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Calibrate Your Monitor

I can see clearly now: why monitor calibration matters and how to do it


Datacolor Spyder4Pro

Images on screen look different from the same image in print. That can be a problem when you want to print a lovely photo of your child on a bright Spring day but it comes out looking like a scene from Suessville. You've probably noticed this mismatch when the bright red on screen prints out as bright pink or that lovely photo of an aquamarine sea looks more like green grass. That's because monitors use pixels of light (RGB) and the printed page uses ink (CMYK, typically) which is seen differently by the human eye. Calibrating your monitor provides a screen display that attempts to simulate what you would see on paper. It's WYSIWYG for color.


Calibrate: monitor (this page) | printer | scanner | digital camera

The simplest calibration methods involve adjustments to the Contrast and Brightness settings of your monitor. An intermediate method uses special software to calibrate your monitor as well as calibrate your printer, scanner, and other devices so that what you see on-screen, what you scan, and what you print all look the same — as much as is possible. For high-end use, even more precise hardware-based calibration methods exist.

For basic Web viewing and non-critical printing, the simple calibration methods described below may be sufficient. However, serious design work and accurate color-matching calls for software or hardware calibration methods. Monitor calibration is simply one part of a complete Color Management System (CMS) for desktop publishing and graphic design.

Simple Calibration Methods

Make sure your monitor is in 24-bit or high-color mode. Use your normal room lighting but avoid reflections or glare from lights or windows. Locate the Contrast and Brightness controls for your monitor. These may be buttons right on the front of the monitor or you may have to pull up an on-screen menu to make these adjustments.


If your monitor is already calibrated using software or hardware methods, don't do the following color adjustments. It could mess up your carefully achieved calibration.

Choose one or several of the options listed at the link below to calibrate your monitor. These tests involve looking at several squares of color ranging from white to black. Using the Contrast and Brightness controls on your monitor you'll adjust your monitor so that you can see various shades of gray plus bright white and black. Some of the methods also include simple adjustments for other colors.

Visual Tests
For many users, a few simple adjustments to contrast and brightness are sufficient for their color management needs. These tests and instructions offer a variety of options for calibrating a monitor without calibration tools or custom profiles. These test are useful if you are using multiple monitors and find that colors are vastly different on each.

    Software and Hardware Methods and ICC Profiles

    ICC Profiles provide a way to insure consistent color. These files are specific to each device on your system and contain information about how that device produces color which it can pass on to other devices so that the color from, say monitor to printer, is visually consistent. Tools for calibrating monitors, scanners, printers, and digital cameras use ICC profiles so that all these devices "speak the same color." With software calibration you go through a series of on-screen displays similar to, but much more detailed than those seen in the simple calibrations above. You'll make precise adjustments and create a specific ICC profile for your monitor. Most monitor manufacturers also provide pre-set ICC profiles that you can install. Or, you may get adequate results using generic ICC profiles.

    Hardware-based calibration utilizes light monitoring and measurement devices (Compare Prices) along with software to achieve the more exacting results needed for high-end work. These devices read the light in a room and adjust the monitor accordingly. Some may even automatically adjust your monitor calibration as the light changes in the room.

    ICC profiles
    Get an ICC profile for your monitor as well as your printer, scanner, digital camera or other equipment.

      Calibration Tools

      Color Management Systems include tools for calibrating monitors, scanners, printers, and digital cameras so they all "speak the same color." These tools often include a variety of generic profiles as well as the means to customize profiles for any or all of your devices.


      Color Management Systems
      Choose the calibration tools that match your pocketbook and your needs for accurate representation of color on screen and in print.

        Don't stop with your monitor. Calibrate all your color devices:


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