1. Full-sized overlays offer the best results as they cover the entire page including the white space that often triggers discomfort. They are also better to use when both hands are engaged (i.g,  when playing an instrument or taking notes). If required, overlays can easily be cut to use with smaller pages.

  2. Reading ruler sized overlays are convenient and can aid in tracking as they are moved with the text.  They are small enough to be tucked away or used as a bookmark. 

​Using the overlays

Here are simple tips and tricks to efficiently and properly use overlays.

  1. To use the overlay, place it directly over your reading material, making sure it has complete contact with the page leaving no space between the paper and the overlay.

  2. Overlays have a matte and a glossy side.  While many prefer the matte side, the glossy side is sometimes preferred for the brightness of the colour.

  3. Adjust the angle of the reading material to reduce reflection from lights.

  4. The overlay colour may work best when placed over white paper and not be as effective when placed over different colours of paper.

  5. If you find that the benefit changes over time, you may no longer need to use the overlay or your optimal colour may have changed as your brain has adapted to the use of colour. Please contact Opticalm for further advice.

​Overlay colour is not equal to lens colour

​While both coloured overlays and coloured lenses can improve reading fluency, their optimal chromaticities differAs such, the overlay colour can't be used to select the lens colour.

When tinted lenses are worn, the entire visual field is coloured. The eyes adapt to the colour in a similar way to the adaptation that occurs when the light source itself is coloured. The condition of adaptation is different from an overlay because it is just one surface colour among many colours, and it is illuminated with white light. It is because of this difference in adaptation that there is only a weak association between the optimal overlay colour and the lens tint. The association is so weak that the colour of the overlay provides little, if any, guide to the colour of the optimal coloured lens.

Overlays as a screening tool for precision tinted lenses

Overlays are a useful tool to identify individuals who might benefit from wearing precision tinted lenses to filter their visual environment. 


While overlays are effective for reading, visual strain and discomfort are often experienced when performing other visual tasks such as writing or looking at a smart board. A better, and more convenient, solution is precision tinted lenses. Opticalm offers assessment services to help you find the optimal colour for lenses. The colours can be selected with great precision and accuracy. The outcome will be more effective as a portable filter that you can wear in any environment or condition.

screen tinting software with purple
colored overlays on paper

Supporting research

There are many research papers demonstrating the effectiveness of overlays in improving reading ability by reducing visual, perceptual and physical symptoms.

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