This weekend I received a very interesting surprise, courtesy of a brand new computer monitor. An image that I had worked on some time ago for my personal Web site had huge chunks of background still in it, that was only visible on a very bright, high contrast display. This graphic had been around for years, and I had checked it on a few different computers and it always looked good. But last week, I bought a new monitor with a 1400:1 contrast ratio and it came out of the box at an extremely bright setting. I went through some other images that I had worked on and saw the same issues.

What a difference a monitor makes!

I knew for some time that my previous monitor was a bit dark, by comparison with other monitors. I adjusted the brightness and gamma settings in my video card to compensate, and thought that everything was fine.  Since the graphics looked good on other screens, I thought it was good. Now I am seeing the difference in a lot of things.

I find it interesting that setting the monitor to what I like to look at is so different from what the computer is actually trying to display. I am not primarily a graphics person, so I never really bothered with screen calibration. I always chose monitors based on high refresh rates, flat screens (as in a flat CRT, not an LCD), non glare coatings, and other ergonomic issues.

I went through anything else I may have worked on that ended up in a production environment, and everything else was fine. But still, this brought up a lot of thoughts in my mind. After all, I am just a developer, so why should I know about these things? I do graphics work on personal stuff and occasionally for a client, but never anything too important or fancy. But every programmer I know at some point finds themselves doing double duty as a graphics artist or editor. No one ever seems to think to give the developers high end video cards (we are working in text after all!) or monitors (even though programmers need good, large, and dual monitors to be their most productive). It is bad enough that when we get roped into these tasks, we have to beg, borrow, steal, and cheat to get a better editor than the throwaway junkware that came with the last scanner or printer we bought for home use.

From here on out, I will be learning a bit more about screen calibration, settings, and display profiles. I may be “just a programmer