At Pro Photo Supply, we talk to people every day who are having no end of trouble getting the image on their monitor to match the output of their printer.
Once we get going, it isn’t long before I ask the question,
“Is your monitor profiled?”
The answer I get from most responses is no.
Some people reply “yes” because they have used Display Calibrator Assistant (Mac) or Display Color Calibration (Windows). After a monitor is truly profiled, the monitor profile is left behind for Photoshop or any other color-aware applications to use to understand how your monitor displays color.
Do I really have to buy a “thing” to calibrate my monitor?
Yes you do. Over the millennia, human vision has become highly adaptable. Humans can adjust quickly to light of different colors and intensities. We learned to hunt for food on the sun-drenched plains, in dense forests, in dark caves, even underwater. You may have had the experience of walking from outside on a sunny day into a room dimly lit by incandescent bulbs. Everything seems yellow/orange…for a while. Very quickly, perhaps without you noticing, your eye adapts to the color of the light in your new surroundings and everything looks normal again.
In addition, human color perception can be effected by blood pressure, illness, hormone levels in the blood, caffeine, cold medications, and other drugs in your system.
That’s just the beginning.
When you pull your brand-spanking new monitor out of the box and connect it to your computer, it looks great! But chances are, from a color management standpoint, your monitor is bright and too blue. Who knows? It could be too tan and too dark. Until you have some way of precisely setting the white point and luminance of your new monitor, you might as well stick to doing spreadsheets and word documents. You won’t be able to see color accurately let alone be able to transfer what you see to the printer accurately.
But wait, there’s more!
A profiled monitor tends to run cooler and live longer. Often the process of profiling a monitor causes you to turn the brightness down rather than up. This tends to make the panel behind your image to be less bright and have a longer useable life.
Enter the Colorimeter.
This is the hardware component in any monitor profiling system worth having. This device sees color much more objectively than any human can. The colorimeter is used in conjunction with its accompanying software to sit on the surface of your monitor, within the image area, and read the patches of color and grey that are flashed up on the screen by the software. It records what it sees and in the end, the software makes adjustments to the video card in your computer to get you to the target white point, gamma, and luminance. These will be explained shortly. In addition, the profiling software leaves behind a profile that is unique to your monitor and helps those other color-aware applications know how your monitor renders color.
Is it hard to do?
Have you ever baked cookies? Well, monitor profiling may not be as satisfying but it isn’t much more difficult. It comes down to simply telling the software what you want and then helping it get you there.
At the beginning of the process, you will have to determine what the white point, gamma, and luminance of your monitor will be at the end of the process. Look at this as setting a goal. The most common settings are:
White Point: D65 or 6500o Kelvin
*The luminance value is somewhat flexible depending on the viewing conditions under which you might view prints. More on this later.
Now, I am very capable of going into a long, drawn out, excruciatingly boring explanation of what goes on during monitor profiling but it might be best to check out the video below from X-rite which actually shows the process from beginning to end.