Calibrating And Profiling Your Monitor
Calibration and Profiling:
Calibration is the process of adjusting the hardware controls on an input or output device to match a known standard.
Profiling is very similar however unlike calibration, the profiling process uses software to adjust the response of a given piece of hardware.
Recommendations for settings:
As a starting point we recommend the following settings:
Color temperature: 6500ºK or Native
Luminance: 110 to 120 cd/m^2
Note that these settings are only a recommended starting point and may not be optimal. Due to the individual differences between calibration sensors, different software packages, and monitors, you may need to use different settings in order to get an accurate match. The best settings are the settings that provide the best visual match between your screen, and a known print. If you’re a client of Gamut Prints and are having trouble getting things to match up, give us a call.
Your editing and proofing environment should ideally be controlled as to eliminate reflections off of your screen that can impart color casts and issues with contrast. We recommend light blocking shades for proofing and editing during the day. In order to prevent eye fatigue we do recommend at least a minimal amount of ambient light in the room placed in a location where it does not reflect off of your monitor. A monitor hood can also help with reducing reflections on your monitors. Some manufacturers sell custom fitted hoods however if you’re handy with a utility knife and tape you can make one yourself out of black foam core from your local art supply store.
Viewing your test print:
Have you ever put on a pair of socks thinking that they were the same color, only to realize that when viewed under a different light, that you actually have two different color socks on? This is due to a phenomenon known as metamerism. Usually this happens because the light source used did not have a smooth spectrum. Tungsten and fluorescent lighting often has peaks and dips and can subsequently cause certain colors in the visible spectrum to be perceived differently as a result. The solution to this is to use a full spectrum light source. There are many full spectrum light sources available. We recommend bulbs by SoLux, specifically the 50 watt 4700ºK black back bulb with a 36º spread. They are one of the best products we’ve seen and as a benefit, of all the suitable options out there they are also the least expensive.
Before you calibrate or profile:
Before calibrating and/or profiling your monitor make sure that your screen has had a chance to warm up. We recommend leaving your screen on for 1 hour prior to running your calibration/profiling software. If you have energy saving bulbs installed in your home or office you’ve probably noticed that when you first turn them on, they aren’t as bright as they are after they’ve had a few minutes to warm up. Most monitors use CCFL backlights which is a type of fluorescent bulb and like the energy saving bulbs, they will gradually get brighter after you first turn them on so time must be allowed for them to fully warm up before you attempt to profile your screen. This does not apply to LED backlit screens as they stabilize and are ready to go shortly after turning them on. Also be sure to warm up your colorimeter as well. You can warm up your colorimeter by simply plugging it in to the USB port at least 10 minutes prior to running your calibration/profiling software.
Evaluating your profile:
The ultimate test of your monitor and profile is whether or not your prints match your screen. Before you order some test prints however, here are some links that will help you evaluate how well your monitor can reproduce shadow details and highlights, as well as the linearity (can it reproduce a black to white gradient smoothly?) and neutrality (are there any color casts?) of your profile.
Greyscale Gradient (neutrality and smoothness)
Recommended hardware and software:
If you already have a screen we highly recommend Color Eyes Display Pro from Integrated Color. In our experience the software makes a much bigger difference than the colorimeter. Another decent package is BasICColor Display.
There is a lot of conflicting information out there regarding the accuracy and reliability of the various colorimeters on the market. Here is our experience with a few of the most popular colorimeters on the market (your mileage may vary):
XRite DTP-94 – Of the bunch this tends to be the most consistent and most accurate, especially with regards to shadow detail however when used on wide gamut displays, and displays that use white LED backlights (most laptops, all current Apple products, and most consumer grade monitors that are currently being sold) the results from the DTP-94 are inconsistent from profile to profile. We only recommend this puck for use with screens that cover the sRGB gamut.
X-Rite i1Display 2 – This was probably the most popular unit on the market. While not quite as accurate as the DTP-94 this is a good all around colorimeter however, like the DTP94, this colorimeter struggles with screens that use LED backlights, or that cover a wide gamut. If you already have an i1Display 2 we only recommend using it for standard gamut monitors that use CCFL backlights. This colorimeter does not yield accurate results with wide gamut monitors, or with monitors that use white LED backlights. If you’re in the market for a colorimeter you will still find it in the retail chain however we do not recommend buying it (even at a discount) as it’s been discontinued and replaced with the i1Display Pro which is a by far, a much better package (as one would expect after 7ish years of development).
X-Rite i1Display Pro – Leave it to X-Rite to come up with an amazing piece of hardware and give it a stupid name. To clear up the confusion we have the i1 Display 2 (mentioned above) which has been discontinued (although you’ll still see it in the retail supply chain for some time to come, don’t buy it). The i1 Display 2 is a colorimeter. There is also the Eye One Pro which is a spectrophotometer. The Eye One Pro can be used for profiling monitors but its primary role in life is to scan in charts for making printer profiles. In the summer of 2011 X-Rite release the replacement for the i1 Display 2. To avoid confusion in the market they should have called it the i1 Display 3 however, in their infinite wisdom they called it the i1 Display Pro. Do not confuse this with the Eye One Pro! The new i1Display Pro contains one of the best colorimeters ever made for under $1000 however,
we believe that the software which comes with the i1Display Pro is not quite ready for prime time. The gripes we have with it are primarily in the user interface. It can produce some very good profiles however there are a few caveats that you need to be aware of. If you’re a client of Gamut Prints and you’re considering an i1Display Pro, feel free to call us if you have any questions before making your decision. Since the original publication of this post, X-Rite has released some software revisions that sufficiently address our gripes enough as to make it our current top recommendation for non-NEC Spectraview monitors.
Data Color – Spyder 3 (discontinued) – If you have a screen with an LED backlight (such as the screens featured in the MacBook, MacBook Pro and iMacs), this puck can get the job done. It also tends to render more consistent results with wide gamut monitors. If you plan on buying Color Eyes Display Pro, any version of the Spyder 3 will work. If you would like to use Data Color’s software, the only Spyder 3 package we recommend is the Spyder 3 Elite with version 4.0 software (which generates profiles using iterative greyscale patches for a more neutral rendering of black and white images).
Data Color – Spyder 4 – Released in January of 2012, the Spyder 4 is the successor to the Spyder 3. We have one in house and we’re still playing with it (we’re waiting for Argyll CMS support or some other software platform where we can compare it against the i1Display Pro). Initial impressions are that it is a definite improvement over the Spyder 3 however, comparing the Spyder 4 Elite package to the i1Display Pro package, X-Rite is the clear winner. While DataColor boasts faster read times for the Spyder 4 we found the performance to be quite underwhelming when compared to the i1Display Pro but to be fair, that feature falls towards the bottom of the list in terms of influencing our purchase decisions for colorimeters and spectrophotometers. It’s all about building a decent profile and if could do significantly better than the i1Display Pro but it took an hour to do so, we’d be happy to overlook read times. At this point what we’re noticing is that X-Rite’s i1Profiler software which comes with the i1Display Pro generates much more linear profiles with less color casting which means smoother gradients and more neutral black and white rendering. In addition we were hoping to see some new features in version 4.5 of the Spyder Elite software such as the ability to measure the color temperature of another monitor. This is a very useful tool when trying to match two monitors on a workstation, especially if they are of a different make and model. We’d also like to see the ability to generate LUT based profiles but as it stands the Spyder Elite v4.5 software can only deliver Matrix based profiles.
Custom pucks – The pucks that come with packages such as NEC’s Spectraview II have been modified by the manufacturer to yield better results with their screens. The professional level displays from NEC with the Spectraview option include the Spectraview II software as well as an i1 Display 2 that has been modified for use on wider gamut screens. We highly recommend the Spectraview package if you have an NEC xx90 series monitor or one of the newer PA series monitors as this will yield the best results from these monitors.
Data Color Spyder, Spyder 2; the original Eye One Display, and Pantone Huey – We do not recommend any of these colorimeters as they have proven to be fairly inconsistent from profile to profile.
We highly recommend purchasing a quality monitor. It is the single most used piece of equipment in your studio and it is the only piece of equipment that you use to evaluate and adjust your photographs. A quality monitor saves time and money by allowing you to achieve accurate results by accurately rendering nuances that will show up in your prints which consumer grade monitors are not capable of rendering. We recommend NEC’s xx90 or PAxx1w series of monitors with the Spectraview calibration bundle as offering the best bang for the buck.