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Best Surface Color for Optical Mouse

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I have an optical mouse, not a ball mouse. My dad told me that optical mouses work best on white surfaces, but from usage I find that red surfaces work best.


Does it matter what is the color of the surface on which you use your optical mouse?

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Well actually no. The color of the surface hardly matters coz the mouse just 'sees' the surface and its relative motion to the surface.


Like does it matter if you're being photographed in front of a green background or a blue one?


The main thing is that the mice (or mouses) don't like (1)transparent surfaces, or (2)surfaces with recurring patterns.


(1). The light just passes through them(glass), and doesn't reach the sensor so no movement is registered.

(2). The sensor gets confused in which direction the mouse moved and hence this results in jumpy motion


You must have found red the best coz maybe the red one must have been smoother than the whiter and nothing else.

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What colour is the light from the mouse? My understanding of optical mice is that they detect the intensity of the reflection of a beam of light, and thus can see the 'pattern' of the surface and can calculate their velocity over that surface.

Mine's red, and it seems likely to me that if the mouse detects reflected red light, it's going to get the most easily interpreted reflections off something which is red itself.


However, that could be four lines of complete bs :rolleyes:

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  • 1 month later...
Guest dentsinger

Regardless of what we think the optics are "seeing", an optical mouse relies upon the properties of light to detect and translate movement. Movement being defined as a continual processing of the sampled pattern of the surface in relation to the previously sampled pattern of the surface. Comparative analysis. This comparative analysis is derived from the reflected red led light off of the surface of the mouse pad. Therefore, wouldn't you say that the lights reflectivity is crucial to the sensitivity? ;)


Additionally, most optical mice on the market use red LED's. We know that surfaces are particular colors due to the light they reflect. So now we know that a red mousepad would reflect the most light. Not ever red surface is going to work though. The reflectivity of the materials used in making the mousepad could affect the mouses sensitivity as well. Cloth is less reflective than Nylon for instance. Cloth or a surface such as cloth, might allow the led light to really grab more texture from each sampling due to more contrast (the allowance of more shadows due to the less reflective nature of the materials texture). Nylon reflects more light and would probably bounce more light in between the cracks and crevices of the weave coming from the red led. This would result in a more blown out sampling resulting in less texture for the mouse to comparatively analyze.


For the moment, I'm using a thin sheet of high density red foam with a logitech 800 dpi mouse. I haven't found a more precise surface that compares yet, but I'm working on it. I don't want to give up too many of my secrets :cool: .


This is all arm chair physics based on some known facts from my own observations. :embarass:

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Its best to use a smooth dark non reflective surface.I use some black card that you buy at a stationary shop,price £1.49 which is expensive for damn card.However you get to make about 6 mousepads that last you around a month at a time.

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  • 11 years later...

Hello, I am going to let my "experience" speak for its self. After 25 years of mouse manipulation designing some of earths important components I find that lighter colors work best with optical mouses. Now there is probably some test or some really nerdy dude going to run some test and blah blah blah...

I just know that when I am using my workstation or personal laptop or personal desktop that has a optical mouse I find myself testing the different surface with textures that are near me plus the colored ones and ALWAYS FIND MYSELF GETTING A SHEET OF PAPER AND TAPING IT TO WHERE I CAN USE THE MOUSE.

and the sheet is white.

Now I know how these optical mouse are constructed and I know the technology that it uses in order to do what it does, and all the answers that this forum got about the question. I see people noting the obvious. Science is not only about the obvious, its about what we discover. And I discovered that IT DOES MATTER WHAT SURFACE COLOR YOU USE FOR THESE MOUSE.

Like the human eye certain background colors we can see better with, right. So why NOT an optical mouse.

True it can "see" regardless of the color but I believe it "sees" best with white.

My unadulterated 2 cents.

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Underneath my mouse it's pretty dark- except for the light from the mouse itself.

That's red.

My mouse can not logically distinguish a white background from a red one (both reflect essentially all the light)

Nor can it tell a green background from a black one (where both absorb essentially all the light.)


I can offer it a notionally perfectly black background to "look at" by simply moving it away from anything reflective and holding it in mid air.

It doesn't work in those circumstances.


I can also give it a "perfectly" reflective "mouse mat" by using a mirror. That works poorly too. (It turns out that you need a jolly good mirror to show this)


It's not the colour that matters; it's the pattern.

it turns out that the folk who make mice have made them such that they are pretty good at working with just about any surface.

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  • 3 years later...
15 minutes ago, TerryHiggins said:

i am not a big fan of optical. Optical mice don't work well on highly reflective surfaces. They're much better suited for a non-glossy surface, like a mousepad. A laser is much more powerful than an LED light. ... The reflections will have more light variances, which makes it easier for the mouse to track the movement of the surface

Put a pattern/scribble on a piece of paper on the mat and see how it works. They detect contrast; differences in tone.... the greater that difference the better.

Edited by StringJunky
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I see this thread was started in 2005.


I hope that anyone using a mouse from that time has cleaned the bottom many times in the intervening years.

Not doing this interferes with smooth operation.

This is because the sliders pads pick up small amouts of material, which cause the mouse to stick very slightly when moved and also ride above the correct level from the surface.

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