Hardware

Calibrate your computer display's color settings and see the difference

Native resolution please

The next screen talks about native resolution. For LCD monitors in particular, this is a very important consideration for proper calibration. An LCD will always display a better quality image when it is in its native resolution.

This gallery is also available as a TechRepublic blog post and download. Image created by Mark Kaelin for TechRepublic.

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

33 comments
bobwinners
bobwinners

This should be done with an external device and software that reads the monitor colors and creates a color profile for your monitor. The Windows software only works in BW and therefore is pretty archaic. If you want to correct colors between screen and printer, spend some money and buy Spider or some other hardware/software solution. And if you are using a laptop, just forget it and adjust you screen to the color profile you like. All the laptops I've used have insufficient resources to deal with this issue.

kgross
kgross

When I click Next on the first screen, I get a message warning me that my display (Dell 24 inch Ultrasharp) uses a wide color gamut and that the program will create a color profile with a standard gamut, which may result in distorted colors, do you want to continue? As others have pointed out, if you're comfortable with how it looks, why mess with it? Also, you can always test print a photo to determine whether you get from the printer what you see on the monitor. Personally, I would simply adjust the monitor color temperature settings and use any available controls on the mointor by using an image of the the standard color bar chart, which I'm sure is widely available. In fact, the nVidia Control Panel associated with my graphics card has the ability to adjust color, gamma, etc settings with refernce images, including the color bar chart.

Peter.W
Peter.W

As a retired photographer and prolab colour technician, I am not finding the digital process any easier to control than it was in chemical processing days, and I agree with many of the comments made. Namely, unless you want to produce display quality prints I wouldn't bother unduly with calibration, just have the screen look nice. For starters how good is your colour vision and have you ever been tested for colour blindness so that you are even able to make a good subjective evaluation? And yes, it is a really almost hopeless task with LCD monitors of average availability, one needs a dedicated IPS graphic arts monitor and a profiler such as the Gretag Macbeth sensor unit to gain accuracy in colour management. Even then there are problems because the profile that is created needs to be carried through the entire reproduction chain if prints are going to match monitor images. This means profiling the monitor, the images themselves, the photo app you are using, the printer, and now that Microsoft have put their oar into all of this, the Windows Colour Management System. Quite a tricky procedure with decisions to be made prior to printing whether or not to allow the printer driver take complete control and undo all of this work. Can printer control even be turned off? If this procedure is not followed you will find that there are most likely two profiles alternating in this chain - sRGB or Adobe RGB - depending on the manufacturer of the software or hardware. They can successfully fight each other and then your monitor image is rather unlike the print you produce. To repeat what I said at the beginning, I didn't find it any more difficult using variable chemical systems and if I didn't have a great love for producing photographic art, I wouldn't bother.

j.tarry
j.tarry

Thanks for this. My old photoshop program kept saying that I needed to calibrate my monitor. Now I've applied the dccw.exe program it no longer issues this warning. Must be an improvement!

kburrows
kburrows

The tool doesn't work with wide screen monitors using a 16:10 ratio. It distorts the gamut ratio.

ChiefEngr
ChiefEngr

With all due respects towards the folks that feel this is good idea as well as those who believe it is not necessary, I think we should point out that the entire topic really pertains to CRT style displays and not so much to LCD displays. ALL LCD displays suffer from viewing angle sensitivities: what you see is directly related to the angle at which you are looking at the display. Move your head and/or change the tilt on the display and the appearance will change. You may argue that the shift in appearance is not that much as long as you stay within a fairly narrow viewing cone but there are subtle shifts even within that cone. And since the entire "calibrate the color settings on your display" are meant to insure you get an acurate representation of color 38273 as compared to 38272 and 38274, this entire discussion revolves around the subtleties of splitting hairs. Maybe we can get back to bashing Star Trek -- or better yet -- how about some old Science Fiction programs like Irwin Allen's Time Tunnel?

danielb34
danielb34

If you're comfortable with your display, why mess with it? Unless you're a photographer trying to ensure that colors and vibrancy on-screen match the colors and vibrancy produced by a printer, calibrating your display (unless it's totally out of whack) is probably not going to be a productive exercise. If you're calibrating to match up screen color and brightness with printer color and brightness, you're probably better off using the calibration applets provided by Photoshop (I'm assuming they provide such an applet...if not, why not?), Paintshop Pro Photo, etc at a minimum, or one of the more sophisticated products mentioned in previous posts.

t.rohner
t.rohner

It is a fact, that most consumer monitors are too saturated and their color temperature is too high. If you intend to see on your monitor, what will be printed by different printers, you need to calibrate your monitor and simulate your output process. Microsoft's support for ICC profiles wasn't very good in it's beginnings. ICC debuted in 1993, but it took a very long time until it's widespread use. It wasn't only Microsoft's lack of support, but also Adobe took quite some time, until it was implemented in their products in a usable way. Apple's support was traditionally better. But then, a OS doesn't produce professional print data. Now, with a monitor made for graphic work, (Quato or NEC comes to mind) you can simulate the output for a given workflow on the screen, in Photoshop for example. Those monitors come at around 5-10 times the cost of a consumer or office monitor and they are often bundled with a measuring device and monitor profiling software. Those measuring devices are called colorimeters and they mostly have 3 or four sensors to measure RGB. They also come at a reasonable price. If you intend to profile a printer/process, you will need a spectrometer with 20 or so measuring points over the visible spectrum. These devices and the profiling software are in the range of 2-20k$. Since Windows uses RGB, it's up to the printer driver, to convert it to CMYK in a usefull way. If you want proof grade color accuracy, you will most likely need to invest in a dedicated Rip software.

dcharles
dcharles

Hey, Mark, Nice summary of the process, however, page 3 is missing in the PDF download and a copy of page 23 is in its place.

stark realist
stark realist

Making a lot of changes to the display settings can drastically change how documents look vs. how they print. We find that many end users do not understand the difference between RGB color on a display and CMYK color on a printer. We use a device to help them match what they see on their display with what they see on paper. Check out www.colormunki.com

Oglesby1205
Oglesby1205

"Click dccw.exe"--what are you talking about? I think what you mean to say is that you should enter "dccw" in the Run box. This needs to be made more prominent and clear. And where do you get this calibration thingie? DSmith1204

gentlemanbill
gentlemanbill

Since I don't expect ever to be hosed by 7, I don't have anything positive to say about this overpriced piece of software. Old saying: "If Microsoft screws me once, shame on them. If Microsoft screws me twice, SHAME ON ME!"

amj2010
amj2010

we use the nvidia control center with the samsung settings.... so far so good, it's better not much to mess with these settings at all or if you are a graphic electronic designer, go ahead.

mistercrowley
mistercrowley

What about calibrating in XP? I have seen setups that use a type of camera and do it automatically but they cost a pretty penny.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

... that there is a built-in tool in Windows 7 that will allow you to do adjust your display settings if you need to and here is how you use it.

brian
brian

That's not calibration. That's quality checking with a touch of quality-unrelated feature identification. Also, actual calibration cannot be done without a calibration device. You can tweak all you want, but it's not calibration, so dccw.exe does not calibrate your screen. "Make the gray bars we're displaying look neutral to you" is not calibration. "Our device knows the exact voltages generated in its sensor which correspond to neutral gray" is calibration. Also, most users shouldn't calibrate their screens using the software settings exposed by dccw.exe. In doing so you remove the 1-to-1 relationship between the finite set of digital values displayed by your computer and the set of digital values sent to your monitor, thus reducing the total number of colors your computer can display and creating banding problems in your images. All color tweaking should be done from in-the-monitor controls. True calibration requires a full high-bit-depth color process from video card to LCD panel. Anything else sacrifices image quality in favor of color correctness, for those colors that do display.

brian
brian

Most users should not be "calibrating" their screens using software color controls. In doing so they remove the one-to-one mapping from color displayed by their applications to the color values sent out via the video card to their monitor. This creates banding problems in images. I have seen one case in which a user had fiddled with both the monitor sliders, the windows color correction sliders AND some nVidia color correction sliders, in opposite directions, to the point that his screen looked like something from the DOS days. He never did get it figured out, eventually decided the computer was broken and bought a new one before I could get over to set it straight. Assuming a need for color tweaking, dccw.exe is the wrong approach for all users. The tool should not be used by anyone who cares about their display quality. Users who do not need or understand color correction should fiddle with their monitor's color settings "until it looks good" without using OS-level color manipulation. Users who do understand color correction but do not need it, also should fiddle with monitor settings. Users who do need color calibration will purchase a high bit-depth monitor and use a calibration device. Anyone who uses dccw.exe is reducing the quality of their display, though they may not notice in the images they have on hand at the moment.

dphopkins
dphopkins

"Microsoft Windows 7 includes built-in applications" "in Windows 7, type dccw in the Desktop Search box, and click the dccw.exe file." Selective reading will get you selective intelligence. Please use what intelligence you have selected and stop moaning. It clearly states what to do unless you just skim the last few words of a sentence.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

There is a link in the gallery and it is available on Amazon for example.

iShango
iShango

Ahh GentlemanBill, I was in your shoes when Vista came along and held out. I fired up Windows 7 beta and was very pleasantly surprised, and have been using win7 ever since. I have now moved all my family to Win7 with huge reductions in downtime and other issues. There is a little bit of a learning curve but it is well worth it. If it helps, think of it as brain gym. Take the jump if the opportunity arises...

raymond.doctor
raymond.doctor

Yeah, I agree. Altho there is a default to get your settinbgs back, I personally wouldn't advise, apart from a pro, who knows what he is doing to play around with the settings.

DesertPete9
DesertPete9

The PDF pages are out of order or misnumbered or both.

pmansbach
pmansbach

I'm amused by the example screens, for example the one showing "too dark", "just right", "too light". Since you're starting out with an uncalibrated monitor, the "just right" image may be way too dark, and the "too light" may be just right. Or not.

michael
michael

calibrating a monitor is best done with a hardware plus software kit,quite a few makes are available and used items off Ebay etc will do just as well. doing it by eye alone is nowhere near good enough as ambient light will colour you judgement,pun intended.Even being tired affects colour perception as will a hangover,so If you want it right,do it right.

dean.h
dean.h

there is something like this in Windows XP MCE, I haven't looked at Vista media center, but it's probably there somewhere.

Adam S
Adam S

You wouldn't advise adjusting your own monitor settings? It's just a monitor, not taxes. You're not going to hurt it by trying to improve the visual quality so you can see everything as it was meant to be seen. Live a little.

Summersond
Summersond

Sypder makes hardware and software for this. It is not cheap, but if you need it set correctly, this will do it. I have the Spyder II and it works great! They also have software that lets you calibrate your printer so you can print the same as what you see on the screen. Great for photo editors.

brian
brian

By changing the sliders, you're taking a finite range of numbers that go from 0 to 255, and instead of sending those numbers to your computer monitor as 0 through 255, when you mess with the sliders exposed by dccw.exe you are mashing the range around and ruining that one-to-one mapping. It has the following effects on image quality: * Some numbers are thrown out because no source number maps to it anymore. * Some numbers are mashed together, e.g. 252, 253 and 254 all map to 254. * Some numbers become inaccessible, e.g. there is no red value that maps to anything higher than 230 if you turn down the red slider in dccw.exe to correct a red shift. The result is banding in images. A worse result is the user forgets they did this "calibration", and another tool made by another vendor advertises the same settings in a different location. (e.g. dccw.exe vs. nvidia's color correction sliders, both of which are software color correction and produce banding artifacts.) They then attempt to tweak the new sliders, which are competing with the other sliders, and that's bad.

brian
brian

Many people fail to understand that color CORRECTNESS often comes at the expense of color QUALITY. To cause your screen to emit exactly the expected color from its LCD when an app requests an RGB value be displayed, a calibrator has to throw out a good chunk of the color range and smudge the rest all over the place. This can result in an image that is color correct, but looks like crap because of banding. This is great for print artists who want an accurate on-screen representation of what their printer will do if they hit "print", all the way down to being able to hold the print up to a Pantone chart and see that it matches. It is not so great for average Joe User who wants to look at pretty vacation pictures. Average Joe User will always be better off shifting the R,G,B sliders in the monitor's internal settings (not in software) until it "looks nice."