If you plan on buying a new flat panel monitor (or laptop) soon whether, small, standard or large-sized, here are 5 tips that will make the calibration process a whole lot easier.
1. Disable all enhanced features
Many monitors out-of-the-box have some sort of enhancement which the manufacturer thinks makes the picture look better when enabled. The vast majority of the time this enhancement is supposed to display better photo-realism. Maybe for photos and movies this is good, but when viewing web pages in a browser it’s absolutely awful.
The ASUS monitor I bought came with such an enhancement called "Splendid", which did nothing but make everything look terrible. Disabled.
2. Use the Windows 7 Calibrate feature
Click the Windows logo (a.k.a. "Start button") and search for Calibrate
Click Calibrate display color
You will be assisted through a variety of settings, including gamma, brightness, contrast, and so on.
3. Understand that LED-backlighting may be a lot brighter than you’re used to
Those who have been using computers for a very long time will be in for some insta-squinting the first time they turn on a monitor with LED backlight for the first time, because they are bright. Very bright. That’s great, but unexpected for the newcomer to LED-backlit monitors (particularly the larger ones).
One of the first things you may want to do when calibrating the monitor is to turn down both the brightness and contrast to half (which is usually 50), then increment from there as brightness/contrast is needed.
4. Understand there may be color differences between glossy and matte displays
When the glossy flat panel display first appeared on the scene, people were wowed by the richness and clarity of the color. Then the graphic designers got a hold of them and were angered to no end because those early glossy displays couldn’t reproduce a true yellow. What you got was gold, a.k.a. "orangey yellow". It didn’t matter what adjustments you made. You could change the gamma, red/blue/green, color temperature and everything else you could possibly think of, but your brightest yellow was always gold.
Most glossy displays now have fixed the can’t-do-a-correct-yellow issue, and a properly calibrated glossy display can now reproduce a true yellow the same as you’d see on a printed CMYK label. However there are still a few glossy displays out there that still can’t do it.
If you’re a stickler for absolutely correct calibrated color on a flat panel display, matte is still the way to go.
5. Know where your software-based gamma settings are, and use them
Gamma defined is the "nonlinear operation used to code and decode luminance or tristimulus values in video or still image systems". Do you have to understand that? No, because you probably already know what gamma is and why you would need to adjust it.
Some monitors come with an in-built gamma setting you can adjust, but some don’t. The monitor I just bought for example does not have one.
Fortunately, there’s software-controlled gamma settings and it’s usually far superior to any on-screen-control method your monitor would have.
You can use the Windows 7 calibration controls as mentioned above, or use the software gamma control per your graphics card control software. Or in other words, the ATI Catalyst or NVIDIA GeForce software suite.
Example gamma settings with ATI Catalyst:
Important note: Settings made using a graphic card software suite will override any settings made from using Windows 7 calibration.
Bonus info: Calibrating an old monitor (or at least trying to)
With any old monitor, you’re fighting against hardware that’s used and/or never could display proper calibrated colors correctly in the first place. But hey, it’s worth it to try.
LCD: Dim backlighting
The first thing that starts to go wrong with an older LCD panel is the backlight. After around 3 or 4 years the monitor will completely lose the ability to display a bright white and instead show a bright gray or yellowed-white.
If you know you have a dim flat panel backlight, purposely use swatch colors that are 1 to 2 shades darker than true when calibrating. This will mostly represent true colors, just slightly darker.
LCD: "Shadowing" on the sides or corners
Some older flat panels have darker sides/corners. A solution which might work (but certainly isn’t guaranteed) is to simply tilt the monitor back a few degrees from where you had it. This doesn’t cure the dark areas, but may mask them somewhat.
LCD: Shining a lamp directly on the display
This technique is admittedly only for the desperate that are trying to save a display that should otherwise be repaired or thrown out.
If the monitor is so dim that it simply can’t produce a bright picture on its own, you can place an architect’s lamp (picture right) behind the monitor with the cone over the top of the display and shine light directly on the screen. If there’s too much glare from the lamp, raise the lamp higher.
Again it will be said that this "fix" is only for the desperate, because it really doesn’t work that well. This is no way to calibrate but rather get a display into "good enough to still use" mode.
CRT: Color gun failure
If you have a CRT rejuvenator (example of one in action), then sure, you could "recharge" the color guns in a CRT monitor and get perfect color again. But odds are you don’t have one of those nor do you have any interest in cracking apart a CRT chassis to do it.
The only thing you can really do when you have color gun failure is not to bump up the other colors to compensate, but instead turn the color down, almost to a monochrome level. The issue with color gun failure is that the output of the gun isn’t pushing out as much as it used to, so raising the other colors won’t help.
CRT: Deflection problems
This is a chart of the most common deflection problems with any CRT, be it television or monitor:
The most common on CRT monitors are pincushion ("bowed") and barrel distortion ("rounded"). Later CRT monitors have on-screen controls to adjust that and fix it. Older ones don’t.
If you can’t fix your deflection issue with your CRT, you’ll need to find someone that knows how to repair tube-type displays and they’ll be able to repair it.
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