Monitors have taken quite a few steps forward.
In recent years. 4k displays, curved monitors, and other innovations allow people to see the most beautiful images on their computer screens and television.
If you haven’t calibrated your monitor, though, you might not be getting the most out of it. There are ways to tweak the color settings to allow for an even brighter, crisper image that will take your gaming, watching, and photography to the next level.
Ahead, we’ll cover some of these tools and tell you a bit about how to use them.
You need to prep your computer monitor for calibration before jumping right into using your monitor color calibration tool. Prepping this way will give you a chance at the best and most consistent results.
- Turn your monitor on and let it sit for about a half hour before you start calibrating. This will allow the monitor to settle into a comfortable state and will display the colors how they almost always look to you.
- Make sure the lighting isn’t overly harsh in the room where you’re calibrating. Some light is fine, but you don’t want any glare messing with your results.
- Locate the display settings on your monitor, and cycle through them to understand what they do. These settings are often on the monitor’s control panel, but you might have to open external settings yourself.
- Restore your monitor to its default resolution. Don’t mess around with “Theater” or “Reading” mode just yet.
Calibration Tools for Windows and Mac
Those who are serious about using a monitor color calibration tool will probably look for an external device, but that doesn’t represent the majority of computer users. The built-in tools from macOS and Windows will work just fine if you just want to make your monitor look as good as possible with limited work and cost.
Even those who might want a professional touch should start here, and make sure they’re fully optimizing the monitor’s resolution before turning to an external monitor color calibration tool.
Of course, the number of display choices you’ll have will depend on the type of monitor you bought and how much customization it allows.
You might see a lot of terms that are foreign to you throughout this process. Thankfully, these operating systems will be able to help with some brief explanations. Don’t get intimidated by the options at first glance – you don’t have to be a tech wizard to calibrate the color on your monitor properly.
macOS Calibration Tool
You will find the MacOS monitor color calibration tool displayed as the Display Calibrator Assistant under “Display.” Do a quick search in Spotlight if you can’t find it right away. The term “calibrate” should bring it up.
The Mac monitor display settings are a bit more intuitive than the Windows ones. They will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to create the display settings you want. You can fiddle with gamma, white target point, brightness, contrast, etc.
Once you’re done, just hit continue and make sure to save the changes you’ve made. Viola! You’ve optimized your monitor’s color settings in only a few minutes.
Windows 10 Calibration Tool
If you’re using Windows 10, search “Display Color” in the search bar and click the result that pops up. You can find the same calibration tool under the “Appearance and Personalization” tab on older versions of Windows.
Windows has a step-by-step guide as well, but it isn’t quite as easy to navigate as the Mac one, in our opinion. You’ll see the same options here: gamma, color balance, brightness, etc. After you lock in your settings Windows will give you a sample image to use to make sure everything is to your liking.
Your calibration settings will save as a .ics file on your computer. You can revert the changes you made at any time, and cycle through different calibrations you’ve saved over time.
Type “color management” into the search bar if you want a full view of the options you’ve saved. Choose the monitor attached to the computer, and you’re all set!
Online Calibration Tools
Several websites allow you to customize your monitor’s color settings even further than the operating system tools can. These are a bit of a step up, but still, don’t have the same possibilities of the hardware we included below.
Here are some of the more popular and useful websites you can visit to get more customization over what you see when you look at your computer screen.
The Lagom LCD Monitor Test Pages
The Lagom LCD Monitor Test Pages is particularly useful because of its ability to save settings for test purposes.
These can be useful when you’re on the market for a new monitor, as you may be able to test the image quality in the store before you buy. Just save the images to a USB drive and take them with you on your monitor search.
The site uses patterns to begin testing your monitor’s response time, contrast, and other settings. You can cycle through these tests in any order, but it’s probably best to stick with what the website provides.
The Lagom LCD Monitor Test Pages are comprehensive and detailed, which can be intimidating at first. Once you get over the website setup, though, it should be easy to understand and complete.
Photo Friday isn’t as detailed as The Lagom LCD Monitor Test Pages, but some people prefer simplicity. As you can probably guess, this website is geared toward photographers and allows you to adjust the contrast and brightness of your screen on a single page.
Once you’re finished, you’ll notice the most difference in black and white tones. These will be a lot crisper than they were before you made the changes using Photo Friday.
Online Monitor Test
The Online Monitor Test is very similar to the Photo Friday site, but with a few different styles and display options. You’ll be mostly dealing with brightness and contrast here, which are the most common settings these online monitor tools provide.
Online Monitor Test is specifically useful because it can alert you to damaged pixels and other problems with your monitor. You can also utilize this tool across a dual-monitor setup.
The W4ZT tool isn’t anything special when you compare it to the likes of Photo Friday and The Lagom LCD Monitor Test Pages, but it offers a lot of the same features. We included it here because it’s extremely intuitive and easy to use.
THE MONITOR CALIBRATION AND GAMMA ASSESSMENT PAGE
The Monitor Calibration and Gamma Assessment Page specifically focuses on gamma, which is a massive benefit to this tool. In fact, you might want to use this one in addition to something like W4ZT or Photo Friday to make sure you’re getting the best of both worlds.
This site is easy to understand as well, so you shouldn’t have much of a problem navigating the options. There are some test patterns here that will give you the best gamma settings your monitor can hope for (without using external hardware, that is).
Calibration hardware is a bit more of a hardcore option than the free websites and operating system tools we included above. You’ll probably only need these devices if you’re a photographer or serious about the way your monitor looks.
On the other hand, these devices will take limit the amount of “user error” involved with calibrating your monitor. Our eyes aren’t perfect, and we tend to see colors differently than other people do. This means that the display settings you think are best might not look as rich and vibrant to someone else.
Color calibration hardware takes this subjectivity out of the equation. They will truly get the most out of your monitor’s capabilities and will present you with the best color calibration across the board.
Of course, you’ll be paying for these tools rather than getting them for free. They can be quite expensive as well, though there are a couple of cheaper options for those who want to get the most out of their monitor on a tight budget.
The company Datacolor makes some of the more popular color display tools on the market. They come in varying levels of price and effectiveness. The most expensive one will cost you more than $1000, while the cheaper models are closer to $100.
As you can expect, the more you spend on a monitor calibration tool, the more you’ll be able to get out of your monitor.
These tools work with accompanying software that makes the process relatively straightforward. After you install their software, you will hook the device up to your screen and connect it to the computer through a USB. From there, the software will walk you through the process and accurately calibrate your monitor.
There are some discount devices out there as well for around $50, but these don’t do as good of a job as items such as the Datacolor Spyder series. We suggest spending a bit more if you’re going to go this route since you’re clearly looking to reach your monitor’s full potential.