Monitor Calibration


Calibrating your monitor is quite important if you want to do serious photo correction on your computer. If you have wondered why your photos come too bright or dark out of the printer or from your photo service after you corrected them, you should consider calibrating your monitor. A good calibrated monitor isn't absolutely necessary for using ColorWasher if you stick to ColorWasher's default settings and don't use the its manual controls. But it is really recommended to so.

Calibrating a monitor can be a longer lasting process. Usually you think that you calibrated the monitor correctly after going through some complex procedures. But some hours or days later you might find it unsatisfactory, because you adapted to its color temperature and recognize a color cast that you didn't see before, or your eye may begin to burn, because the monitor's display is too bright. Then it is time to readjust or recalibrate the monitor or your system gamma. Don't be surprised if you need to do that more than just two times :-).


Monitor Brightness & Contrast

You should set brightness and contrast with your monitor's knobs to values that don't strain your eyes too much. Here are some recommended values which vary between individual and display device:

Monitor Values

CRT Monitor
TFT Monitor with RGB Input
TFT Monitor with DVI-Input
30 - 50%
10 - 30%
10 - 50%
10 - 75%
10 - 50%

The Monitor Brightness and Monitor Contrast also shouldn't be set too extremely, otherwise the colors might be displayed a bit washed out or too saturated. But above all they are not so important, because calibrating your system for the optimal gamma doesn't depend on the monitor's brightness and contrast. However, you still use one of the white and black patterns from the URLs below when adjusting your monitor's brightness and contrast.

Please note: If you readjust the brightness or contrast of your monitor later, you should recalibrate the system gamma.


The following URL describes how to accurately adjust the brightness and contrast on your CRT monitor. There are other calibration resources on the same site, too.

Here are some calibration patterns and instructions:


Monitor Color Temperature or RGB Values

Several monitors let you set their color temperature. Often you are offered 6500 Kelvin or 9300 Kelvin. At 9300 Kelvin your monitor already displays the colors too blueish, while at 6500 Kelvin there will be a bit too much yellow present. If you don't have an option in between or can't set a custom value, please use 6500 Kelvin.

I you have the option to set your monitor's RGB balance, then try that. Make sure that you have an image with a lot of gray or white tones displayed or simply an application with a gray colored background (but not the yellowish gray of Windows 2000 and XP!). Firstly set all R, G and B values to a similar value, e.g. 50%. If you see a certain color cast on the gray or white image, use the R,G and B knobs to remove it.

Please note: If you readjust the brightness or contrast of your monitor later, you should recalibrate the system gamma.


Calibration with a Print

A crude but some times effective method for adjusting the brightness of your monitor is to print a photo with your printer or to order a print from your preferred photo service and to use that print for adjusting the brightness setting of the monitor. Makes sure that there is a similar light as you usually have when working on the computer.



Some applications like Paint Shop Pro offer a "Monitor Gamma" option. First of all, the term is incorrect and should be called "Application Gamma" and secondly these options only display the images at the selected gamma within that application. Using such an application-dependant gamma makes no sense and leads to confusion, because when you display the same image in a different application, e.g. you browser, it might look totally different.

What you should use is a system-wide gamma adjustment. If your monitor already includes an ICC profile on an CD-ROM, you should install it. You can also manually add it under Start > Settings > Control Panel > Display > Settings > Advanced > Color Management. After doing that you may need to change the brightness setting of your monitor again as described above.

Otherwise you can also the gamma feature that the drivers of some video cards offer. If you only installed the standard Windows drivers of your video card, please install the ones from the video card's manufacturer. That might give you such a feature. However, the gamma feature should also contain interlaced patterns for adjusting the optimum gamma. Various patterns are available on the Internet if you miss one. See below. To adjust the gamma you usually have to close your eyes a bit or move away from the monitor to see the pattern(s) a bit blurred. I know it can be tiring to keep your eye lid that way or stretch yourself to still reach the mouse, but that's the price :-).

As an alternative to your video card's gamma feature you can also use an application to create a ICM profile for your monitor. A good tool for this purpose is the Adobe Gamma control panel which is installed with Adobe Photoshop. If you don't own Adobe Photoshop, you can try to download a demo version of it and install it. Adobe Gamma contains a wizard which leads you thought the calibration process and automatically activates the generated ICM profile.

Please notice: If you exchange your video card or monitor later, you should recalibrate the system gamma.


How to use Adobe Gamma:

Some gamma patterns and explanations can be found at the following address. But please ignore the comments about setting your system default system gamma to 1.8 or 2.0. That is not necessary to get a good calibrated monitor.

Here are some more gamma calibration patterns:


Special Calibration Devices

The must reliable way to calibrate your monitor is to use a hardware device that is placed on the monitor for measuring colors and brightness. This approach is especially recommended for TFT monitors as they have more problems with displaying color correctly than CRT monitors. For example the Spyder callibration device from Colorvision is already available for $150.


Colorvision Spyder:


Printer Callibration

If you use a professional photo service, you don't need to worry much about printer callibration. But if you want to print your photos with your own printer, this can be an issue. Printer drivers are usually already calibrated for the inks and papers of the printer manufacturer. If you use other inks and papers, you may need to calibrate your printer. There are some companies that sell printer profiles, so that you don't need to calibrate your printer yourself. But as these profiles are only calibrated for certain cases, you may have no luck when using them. For an accurate printer calibration you will also need a hardware device that measure the colors and brightness of a print.