How to Calibrate Your Monitor

Web Tools to Try

Web-based calibration tools are also available, though most of them require even more manual adjustment than the Windows method does. Websites such as Display Calibration let you work with test patterns and examples of what a correct image should look like; to calibrate from them, however, you’ll need to become intimately familiar with either your monitor controls or your graphics card control panel.

Whether you use the Windows method or Web-based tools, the process is manual and requires heavy use of your own eyes. Of course, the problem with eyes is that they vary in capability--and if you’re even slightly color blind, visually calibrating your display becomes difficult.

Thankfully a host of automated calibration tools exist, ranging in cost from $80 to thousands of dollars. Certainly, if you’re a professional photographer or videographer, you’ll spend what you need to get the tools necessary for precise calibration. Most people, though, can get by with less expensive tools such as Datacolor’s Spyder 3 Express.

Buy an Automated Tool for Simple Calibration

The Spyder 3 Express costs from $80 to $100, and fully automates the calibration task. It's just one example of a simpler tool; if you want more precision and a higher level of control, you need to invest more money.

For now, ensure that your monitor is warmed up (leave it running for at least 30 minutes) and that you have installed the latest drivers for your graphics card.

Using the Spyder 3 is quite easy. First, install the calibration software (check the Datacolor website for the most recent version). Launch the software, and let it walk you through setup and calibration. Connect the puck to a USB port, and hang the puck from the top of your display, aligning the puck with the outline that the SpyderExpress calibration software displays. The puck has a suction cup for attaching to the surface of your monitor; you should occasionally tap it to maintain the suction.

After you click the Next button, just sit back and let the calibration run.

Once installed with the puck in place, the calibration software measures the output from the display, and sets it accordingly.

The calibration process adjusts your monitor to settings that the tool determines are accurate. This basic tool doesn’t allow any manual tweaks, so you’ll need to choose a more expensive model if you want to be more involved.

In my experience, the photographs I’m editing these days look correct, now that I've done a proper monitor calibration. Having a correctly calibrated monitor helped me discover that Photoshop’s Camera Raw application often blows out the highlights of my photographs by setting the brightness too high. Now I can see how garish the changes are, and dial them back accordingly.

The bottom line: If you’re interested in photography or video, calibrate your display. Even if all you do is the basic Windows calibration, it’s still better than simply staring at weird-looking images and wondering what’s wrong.

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