How to Calibrate Your Monitor

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In order to see images the way they were intended to be seen, your monitor might need to be calibrated. If you are a web designer, digital photographer, or graphic professional, this is especially important. You do not want to spend hours choosing the perfect subtle color scheme only to see a mis-matched mess on someone elses monitor or coming out of a printer. Here is how to calibrate your monitor so that what you see is what you get.

Steps

  1. Check the screen resolution. Choose the highest resolution available unless the text is too small. If you are using an LCD monitor, check the manual or box for the "native" resolution. Set your computer to this resolution.
  2. Verify that your computer monitor is in high color or 24-bit mode. In Windows, check this by right clicking on your desktop and choosing Graphic Properties. On Mac, go to Preferences, then click on Displays and then choose Colors:Millions. If your display is in 16-bit color, there will not be enough color depth for the calibration process.
  3. Let your monitor warm up for at least 15 (preferably 30) minutes before beginning the calibration.
  4. Make sure that no reflections, glare or strong, direct light reaches your screen. The room does not have to be dark, but ambient light shouldnt interfere with how you see whats on the screen.
  5. Print a test photo on a professional quality printer. Choose a daylight photo with a person who has natural skin tone and print it using the highest quality settings and top-quality glossy photo paper. Let it dry away from direct sunlight for a few hours so that the colors can set permanently.
  6. Adjust your contrast and brightness controls. They are located either on the front of your monitor or in an on screen menu. Find a calibration test screen online by conducting a search. A free basic calibration tool can be found here.
  7. Open the image file that you just printed.
  8. Place the printed photo right next to the original image on the screen and compare.
  9. Adjust the brightness, contrast, and color levels (red, green, blue) on your monitor until the image on the screen resembles the printed photo as closely as possible. This takes time and a good eye for color. Continue to the next step if youd like to use software to calibrate your monitor.
  10. Use basic software such as Adobe Gamma (if you have Adobe Photoshop 7 or below installed), QuickGamma (which is free), Apple ColorSync, or Monica for Linux to calibrate your monitor. To access Adobe Gamma, click "Start," "Settings" and "Control Panel." For all the software, follow the step by step instructions to perform the calibration. These will provide a basic calibration for, say, casual Photoshop users who do not print a lot of photographs.
  11. Purchase specialized software used in conjunction with a colorimeter (a device that reads the actual color values produced by your monitor) if color accuracy is vital to your profession. Some calibration systems worth looking into are ColorVision Spyder 3 Pro, the ColorVision Color Plus (great for home systems), Monaco Systems MonacoOPTIX, and Gretag Macbeth Eye-One Display.
  12. Calibrate your monitor every 2 to 4 weeks for optimum visual accuracy.

Tips

  • Have a professional calibrate your computer screen if you are uncomfortable doing it yourself or if you can not achieve your desired results. A recommended calibration service can be found online.
  • You can also try the auto-calibrate button , if it is programmed into your monitor.

Warnings

  • If you have more than one calibrating program on your computer, make sure that only one is running at a time or else there could be conflicts.
  • Only use test prints made on true photographic paper from a commercial photo lab for monitor calibration. It is foolish to spend time calibrating you monitor when it is your printer that needs the adjustment. More often it is the printer that needs to be calibrated not the monitor. Do not trust the prints that you make yourself on your own printer. Each brand of printer will give different color results. So will different brands of printing paper in the same printer.

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