Monitor FAQs

Here’s some of the general FAQs we get asked about monitors…

I have connected my new monitor to my computer but the monitor just says No Signal?

All monitors have a Signal or Input button that cycles through the available inputs so make sure the PC is on and the click the button until you get a picture on the screen.

I’m using an iMac or MacBook and have connected my new screen but it is just showing a blank desktop?

Go to System Preferences and Displays. Click on Arrangement and you’ll see two rectangles representing your monitors. You’ll need to arrange the rectangles to match the physical arrangement of the monitors – i.e. If you’re monitor is on the left of the Mac then drag the rectangle representing the external monitor to left of the one representing the Mac. You’ll then find that the cursor flows naturally from one screen to another. Also you’ll see one screen has a white bar, this designates the primary screen where applications will open and on older versions of Mac OS it also determines where the dock and menu bar appear. You can drag any window from one screen to another.

If I am using a monitor manufacturer’s own calibration software should I uninstall the software that came with my colorimeter?

If you are using a Spyder3 or Spyder4 with EIZO ColorNavigator or NEC SpectraView Profiler then yes you should uninstall the DataColor software that came with the Spyder because you may experience problems calibrating your screen. The X-Rite i1 Display Pro also comes with a small i1 Profiler Tray application that sits in the menu or task bar and that should be exited before using other software with the i1.

It is not usually necessary to completely uninstall any X-Rite software that comes with the i1 series if you are using these devices with other software.

Which monitor calibration system should I buy?

There are a range of monitor calibrators available from different manufacturers and they do not all offer the same functions or performance. Generally there may be a little difference in the accuracy of the colorimeter supplied but there will be big differences in the options available in the software. The cheaper systems can offer a very limited choice of settings to calibrate your monitors to, if they offer a choice at all, and also they will not offer you the option of adjusting your monitor hardware to get the best results.

For professional photographers, designers, pre-press and anyone really serious about getting the most from their monitors then we would recommend either the X-Rite i1 Display Pro or Datacolor Spyder5ELITE as being the best monitor calibrators. Both have a wide choice of settings to calibrate to and functions to test your monitor after calibration. They allow full interactive monitor hardware adjustment to get the best from every display.

For amateur photographers on a budget then the Datacolor Spyder5PRO could be OK or X-Rite Colormunki Display, both offer a smaller but usually adequate choice of settings to calibrate to.

We would not recommend the X-Rite ColorMunki Smile or Datacolor Spyder4Express as the results from these are very variable and they do not allow enough control over the monitor or calibration targets.

What Gamma, Colour Temperature and Luminance should I calibrate to?

The better monitor calibrator systems of a range of settings that you can calibrate your monitor to. Below are some general recommendations of what settings to choose. Use these to get started but if you are unhappy with the results then you can choose other settings that may suit your monitor and your workflow better.

Gamma
Gamma is the tone curve of the monitor and generally a gamma of 2.2 gives the best result. There is a myth that Apple Macintosh computers need their monitors calibrating to 1.8 but this is not the case – Mac’s used to have gamma at 1.8 by default, but this was to ensure a better match to printing on black & white laser printers – for several years now Mac’s default gamma has been 2.2. Gammas lower than 2.2 will produce a flatter display with less contrast. Higher values will produce more contrast. Some video cards or monitors have native gammas that differ from 2.2 and may work best to a different setting.

Colour Temperature
Any light source has a colour temperature, or whitepoint, and because they emit light this applies to monitors as well. With CRT monitors it is possible to adjust the balance of red, green and blue to adjust the colour temperature. Monitor calibrators usually offer at least the choice between 6500K and 5000K. Calibrating your CRT to 6500K (or D65) will give best results for most users. Lower colour temperatures will be yellower and higher ones bluer.

LCD monitors have a constant colour temperature backlight and this cannot be adjusted. Any RGB or Colour Temperature controls on an LCD monitor are just software adjustments internal to the monitor and these are usually done with quite coarse look up tables and may not offer good results. We usually recommend trying 6500K on LCDs and then if that does not produce good results then choose the Native Colour Temperature or White-point option in your software. This will not adjust the monitor white-point and may give the better results. Forcing an LCD to a particular colour temperature can produce colour casts if the target temperature is not suitable for the monitor – this is most relevant on cheaper monitors.

Some more advanced LCD monitors, Such as EIZO ColorEdge or NEC SpectraView have very high resolution look up tables that mean the software adjustments give better results.

Luminance
The luminance or brightness of a display is important since many LCDs are very bright and this can give you a false impression of the brightness of your images. Calibrate CRTs to a brightness of 100 cd/m2, the maximum most will achieve for long periods, and for LCDs choose somewhere about 100-120 cd/m2. If you have multiple screens to calibrate then choosing the same luminance on all will help them match.[hr]

Can I calibrate any LCD or CRT monitor and get good results?

No. Even the best monitor calibrator systems have limits to what they can get out of a monitor. Sometimes if you have bought a very cheap LCD screen, have a very old CRT, or are using a laptop screen then even though calibration may improve things there will be limits to the accuracy of the calibration and profile. This will be especially true if you are using any of the cheaper monitor calibrator systems that offer fewer choices of settings and no hardware adjustment.

A calibrator will attempt to get the best from your screen, but it can’t make it display colours or detail that it’s physically incapable of showing – in other words, if you want to see high quality results on screen, you’ll have to use a high quality monitor!

Should I use the calibration software that came with my monitor, or the software that came with my colorimeter

Some monitors from EIZO ColorEdge or NEC SpectraView come with their own calibration software. This software communicates directly with the monitor via a USB cable or via the DVI/DisplayPort cable. The software that comes with a monitor will usually produce better results than the software that came with your colorimeter because it is adjusting the monitor automatically and has been designed with the monitor model in mind.

Will just calibrating and profiling my monitor mean that what I see on screen is what will print?

No. In a fully colour managed workflow every device has to have a profile. Calibrating and profiling your monitor will mean that it should accurately represent what is in your image, given the correct application settings. For your printer to also accurately represent what is in your image you will need a printer profile (you can use the ‘canned’ profiles that manufacturers give away, or best of all, get a custom profile made for your printer/paper/ink combination). The cheapest way to profile your desktop inkjet or dye-sub printer is to use our custom profiling service. Other types of printer will need specialist printer profiling software or an on-site visit by one of our colour consultants.

Only when both your printer and your monitor are profiled will you be able to see on screen what will print, and the match will still depend on your room lighting and your image application settings.[hr]

How bright should I have my ambient room lighting?

To get the best from any monitor it should be the brightest light source in the room. Make your room reasonably dim. Avoid any light falling directly onto the monitor from windows or overhead lighting.

Check out our blog post on ‘Creating the right ambiance‘ for more information.[hr]

I have calibrated and profiled my Mac’s monitor but it still looks as if the contrast is too high?

Apple include software called Accessibility with Mac OS X. This software is designed to make the Mac easier to use for those with visual impairments and other disabilities. One of the things Accessibility can do is to increase the contrast of the screen. Unfortunately the keyboard shortcut for this is very similar to one for changing the brush size in Photoshop.

If you think your screen has to high a contrast setting then go to System Preferences and then click on Accessibility. You will see a contrast slider. Make sure it is set to Normal. You can disable the keyboard shortcut by going into System Preferences and clicking on Keyboard & Mouse. Then go to the Keyboard Shortcuts tab, select Accessibility and un-tick the On box to disable all Accessibility keyboard shortcuts.

After calibrating and profiling my monitor it has an unpleasant colour cast. What can I do?

If your monitor has a colour cast after calibration it is a sign that you chose inappropriate or unachieveable target settings for your monitor. Change the gamma and/or colour temperature that you are trying to calibrate your monitor to and try again. We offer recommendations above. It may also be that the monitor calibration software you bought does not offer enough options or control to achieve what you want on your screen. Alternatively if you are using an older calibration device it may mean that the filters in it have aged and it is time to buy a new one.

Can I calibrate and profile multiple monitors on my PC?

Whilst on Macs you can calibrate more than one screen fairly easily it can be more difficult on PCs. Generally you will need a separate video card for each display. The support pages on your monitor calibrator’s manufacturer website will have specific information as to how to calibrate more than one screen.

What is the best way to test if my monitor calibration is doing a good job?

One good way to test a monitor calibration is to create a black to white linear gradient in Photoshop. You should see a nice even progression of tone with few, if any, steps. It should also appear neutral with no colour casts and you should be able to see detail in the shadows and the highlights. If your monitor fails any of these tests then try calibrating to different settings. We have created a gradient test file that you can download from our support area.

How does Adobe Gamma affect monitor calibration?

Adobe Gamma was a free, visually-based monitor calibration program that was installed automatically when older versions of Photoshop are installed on Windows computers. Adobe Gamma can interfere with monitor calibration software.

Before calibrating your monitor, you should disable Adobe Gamma. To do so:

  1. Search on your hard drive for the Startup folder. Items (applications, shortcuts) placed in this folder automatically start with your computer.
  2. Delete the Adobe Gamma shortcut from the Startup folder. This does not delete Adobe Gamma from your system, but does prevent it from starting automatically.

What graphics card do I need for my monitor?

Your graphics card needs to support the native resolution of the monitor. This is stated in all our monitor listings. It should also have a DVI or Display Port connection to get best results on your monitor and have adequate processing power to handle the types of imagery you will be displaying. Due to the range, complexities and potential support issues with graphics cards, we can’t recommend specific makes/models – sorry!

For more information on monitor calibration and profiling see the relevant chapters in our Practical Colour Management guide.

My monitor supports 10-bit input via Display Port, does this mean that my monitor always displays in 10-bit?

Display Port is a new type of monitor connection that has the capability of transmitting 10-bit information rather than the 8-bit that can be shown through DVI. However, you still need to have a 10-bit capable graphics card, and not every card or indeed monitor with a Display Port connection is 10-bit capable and also you need operating system and application software that supports 10-bit as well. More and more graphics cards are being released that support 10-bit and software updates are also increasing the number of 10-bit capable applications so we would suggest that if you do want to display 10-bit then you should research the combination of hardware and software you have to see how to do this. You can see our blog post on achieving 10-bit here.

Got any questions or suggestions for inclusion here – get in touch!

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