Why Calibrate Your Monitor?
Why Do I Need To Calibrate My Monitor?
If you primarily use your computer to surf the web, or for word processing, spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, playing video games, or even streaming TV shows and movies, then calibrating your monitor is probably not a high priority. In fact, it may make little to no difference at all.
On the other hand, if you are engaged in the production of printed graphics products and desktop publishing, or are an advanced amateur or professional photographer routinely correcting RAW and jpeg images, then calibrating your monitor should be a top priority.
Like any other skill, digital photography requires the use and mastery of certain tools. Sure, it starts with your digital camera, but so much of the “magic” happens after you download the images to your computer.
Learning how to calibrate your monitor is probably the single most important component of your professional color correction workflow. If calibration is not done correctly, your monitor will only frustrate you and result in costly mistakes and wasted time.
Of course, you can process, adjust, modify and crop the image in Lightroom or PhotoShop, without a properly calibrated monitor. But, then that is a lot like trying to bake a cake without having measuring cups, a timer, or a temperature setting on your oven. There is just no reliable way to know what you will get in the end!
What if My Monitor Comes Pre-Calibrated?
You can not assume that your shiny brand new monitor is perfectly calibrated for your workflow. Even the very best models will still need to be calibrated to properly display images in the environment in which they will be used.
What Difference Does That Make?
The color quality and amount of light present within the location of your workstation will determine the optimum brightness setting of the display. In fact, the entire calibration process depends on this critical first assessment and adjustment.
OK, How Do I Calibrate my Monitor?
Although you can achieve a close “general purpose” calibration with the file (at the bottom of this article) and a hardcopy print we can provide for you, the best way to calibrate your monitor is by using a sensor and software profiling kit.
Affordable monitor profiling kits, such as the Datacolor “SPYDER” (or similar unit) will save you many times their initial cost in lost time, money, and frustration.
Datacolor Spyder X Pro
Can I Calibrate My Laptop Computer Display?
While a few high-end laptop models like the Macbook Pro may work fine, most portable displays can be problematic due to their lack of screen adjustment controls which are often required during setup.
Because of their portable nature, laptop, and tablet screens will generally display different brightness levels, depending on an environment’s ambient brightness and whether battery or AC power is in use.
Disable the “auto-brightness-adjustment” in the device control panel. Make sure to ONLY use the device for correction when it is AC-powered.
Alternatively, the use of an external monitor will provide the most reliable results.
This YouTube tutorial from Datacolor demonstrates how to calibrate your monitor with the Spyder Pro:
We recommend that you visually confirm the accuracy of your calibrated monitor to a sample print made on one of our devices.
Download the “Calibration Target File” (below), and we can supply you with a “Calibration Target Print” which will enable you to calibrate your monitor so that you may reliably “soft-proof” your own images.
How to Calibrate Your Monitor with the Target Setup file and Print
Can I Calibrate Without a Probe and Software?
Ideally, use a commercially available calibration tool to set up your monitor. If this is unavailable you may be able to achieve a “limited” calibration by manually adjusting your screen to match the provided sample print.
The following procedure assumes you are using Adobe PhotoShop but can be adapted to other programs.
Launch Photoshop and open the “Target Print File” on your computer.
While visually comparing the screen and the reference print, “fine-tune” your monitor screen controls (contrast, red, green, and blue) to match the reference print. It is important that the print is viewed under an ambient light source that is close to a “daylight” color balance.
Once the print & monitor comparison is in close agreement, send us one of your corrected files for test printing. Once you receive the new print, compare it to the screen image and “fine-tune” the screen again as necessary. The images may not EXACTLY match, but they should closely approximate each other.
Once this evaluation has been completed and the screen and reference are in close agreement, any prints we make for you in the future should be a reasonably close match to your screen.
This monitor calibration Target Print File can be downloaded and saved to your device. First, click on the image and a new window will open, then “right-click” on the full-res image and select the “Save Image As” option in the pull-down menu.
Specify the location where you want to save the “Target Print File” and click “Save”.
Once you have this image saved on your device, open it with a program like PhotoShop. We offer a printed copy of this file, free of charge, that has been produced without any correction.
When you compare this photo with the image on your monitor, you will be able to visually determine how close the two samples match.
This will provide confirmation, one way or the other, of how well your screen is calibrated.