Calibrate Your Monitor

Why Monitor Calibration Matters and How to Do It

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Images on screen look different from the same images in print. 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.

Trial and Error

If you just want to match your monitor color to the color that comes out on your home printer, you can probably do that with adjustments to the Contrast and Brightness settings of the monitor. This is the simplest type of calibration and involves trial and error adjustments performed while looking at the printout of the color you are trying to match.  If your needs are more involved, there are other calibration possibilities—one of which is already on your computer.

Installed Calibration Method

For basic web viewing and non-critical printing, a simple calibration method may be sufficient. Both MacOS and Windows computers have calibration tools that are built in. They are quick to operate and suitable for most home and personal use. Some of the terms used—gamma, white point—may be unfamiliar to you, but the utility walks you through the steps to calibrate.

You never need to know what those terms mean. 

In Windows 10, go to the Settings app. Choose System in the main menu and then click Display in the next menu. Click Advanced Display Settings and scroll down until you find Color Calibration and click it. Follow the instructions that appear to calibrate the monitor.

If you are running an older version of Windows, use Windows Search. Enter "Color Calibration" in the search bar, and it should be the first result.

For MacOS, click Settings in the dock and choose Display. Click the Color Tab and the Calibrate button. Follow the onscreen instructions.

During the calibration, make sure your monitor is in 24-bit or high-resolution mode. Use normal room lighting but avoid reflections or glare from lights or windows. 

    Software and Hardware Methods and ICC Profiles

    Serious design work and accurate color-matching call for software or hardware calibration methods. 

    ICC Profiles provide a way to ensure 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 monitor to printer, for example, 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 installed calibration method. You make precise adjustments and create a specific ICC profile for your monitor.

    Most monitor manufacturers provide pre-set ICC profiles that you can install, or you may get adequate results using generic ICC profiles.

    Hardware-based calibration uses a light monitoring and measurement device along with software to achieve the 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.

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    Your Citation
    Bear, Jacci Howard. "Calibrate Your Monitor." ThoughtCo, Jan. 10, 2018, Bear, Jacci Howard. (2018, January 10). Calibrate Your Monitor. Retrieved from Bear, Jacci Howard. "Calibrate Your Monitor." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 23, 2018).