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How to calibrate your monitor for the best viewing experience possible

Regardless of if you’re a graphic designer, a digital photographer, or just your Average Joe, image quality and accuracy are always important. Proper monitor calibration will ensure that your colors and black levels are true, and will ensure that your monitor is producing the best results for editing and viewing images and videos. Plus, it’ll be easier on your eyes! You could take your monitor to a professional to have it done, but why not do it yourself and save the money? The standard calibration process is relatively quick, hassle-free, and will help guarantee you’re viewing content the way it is meant to be seen.

Here’s our guide to calibrating your monitor to help make sure colors are represented accurately at all times. We can’t guarantee you will produce results as good as the pros, but even these basic calibration procedures will help outshine your monitor’s factory presets.

Before you begin

You’re going to want to do several things before you begin the calibration process.

  1. Turn on your monitor at least a half hour before calibration so the monitor can warm up to its normal operating temperature and conditions.
  2. Set your monitor’s resolution to its native, default screen resolution.
  3. Make sure your calibrating in a room with moderate ambient lighting. The room doesn’t need to be pitch black, but you don’t want the sharp glares and color casts resulting from direct light.
  4. Familiarize yourself with your monitor’s display controls. They may be located on the monitor itself, on the keyboard, or within the operating system control panel.

Calibrate using built-in utilities

Both Mac OS X and Windows have built-in display calibration tools to help guide you through the process, step-by-step, if you are new to the calibration process. The free tools should be the first stop if you’re merely a casual image junkie or working on a tight budget. They are extremely handy, quick, and easy to locate on your operating system. Keep in mind the adjustments will be limited by the display type and model.

The assorted terms (i.e. gamma, white point, etc.) may seem a bit daunting at first glance, but each utility provides a relatively simple explanation of what they all mean. Realistically though, you don’t need to know the ins-and-outs of the jargon in order to calibrate your monitor.

Windows

In Windows, the display calibration tool is located in the Display Control Panel (found under “Appearance” in most versions of the OS). If you are having trouble finding it, try entering “calibrate” in the search bar to scan through your computer’s various folders and files. The results should show an option to calibrate your computer’s monitor. Click it.

Window’s thorough instructions will walk you through the calibration process once you’ve found and opened the software utility. Just follow the on-screen instructions to choose your display’s gamma, brightness, contrast, and color balance settings. A sample image for you to match will accompany many of the settings. Simply make adjustments to mimic the sample as close as possible. Once the calibration wizard is complete, make sure to choose the “current calibration,” or return to the previous calibration if you are unsatisfied with the results.

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Mac OS X

In Mac OS X, the Display Calibrator Assistant is located in the system preferences under the “Displays” tab. If you are having trouble finding it, try entering “calibrate” in Spotlight to scan through your computer’s various folders and files. The result should show an option to open the utility in the system preferences panel.

Mac’s step-by-step instructions will walk you through the calibration process once you’ve found and opened the software utility. Just follow the on-screen instructions to choose your display’s brightness, contrast, native gamma, target gamma, and target white point. Click “Continue” and save the calibration profile once you finish with all of the adjustments.

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