Monitor Calibration
September 10, 2012

This Tutorial Series contains everything you need to make sure your monitor is displaying accurate color, including hard copies of these images for Backwards Calibration. Click each thumbnail to view individual files or view them all at once.

Is your monitor telling the truth? Use these tips adapted from Getting it Right in Print to calibrate your monitor for accurate color display.

Monitor Checklist

The easiest way to determine if your monitor is displaying accurate color is to keep a few printed images and the files they were printed from for comparison. Before we go over this technique, called Backwards Calibration, run through the following checklist:

Draw the blinds. Turn on your normal lamp. Do something to standardize your lighting. This is easily the most important and most frequently ignored component of accurate color perception.

If you’re using a CRT, make sure it’s warmed up and been on for at least 30 minutes.

Remove any distracting desktop images. Using a neutral gray background (on a scale of 256 shades, that’s 128R 128G 128B) allows you to see color most accurately.

Set your monitor to display millions of colors. Thousands of colors are okay too.

If your monitor has a white point control, try starting out with the standard daylight illuminant setting D65 (6500K).

Backwards Calibration

Your computer probably has a utility dedicated to calibrating your display color. If it makes you feel better, you can launch whatever program it is and run through those steps.  It’ll definitely get you close to where you want to be. All that squinting and gamma-schmama-stuff aside, you just want your monitor to look like the printed piece, right?

Considering your lighting situation, adjust your monitor’s brightness setting so that  an empty white window is about as bright as a piece of plain white paper.

Open an image (in Photoshop) that you’ve sent to press.

Compare it to the final printed piece.

Using whatever controls you have, to tweak the display settings until your monitor looks close enough the the printed piece. There’s always going to be a degree of compromise but really, that’s all we can hope for.

Because monitors get old and tired, repeat every 2-3 months.

In Conclusion

The color on your monitor will probably shift after a period of time. If you color is important to your job, take these easy measures to make sure you’re seeing what we’re seeing.