Proper monitor calibration will ensure that your colors and black levels are true, and will ensure that your monitor is producing the best results for editing and viewing images and videos. Plus, it’ll be easier on your eyes!
You could of course have us come out and perform a professional in-home calibration, but why not do it yourself and save the money? A quick at-home calibration is relatively speedy, hassle-free, and will greatly improve image quality.
Here’s Ctrl Alt Repair’s guide on calibrating your monitor to help make sure colors are represented accurately at all times. We can’t guarantee you will produce results as good as a professional calibration, but even these basic calibration procedures will help outshine your monitor’s factory presets.
Before you begin
You’re going to want to do several things before you begin the calibration process.
- Turn on your monitor at least a half hour before calibration so the monitor can warm up to its normal operating temperature and conditions.
- Set your monitor’s resolution to its native, default screen resolution.
- Make sure your calibrating in a room with moderate ambient lighting. The room doesn’t need to be pitch black, but you don’t want the sharp glares and color casts resulting from direct light.
- Familiarize yourself with your monitor’s display controls. They may be located on the monitor itself, on the keyboard, or within the operating system control panel
CALIBRATE USING BUILT-IN WINDOWS AND MAC TOOLS
Both MacOS and Windows have built-in calibration tools to help guide you, step-by-step, if you are new to the calibration process. The free tools should be the first stop if you’re merely a casual image junkie or working on a tight budget. They are extremely handy, quick, and easy to locate within your operating system. Keep in mind that the adjustments will be limited by the display type and model, though.
The assorted terms — gamma, white point, etc. — may seem a bit daunting at first glance, but each utility provides a relatively simple explanation of what they all mean. Realistically though, you don’t need to know the ins-and-outs of the jargon in order to calibrate your monitor.
In Windows 10, the calibration tool can be found by opening the Settings app. Click the System selection in the main menu, then pick Display in the next menu. Once you have Display open, scroll to the bottom and click Advanced Display Settings. Once again, scroll down until you see Color Calibration, and then click on that.
Older versions of Windows can find the Color Calibration utility in the Display section of the Control Panel, which is listed under Appearance and Personalization. Alternatively, you can usually open the utility with a Windows Search. Just enter “color calibration” in the search bar, and it should appear as the first result.
Window’s thorough instructions will walk you through the calibration process once you’ve found and opened the software utility. Just follow the on-screen instructions to choose your display’s gamma, brightness, contrast, and color balance settings. A sample image for you to match will accompany many of the settings. Simply make adjustments to mimic the sample as close as possible. Once the calibration wizard is complete, make sure to choose the “current calibration,” or return to the previous calibration if you are unsatisfied with the results.
In MacOS, the Display Calibrator Assistant is located in the system preferences under the Displays tab. If you are having trouble finding it, try entering “calibrate” in Spotlight to scan through your computer’s various folders and files. The result should show an option to open the utility in the System Preferences panel.
Your Mac’s step-by-step instructions will walk you through the calibration process once you’ve found and opened the software utility. Just follow the on-screen instructions to choose your display’s brightness, contrast, native gamma, target gamma, and target white point. Click Continue and save the calibration profile once you’ve finished with the adjustments.
CALIBRATE USING ONLINE UTILITIES
There are a handful of web-based calibration tools that help you manually adjust your monitor settings, ones that essentially ditch the automation in favor of a bit more customization and control.
- Display Calibration — Display Calibration will let you view several test patterns and samples of what a properly calibrated screen will look like. Although the site isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing and it’s rarely updated, the on-screen calibration tools for brightness, contrast, color depth, and screen resolution can prove useful if you can’t access any built-in calibration tools.
- Photo Friday — Photo Friday is a simple webpage that’s designed to help you calibrate the brightness and contrast of your screen. Just adjust the monitor settings until the transition of tones from black to white are clearly distinguishable on the screen.
- Online Monitor Test — Online Monitor Test is one of the better calibration websites out there. It’s lined with a slew of interactive tests to help you adjust your monitor’s screen colors and to see if your monitor can produce smooth gradients. There are also tools for pinpointing damaged pixels and back-light bleeding, rendering the website one of the more robust web-based calibration tools to date.
- The Logam LCD Monitor Test Pages — The Logam LCD Monitor Test Pages are handy, both online and offline. The website not only allows you to adjust various things such contrast and response time, but it also allows you to download the images as a 120KB zip file, so you can check any monitor in-store that your are thinking about purchasing.
CALIBRATE USING COLORIMETER HARDWARE
The built-in calibration utilities and web-based software are great for a quick fix, but they are inherently flawed because of one thing — you. These calibration processes rely on an individual’s perception of color, and are therefore open to subjectivity based on how you see different colors.
Purchasing a calibrating device is one way to bypass this dilemma and better ensure your monitor is calibrated to its true potential. You will need to invest some serious money if you’re looking for greater precision and control, but there are still some affordable alternatives that work well on a tight budget and will help obtain color consistency across all your monitors.
If you’re looking to pick up a calibration tool, we recommend using theSpyder5Express ($130), the Spyder5Pro ($180), or the Spyder5Elite ($280). All three devices feature a full-spectrum, seven-color sensor to help accurately characterize a variety of wide gamut and normal displays, but the more expensive versions are better equipped for the seasoned calibrator and are packed with more features. If you do decide to purchase one, all you have to do is attach the device to the screen, connect it to a USB port, and run the included calibration software. The automated software will walk you through the rest of the process.
X-Rite’s ColorMunki series ($100+) is also a good alternative. Like the Spyder series, all three devices come bundled with automated calibration software, with the more expensive versions touting more features and greater customization.
The bottom line
Calibrating your monitor is a simple task, and one that benefits you on many fronts. Aside from more accurate looking images and less strain on your eyes, calibrating your monitor will also help ensure your prints match your display. There’s no reason you have to stick with the settings your monitor came with.