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Monitor calibration ideas or thoughts

CanonJayCanonJay Member
edited October 2011 in post-processing
I really need some help on calibration of monitors & laptops. Ive gotten to the point where color management has become necessary and I must learn the basics here. Before I go and spend money on calibration kits and software. As a somewhat dumb question, what exactly will the difference be? Does the screens get darker or brighter to compensate for brightness? I do realize that it will get any color shifts in your screen to the proper settings. The reason I ask this is I would like to get my screens to match my prints I get back from the lab. What you see is what you get. For the most part, my screen is brighter and the picture comes back darker. Is there a poor mans way of getting fairly close colors and brightness? I don't print in house, but I would like to get it in the ballpark. I have multiple windows machines and one new mac book pro. I have been to those sites that you look at fancy charts with shades of gray, black & white, but I don't know if I can trust my eyes. Any ideas or suggestions? Thanks to anybody who can better explain what to do.

PS....Are you able to calibrate all screens? For example, I have a cheaper screen on one of my computers, one glossy screen on the mac, one good u series dell screen, and a 17" dell laptop. It's so darn confusing :( Thanks again.


  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited October 2011

    To get a good result for your images, any serious photographer uses a good monitor and calibrates it regularly [every 400 hours I have my monitor set to alert me] for consistent results. As to can you calibrate all screens, in theory yes you can calibrate all screens, but varying results will occur. Some screens just still won't render properly.

    Many people don't realise how badly their monitor is off until it's been calibrated properly and are often disappointed when they view their print images as opposed to what they saw on their screens, which in more than likely good odds, were very bright, contrasty, rich saturated colors and wonder what the hell went on.

    Prints cannot match a backlit monitor and therefore a good monitor that's been calibrated properly, has a flatter, less contrasty look than before so you match what a print can achieve. White points being used for the white paper tones of print paper and Black points used for the shadow range of a print. Obviously then the full color gamut is utilised to achieve maximum results.

    A very good monitor also has built-in hardware, whereby the color profiling device, uses the monitor software to view the LUTs [Look-Up Tables] of the monitor giving by far the best results. But, there is a price to pay. You would be looking at from $1500+ to $5000 for those, and one of the best at the moment value for money is the NEC PA Monitors from around $1000 + & $200+ for a color profiling device.

    I bought the Eizo, a superb monitor but that was before the release of the new NEC PA monitors.

    I could go on, but your request was for a 'poor man's device' and I have couple of links for you. Australian site, but this guy gives seminars in color profiling and is considered a guru.

    In this link, you will see options on each type of profiling, Hardware, Software, or simply using the PC itself to try to give good results.


    Here is general outline of buying guides:


    Now, one of the key things to do first, is to display an image on your computer which is a profile test, [I have attached an image for you below, in the 'Attachments'] but, more importantly, get that image actually printed out at least with 2 different labs.

    Image attached below is a 12x18 print at 300 dpi and incorporates 3 different profiles to get a good result. PC click on name, "12x18 test-001.jpg" choose 'Download'/Desktop; on Mac, click on name, should auto download to where your downloads are set to.

    I guarantee you will get 2 different results, the idea being to use the print which gives pleasing skin tones, displays the highlight/shadow wedges properly with no color casts. This would be the lab you then use. Also then compare the print to what you see on the monitor, you may be in for a shock as to the difference, or if lucky a pleasant surprise. Remember, the human eye can 'correct' things they see and you need to look at the monitor and print briefly, don't stare as the longer you look, the more 'correct' the image may appear on the screen.

    Buy a color profiling kit, I currently use the X-Rite i1 Display, but there is a new and much greater version of that, the X-Rite i1 Display Pro. There are others, Spider, ColorMunkie.

    Here: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=X-Rite+i1Display+Pro.&N=0&InitialSearch=yes

    One thing you can test straight away is this image, in the first link I gave you, if you can see the clear differences in the white/black step wedges then at least you have the monitor density pretty good. If not, needs calibrating.


    One more hint. I have my desktop background set to a neutral gray, RGB 128 128 128, no gaudy colours, photos, etc., even though you may not be looking at your desktop consistently during editing, your eyes/brain will not retain any bright colorful things thereby influencing your perception of what you see.

  • I have an Nec 2490wuxi and use the Spyder 3 Pro. Everything looks great on that chart.
  • Thanks Trev! Looking at the chart, I see every color step except the two black on each line looks the same. Does that mean my monitor is too bright? PS I am looking at it on an uncalibrated Dell SR2320L.

    PS...I am looking at getting the X rite passport along with the color munki. Is the color munki good for led glossy screens? Which I have and will be probably getting the 27" I mac sometime soon. I heard mixed results for glossy screens.

  • TrevTrev Moderator

    The biggest concern with glossy screens is the glare you get off it, any colours reflected onto it influences your viewing of how you think colours should be. However, I know many people will swear by them saying they have no problems, I personally would not have a glossy, but you need to get that calibration image printed, and check it against your screen, you are the judge and jury on that as it's a personal thing.

    Regarding the Color Munki, I have no knowledge of them, I've ever only used the X-rite i1 Display 2 for around 3 years.

  • Thanks again Trev. I'm excited, I just purchased an i1 display pro and a color passport checker and I can't wait to see the difference. Do you have any helpful hints or suggestions for using the display pro? It is being delivered today and I will get right down to business. Hopefully not too much of a leaning curve ahead:)

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited November 2011

    The i1 Display 2 is the hardware device I use, the actual software that comes with the i1 Display I do *not* use, because I have an Eizo, I use the ColorNavigator 6.0 software, for Eizo screens, which accesses the hardware settings in the actual monitor itself, not dependant upon the software from the PC.

    By chance before I saw your last post, I had only finished calibrating personally, and although it would be different looking as per software, the end result is what you are after. [Or similar]

    My 'target' and result are so darn close it's almost perfect.

    Here ya go, some vids to watch using the i1 Display Pro. A whole truckload of info on it and how to use, presumably, I have not bothered to watch any of them.




    EDIT: Did you get that 12x18 sample image printed out to compare with what you are seeing on your screen yet?
  • Hi Trev!

    Just got my goodies in! Thanks for the info again. It is much appreciated. I did not get the 12 x 18 printed out yet but I will. Completely forgot that one :( Since I have four different computers to calibrate, do I incorporate the labs Icc profile somewhere along the way? Not sure on that one, but I will watch the tuturials and learn as I go through. I will try to follow your target numbers above also. Thanks!

  • TrevTrev Moderator

    No, don't try to use the lab's ICC, that's a common fallacy, since you would then be tied to their set calibration. You are profiling your monitor, yes I do use other profiles, on the very rare occasion I may get a certain type of paper to print on at a certain lab, then I quickly go to the profile I need, eg: Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 308 GSM BW paper.

    "Colour is not whatever happens to come back from some lab on a particular day. What you need is some sort of objective standard for colour, and then to calibrate all your devices to that standard, so they all produce the same colour. To achieve that with any level of accuracy, which is essential to getting good results from digital images, you really need to use a hardware based calibration approach if applicable to your particular monitor."

    RE SETTINGS: Those settings of mine may not be what you require Jay, they suit *me* for my particular monitor. Most monitors operate on 140-200 cd/m2, by default from memory my Eizo was 120, but I put it back to 90cd/m2 brightness level so you are not getting those great looking vibrant colors which are impossible to match in print. But, they would be a good starting point. You need to read and look for specifics on settings from the i1 Display site, some tutorial.

    Also, when you get the monitor calibrated, and the print done, you don't merely hold it up beside the screen, that's a false way, your eyes soon adjust and you think are are seeing the same.
    Hold the print away, in good light, then look at the monitor, then print, back to monitor so your eye is not adjusting without thinking, it's only a reference to how good an output print is. Not the 'definitive' be all, end all.

  • Trev

    Gotcha! I just finished profiling a new Dell laptop. What a difference. Very dull and hazy looking, for lack of a better term after calibration. I hope I did it right. I chose the recommended luminence etc...with the ambient light correction. Is there a way to tell if what was done is correct? Thanks again Trev

  • TrevTrev Moderator

    I cannot vouch for how a Dell laptop would look like at all, sorry, you should open up that 12x18 print on it [in photoshop] and see how it looks to you.

    Your screen will look flatter, but as I explained, so many people get prints done and wonder why the prints don't look as bright and colorful as it was on the original screen.

    Just viewing that test print should be an indicator for starters.

    What's you main workstation screen? That will be the important one to worry about.

  • Trev,

    Its a good 24" u series dell lcd. Not too shabby for a couple of years old. However, I have been hearing about the new Dell ultra sharp screens for photography. Thinking about picking one up to give a try. The price is right, but probably not as accurate and customizable as yours. But you would know better than I.


  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited November 2011

    As it's a personal choice, you would have to be the ultimate decision maker, regarding Dell screens, I cannot say aye or nay, never owned one personally.

    I would not expect to pay anything less than $800+ for a quality monitor for color critical work.

    You would not need the very top end monitor of course, since your work is photography and not commercial CMYK print needs with the wider color space.

    Jay, if you want some facts regarding color critical monitors, please read this before buying anything. At least the 'Introduction' anyway.

    Monitors for High Quality Color Editing

    Here is a good buy: NEC PA 24" Monitor for High Quality Color Editing

    Note: The advertised price is $999, but when added to cart it's $829.95, that's because the RRP Price to display is set by manufacturer, but B&H sells it less.

    This all depends on how serious you want to be Jay.

    If you are earning money with images, then yes, you need a good monitor, if not, well whatever the budget allows.


    EDIT: Jay, here is another site recommending only monitors these guys have rigorously tested for color critical work.

    [You probably will need to Register, free.

    Recommended Monitors for High Quality Color Editing

    You may have heard of them, Will Crockett at 'ShootSmarter.com'
    Some great articles in there also.
  • Hi Trev!

    Calibrated my monitors and all went well I think. I will invest in a real good screen in the spring, but for now I have to make due. Holidays are coming! My eyes have adjusted to the new calibration and I have processed a couple of pics to see how it compares. I am pretty confident that it will be better. I also have to open and try the x rite color passport. I'm excited to try that for my next portrait. I'll keep ya posted. Thanks again for all your help Trev. I hope I can give you a holler if I get stumped again. Thanks!

  • is ur lab color correcting? does that matter?
  • Naftoli,

    Yes my lab has the option of color correcting, but I suspect that once I get my test prints back from my recent calibration. If they are correct, I will send all my prints from now on without color correction, because I did it myself. Before I calibrated, I sent everything to the lab for color correction and density.

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited November 2011

    2 things:

    1] **Tell the lab NO corrections, NONE at all, insist on it. Just to print as is.

    2] Avoid putting your images through those stupid yellow-orange self-kiosk things, even though you may not adjust anything, there is a hidden code in the machines, to 'auto-correct at least density'. At least here in Australia. :(

    Ask them if they can direct output from a computer, straight to the printer, no 1/3rd party app in between. Preferably better if the printer has a RIP, for direct printing.

    I learnt the hard way around 3 years ago when I got my new monitor, got some prints done, looked good, not perfect. So I sent in a test calibration target, looked ok, still something not right.

    They insisted they did no corrections.

    Then, something clicked, I asked how they did it, said they simply loaded my disc into their Kodak kiosk and 'self-ordered' it. [I normally drop off discs to them to print].

    So, I bought in 3 different 'school class' photos to print, on a set patterned background with wording in black and some grey borders. But, I had 3 different classes, and deliberately under-exposed 1; correct exposure on another, over-exposed on last, got them to run it through.

    3 vastly different results. 3 different backgrounds and wording, 3 actual class photos pretty much spot on, machine obviously self-correcting.

    They then ran the prints direct from their own computer to printer, similar results, 3 different prints. Once again they insisted they did not touch, in fact, re-did the prints in front of me, so a phone call to the Agfa Rep [it was an Agfa printer, full chemistry, not inkjet] and after some fiddling, deep in the machine, there it was, the bloody 'auto density' correct option turned on.

    From then on, whenever I bought prints in, they went into the menu, turned off the auto correct to print my prints. The self-Kiosks apparently no option to undo that.
    As for the Agfa printer, manufacturer's set to auto-density correct by 'default for dummies' was the Agfa Rep's explanation. WTF!

    I now send my stuff uploaded to a full pro lab. [800 kms away, turn-around as long as order is in before 10.00 am one day, is 2 days later]

    This lab does not cater to the general public and prints must be 'as is' or surcharge applies. As it should be. :)
    Only using local lab for 'quickies' as in sample for clients, tests, etc.


    EDIT/PS: Have you opened up that test print upload [in post above] in Photoshop, see what it looks like but send to at least 2 labs to get printed, then compare the prints to what you see on monitor, choosing the best lab result to continue to use when you get consistent results. Also talk to them, ask how calibration is done, how often, etc. Should be *every* day in morning, or twice a day like my pro lab does regardless.

    I sent my test image to 3 different pro labs, since I knew I would not use the local ones anymore, so no difference to me where they were located. Actually I sent same image to same 3 labs, not once, but twice, 1 full week apart, to see how consistent they were. All three, as should be, were spot on, so no problem choosing.

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited November 2011

    I know I have spoken about the human eye can be deceived very quickly into seeing something 'correct' that is completely wrong, especially when it comes to color on your screen, with lots of people swearing their monitor is 'perfect' when it's not.

    Well, here is proof.

    The 2 little squares in the big squares; left hand one is lighter in shade, right?
    Nope! Both same color precisely.


    Next image: The lines leading into the 2 squares, surely they are different in shade?
    No, still the same shade values.


    This image. Squares A/B certainly very different. Look how 'white' 'B' is compared to 'A'. on left image.
    Nope again. Same values. See the precise grey bar running through them on right side.


    Proof: Click on each of the image links below to download, load them into photoshop, select eyedropper [letter i] make sure your 'Info' palette is open [Window/select Info], hover/click over/on each square, then you can see the exact same values for each square, in Info palette, or when clicked, your Foreground/Background swatches change, click on the foreground swatch, your 'Color Picker - (Foreground Color) palette will open, look at the RGB values in there.


  • Hi Trev
    Here is my question about Monitor Calibration.
    If Im working in ether working in RGB Print or for CMYK output.
    Should I calibrate differently.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited November 2011

    No need, a calibration is a calibration be it RGB/CMYK. EDIT: I should say that you can have different calibrations set up for different papers like warm BW, etc. but generally not necessary. I personally have 2 targets set up for mine, which all I have to do is simply open up the calibration software, 1 click with mouse, and screen will respond to that setting chosen. I have it around the warmer BW paper I sometimes get enlargements in BW done on, so I need to see what the print will look for that particular paper, but 99% of the time I am on my designated profile set-up as in image posted above.

    If you do a View/Proof Setup/Working CMYK to choose the 'proofing view' of the color space you want to see how image will print in CMYK; then simply do a Ctrl/Y, [to view the CMYK proofing look] you will notice your image name will add a '/CMYK' at the end of the filename.

    You may/may not notice a difference in color on your monitor, if it's calibrated properly the difference should be very discernible or better yet, none at all.

    Also, when in the Proof Setup view CMYK mode, that is NOT changing your image to CMYK, it's merely how the image will look if printed in CMYK.

    Then, do a View/Gamut Warning [Ctrl/Shift/Y] that will then tell you what colors are out of Gamut [won't print correctly in 4 color printing] when in viewing the proof setup CMYK.

    Ctr/Shift/Y will undo that, and Ctrl/Y will undo the proof setup.

    Remember, this is merely viewing how the image will 'display' when in CMYK, not the same as actually converting to CMYK. Great way to see what will work/not work.

    This of course is only needed when you are actually needing to work/print in CMYK, or if printing to a certain printer profile for a set paper type, whereby you have that's color printer's profile loaded.

    Image here shows a very tiny gray area in the lip line [circled/arrowed] showing the really dark shade of red that's in there would not print as shown on the screen in RGB. This does not mean it's no good, just means that tiny area of red will look a little bit different, no problem at all. If you see lots of gray spots [gray being the 'color gamut warning color' then your image is in trouble.


  • As always Trev, informative .
    How do you know what are the best setting? On my monitor my Calibration settings are

    WB D65
    White Chromaticity X 0.3128 & Y 0.3292 (I don't know what this controls )
    Luminance White 90 cd/m2 Black 30 cd/m2
    Absolute Contrast Ratio 300:1
    Luminance Response Curve ( Gamma ) 2.20

    I mostly out put to RC paper at a Lab or an Inkjet Printer.

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited November 2011

    I hope that Black of 30cd/m2 is a typo.... should be .3 ? Unless your calibration software defines it differently?

    Here is a good explanation, copied from the description of "how to calibrate" when I first got my new monitor, but applies in general, not just for specifically for my Eizo.

    Not just a random 'I think I will do it this way', it is a scientific specific way, especially when deciding on the black point. Remember, there are 255 levels of brightness; 0 Pure Black to 255 Pure White, so defining brightness and black point controls our screen's contrast ratio.

    Now we define the whitepoint we are calibrating to, in terms both brightness and colour. 6500K is the general standard for whitepoint in the photographic industry, so use that for this target, but note you can do sophisticated things like using an alternate whitepoint (say 5500K if you for example always use warmer papers), or you can even input a whitepoint that has been measured from a specific paper using a spectrophotometer. I actually use 6000K generally as it is a decent mid point between warmer OB free papers and typical commercial papers. But I also have several targets in my list, so I can easily flick between setups for different papers.

    For brightness, I have here chosen 90 cd/m2. This value is dependent on the brightness of the room you typically work in, but I have found over the years that 90cd/m2 is a good starting point and that typically recommended brightness values for LCD such as 120 or 140, are simply TOO bright for simulating paper.

    Now, we set the brightness of the black point of the monitor. This is how we control contrast. In the above screenshot, I have chosen a blackpoint of 0.4 cd/m2. This is because 90 cd/m2 (our whitepoint) divided by 0.4 gives 225 - that is, our whitepoint will be 225 times brighter than our blackpoint, or put another way, we are setting the contrast ratio of the monitor to 225:1.

    We do this because the contrast of prints on paper ranges from about 160:1 to 225:1 at the absolute most. If we leave our monitor at its default contrast (my CG241W has a native ratio of 800:1), this makes soft proofing much more difficult. So we set the contrast of the monitor to be much closer to the contrast of paper.

    Now, we define gamma. 2.2 is the generally accepted norm, as this modifies the tonal curve of your screen to be close to that of paper. Unless you have a very good reason, you should choose 2.2 here just as we have. You might also want to experiment with a new approach to this, known as L* calibration - but personally I find 2.2 to be more accurate to the tonal response of paper.

    Hope this explains it better than I can.

    Here is my latest, done yesterday, to try to match my 'target' I am trying to achieve.



    EDIT: I should mention, the whole point of monitor calibration, is not just for color per se; it's also vitally necessary to obtain your white/black point results of monitor ratio so it can simulate photo paper. That puts you in the ball park of obtaining good prints.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited January 2012
    Hi Natalia,

    I am using the Eye-One Display [first one] don't have the Pro, and do not have any light on my actual device itself. You will need to look that up, sorry.

    REC709? [edited] sorry, asked what monitor, and see you have the CG232W

    No, you don't pick sRGB, thats a profile for images, not to do with monitor calibration, you are merely defining White/Black points, brightness, contrast, and profiling the color patches in RGB/Greys/White/Black, etc.

    Since you are new, and maybe wondering what to pick, I shall post some images in here, from start to finish using ColorNavigator 6.

    Step 1: Open ColorNavigator 6 Click 'Create a new target...' just below the Target window.

    Step 2: Check Enter Manually, Click Next.

    Step 3: Monitor Gamut. Choose Monitor Native. Click Next

    Step 4: Choosing Brightness/White Point. Set Brightness 90; White Point D65. Leave the x-y settings. Click Next

    Step 5: Brightness Black Point: Check the 'Set the target black level', then slide to 0.4 cd/m2 [yellow arrows]. Click Next

    Step 6: Set tone curve of monitor: Defaults should be like image. 2.20/Standard with 'All RGB' box checked. Click Next.

    Step 7: Target Name.... now it should read to what you are trying to set it to, but I also put the date in [yellow square] so I know when I did it. 27012 [27th Jan 2012]. Click Finish.

    Step 8: Select Measuring Device, should be the only one showing, Eye-One Pro? Display. Leave it in it's little opaque clip on holder lying flat on desk near the monitor to read ambient light. Click Initialize.

    Step 9: You will see this window come up. Read instructions, make sure the Eye-One display hangs over from the back of your monitor and it covers neatly the blue outline, that should appear in center of your screen. Click Proceed.

    Step 10: Screen will go black and this should appear in bottom right hand corner. Do not touch anything until it's finished, usually around 3-5 mins. All sorts of things happen with different color squares coming up beneath the Eye-One and this tells you what's happening.

    Step 11: It will finish, and it gives the Target Set values, and your Result. If you get it as close to mine you are laughing. It will never achieve perfect 100% result, no need to. Click Finish.

    Step 12: When you click Finish, it goes back to your initial Target screen and general information. At any time you want to see what values you are using, just click 'Detail...' and the above results screen will appear.

    When calibrating the first time, and results are more off than you see on mine, it's suggested you are better to re-calibrate maybe 2-3 more times straight after each other, as it will get better each time, but there is no need to go through all of the above steps.

    Just click 'Adjust... on the right side of this shot, [as long as the Target is highlighted like you see on my image in the Target window] it will then simply adjust your monitor as normal, just follow prompts from Step 8.

    Preferences: See the preferences button bottom left, click to set.
    Set to show warning if monitor needs calibration after set hours, I have mine set to 300 hours. Also, the little blue LED light on the front of the monitor will flash at you warning it's due.

    Obviously if you desire different target values, go for it. eg: if you are doing printing yourself on photographic paper, you may need a certain profile for that paper.

    Once you have Target Values in your system, just pick the one you want, screen will adjust automatically, or if it's time to re-calibrate after set hours, making sure the target you want it selected, simply have it selected, click 'Adjust' [from Step 8]

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    You are welcome.

    As a coincidence, your post just now was 305 hours since I did mine as it's been flashing at me warning I am overdue. :)

    Oh, there is also a new update out


  • ShulimShulim Member
    edited October 2013

    Is this a good screen and price? Trev
    $800 for MultiSync PA271W-BK, 27"
  • TrevTrev Moderator

    ABSOLUTELY!!! I answered your other discussion also, but that price these days for that screen is pure excellence.
  • Thanks Trev! You came thru in my time of need!
  • Here's my calibration result! Ran it 3 times.

    cal.JPG 76.9K
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Very nice result Shulim.

    So, notice any difference to the monitor now, although straight out of the box they are supposed to be pretty good anyway, but you should see a nice even screen.

    oh, here's a tip. I never have bright gaudy colors/images as my desktop background.

    I change the color on my desktop to a neutral gray. Get into the background desktop section, choose Custom, then in the RGB section put in 128 128 128 for all 3 channels, that will give you a neutral color.

    This lessens any influencing colors coming into the equation with you viewing, but also, you can check the quality of the screen, it should look a nice flat even gray left to right; top to bottom, with no hotspots in middle.

    Do the same with Photoshop background. Edit that in PS preferences.

    Choose custom from drop down menus like this. I do leave the last one Black as you can view a totally blank screen, black background and just image on it.

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