Monitor Calibration

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Jun 9, 2006
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Michigan, USA
Bob Wellenstein challenged me to start a thread about monitor calibration, so here it is:

I have a Macintosh. Most people that I know who are professional photographers or desktop publishers use Macs because they are truly designed for color work. That is, in fact, how and where desktop publishing got started. So when Bob asked me to share my knowledge about monitor calibration, I was a little perplexed because I know most people use PC's. Although I taught computer graphics courses on both PC's and Mac's, I really know little about calibrating PC's. I had to do a little research and found a few websites that might be of interest to both PC and Mac users.

First, though, here is a quote lifted from Adobe Photoshop Help:

To calibrate and profile your monitor
When you calibrate your monitor, you are adjusting it so it conforms to a known specification. Once your monitor is calibrated, the profiling utility lets you save a color profile. The profile describes the color behavior of the monitor—what colors can or cannot be displayed on the monitor and how the numeric color values in an image must be converted so that colors are displayed accurately.

Make sure your monitor has been turned on for at least a half hour. This gives it sufficient time to warm up and produce more consistent output.

Make sure your monitor is displaying thousands of colors or more. Ideally, make sure it is displaying millions of colors or 24-bit or higher.

Remove colorful background patterns on your monitor desktop and set your desktop to display neutral grays. Busy patterns or bright colors surrounding a document interfere with accurate color perception.

Do one of the following to calibrate and profile your monitor:
In Windows, use the Adobe Gamma utility, located in the Control Panel.
In Mac OS, use the Calibrate utility, located in the System Preferences/Displays/Color tab.

For the best results, use third-party software and measuring devices. In general, using a measuring device such as a colorimeter along with software can create more accurate profiles because an instrument can measure the colors displayed on a monitor far more accurately than the human eye.

Note: Monitor performance changes and declines over time; recalibrate and profile your monitor every month or so. If you find it difficult or impossible to calibrate your monitor to a standard, it may be too old and faded.

Most profiling software automatically assigns the new profile as the default monitor profile. For instructions on how to manually assign the monitor profile, refer to the Help system for your operating system.

And here are the websites: --based on Adobe's calibration software. Includes Apple's ColorSync Calibrator. This is a good place to start. --based on Apple's calibration software. --site which takes you through a calibration process. Apparently doesn't change the settings on your computer, but info is stored on their server. --a good site for serious photographers. Lots of terminology that most people wouldn't know, explained in text and graphically. --this chart will show you if your monitor is calibrated for tones (black to white). --explains calibration, why it's necessary, and some how-to.

Some of these sites have links to 3rd party calibration tools. Be prepared -- they are not cheap! Most people can get away with using the tool that comes with your particular operating system. (Especially if it's a Mac...)

Hope this helps!


I wish my monitor wasn't so old and faded... its hardly worth messing with at this point. Still, I'm going to give it a shot. Maybe it's time for a new monitor :)

- Matthew

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