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If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never adjusted anything besides the brightness on your computer display. If that’s true you’re missing out on a better picture. When you calibrate a computer monitor you make it look as good as possible in the room you’re using it.
In this guide, I’m going to go over the basics you need to know in order to make your screen’s picture pop like never before. It’s not hard at all and your eyes will thank you.
Here are the main points I’ll be touching on:
- What is monitor calibration?
- Why calibrate your monitor?
- Calibrate a Computer Monitor Step-by-step
What is Monitor Calibration
Your computer monitor can show different color temperatures, brightness- and contrast- levels. In combination with the light levels in the room you’re using these settings affect how good the picture looks. If the monitor is not set up correctly you won’t see true colors or blacks.
When you calibrate a computer monitor, you systematically tune these settings until they reach their optimal levels. By doing this you can make sure you get the best picture your monitor is capable of producing.
Every monitor ships with the same factory presets, but of course there is no way the manufacturer can set one preset that will work for everyone.
Why Calibrate Your Monitor?
What’s the big deal? So maybe the monitor is a little bright or a little washed out. Is that really such a bad thing? Should you really go through all the trouble of calibration?
There are a couple of reasons you’d want to calibrate your monitor:
- To prevent eyestrain.
- Help improve the accuracy of video and photo editing.
- Make movies and games look the way they were meant to.
- To get the picture you paid for.
Calibrate A Computer Monitor Step-By-Step
Doing a home calibration is easy and only takes a few minutes. If you only want to do a quick calibration you can get away with only using software. There’s even calibration software built into most new operating systems.
Let’s take this one step at a time and get that picture into shape.
Step 1: Start Your Engines
Your monitor needs to be on for at least 30 minutes to make sure it’s reached a stable operating temperature. You also don’t want the room temperature to fluctuate too much. So if you’ve switched on the aircon let that settle in too.
The lighting in the room should be typical of how it would be normally when using your computer. There’s shouldn’t be any light shining on the screen directly. Glare on the screen is not going to help you set it up right.
Step 2: Prep The Screen
Next you should reset your screen to factory defaults. Maybe you’ve messed with the brightness or contrast at one point. Who remembers, right?
So it’s safer just to set them all back to default. Since you are also probably using an LCD flatscreen, you should make sure that it’s set to its native resolution.
While your looking at the manual and have the reset button handy, you should also make sure you know how to work the menus and controls of your screen.
Step 3: Use the Tools
If you’re on Windows 10 you’re in luck! Just open the start menu and search for “Calibrate display color”. The calibration wizard will run you through the whole process from start to finish.
If you’re a MacOS person you can use the Display Calibrator Assistant in much the same way.
If the stock utilities aren’t doing it for you, there’s a good chance your graphics card came with calibration software too. When you go into the Nvidia or AMD settings you’ll find a tab or menu for color calibration too.
It’s a little more advanced than the stuff that ships with Windows or MacOS, but you also get more polish and control.
You can also turn to the web if for some reason you can’t load software on the system. Some work computers may blog programs which aren’t approved, for example.
Display Calibration, Online Monitor Test and the Logam LCD Test page can all help too. Logam is especially cool, since you can print sheets out and test the performance of monitors in stores before you buy them.
The Advanced Class
These sorts of self-contained calibrations are a good way to please your own eyes, but everyone has a slightly different way of seeing color. Using only your eyes to calibrate color is always going to be a little off as a result.
So what if you are super serious about color accuracy. What if you make it big as a graphics designer or film editor and your colors have to be 100% correct?
If that’s the case, you can’t just eyeball it. You need a special (and pricey) piece of hardware called a colorimeter.
Although colorimeters cost between a hundred bucks and triple that amount, using them isn’t hard. You just plug them into a free USB port and follow the instruction when you run the software.
There’s also a limit to how accurate your monitor can be. Some monitor technologies (such as IPS LCDs) are just better than the more common TN-type panels that most LCDs use. In that case, no amount of calibration will get you professional results.
Give It A Spin
Now that you know how to calibrate a monitor, you should enjoy the fruits of your hard work. Load up a movie or a game and see if you can tell a difference.
The blacks should not be darker than before. If the brightness and contrast have been corrected you’ll now see much more detail in the images than ever before.
Neglecting to a calibrate a computer monitor correctly is probably one of the most common issues I see among my friends and colleagues. Don’t keep the art of color calibration to yourself, let other people that they are missing out.
Did you see a difference after calibrating your screen? Let me know in the comments if you managed to successfully calibrate a computer monitor.
Lead Image Is Public Domain
Colorimeter By Z22 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
All Screenshots bt Kees Friesland