How do I calibrate my computer display's best color settings?

One often overlooked aspect of the computer experience is the color and contrast calibration of your monitor. Learn how to make the proper adjustments.

Take a long look at your computer monitor. Is the contrast and brightness right? Have you calibrated the color correctly? Have you ever calibrated the display at all? For the amount of time you spend staring at the pixels that monitor generates, calibration should be something you do at least once. It is not a difficult process, and Microsoft Windows 7 includes built-in applications that make the process really simple.

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Gamma, brightness, and contrast

To start the display calibration process in Windows 7, type dccw in the Desktop Search box and click the dccw.exe file (Figure A).

Figure A

Click dccw.exe.
The Display Color Calibrator is not very fancy (Figure B), but it is effective.

Figure B

Display Color Calibrator will appear.
The first step the Display Color Calibrator asks you to do (Figure C) is to load the factory defaults. If you are like most people, those are the settings that the monitor is set to, so you really don't have to do anything but click the Next button.

Figure C

Restore the factory defaults.
The first test and setting to adjust is the Gamma. The Display Color Calibrator shows you what Gamma means and what your Gamma should look like (Figure D), and then it takes you to an adjustment page (Figure E) where you can adjust Gama settings.

Figure D

Gamma is defined here.

Figure E

Adjust Gamma.
Brightness and contrast are the next aspects to be tested (Figure F).

Figure F

Adjust the brightness and contrast.
The explanation of the brightness and contrast test makes it sound so simple (Figure G).

Figure G

Brightness and contrast are explained.
The brightness calibration test itself is deceivingly simple; you'll have to have a good eye to get the best result (Figure H).

Figure H

The brightness calibration test looks like this.
The contrast test is explained, and it also seems deceivingly simple (Figure I).

Figure I

Contrast calibration test is explained.
The contrast calibration test is probably the most difficult to adjust with the naked eye. Your brain will play tricks on you as you make adjustments (Figure J).

Figure J

Adjust the contrast.


Color calibration is often necessary because manufacturers and retailers like to increase the color saturation of the monitors as they leave the factory to make them stand out to consumers (Figure K).

Figure K

Color calibration is explained.
Move the sliders to the correct position to get the most pure form of grey (Figure L).

Figure L

Find a true shade of grey.
Assuming you made adjustments, you can look at the quality of your display before and after calibration. If you did it right, your display should look better after calibration (Figure M). If it doesn't, perhaps you would like to use a piece of hardware to calibrate your display? We'll get to that in a bit.

Figure M

The display looks better.

Clear Type

Moving on to the Clear Type calibration is an important step -- at least as far as I am concerned. As someone who spends hours looking at text, I really need my text to be displayed as clearly as it can possibly be. All my Windows PC operate with Clear Type turned on (Figure N).

Figure N

Clear Type is on.
The next screen (Figure O) 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.

Figure O

Use native resolution please.
The next four screens (Figures P, Q, R, and S) show text boxes of varying attributes. Each individual is likely to pick a different combination, so don't be persuaded to choose what I have, because this is really a calibration test that matches text to your eye.

Figure P

This is Clear Type 1.

Figure Q

This is Clear Type 2.

Figure R

This is Clear Type 3.

Figure S

This is Clear Type 4.
After you make your calibration choices, you will end up with a display with better attributes than you stared with (Figure T). However, if you really want to get a true gamma, brightness, contrast, and color calibration and adjustment, you will have to invest in a specialized piece of hardware, like the Eye-One Display 2.

Figure T

Your calibration is complete, unless you have hardware.


The X-Rite Eye-One Display 2 (Figure U) is a small piece of hardware that looks a lot like a mouse. However the Display 2 is designed specifically for professional monitor calibration using the USB interface (Figure V).

Figure U

This is the X-Rite Eye-One Display 2.

Figure V

It uses the USB interface.
The Eye-One Match 3 software will automatically calibrate and adjust your monitor depending on what the device actually sees when it is attached to your monitor (Figure W).

Figure W

Eye-One Match 3 tests your calibration.
When the test finishes, you will get a summary page (Figure X). You will also see a Before & After button.

Figure X

Eye-One Match 3 provides you with a summary page.
If you click the Before & After button, you can see how much the Eye-One Display 2 has adjusted your monitor (Figures Y and Z).

Figure Y

This is before calibration.

Figure Z

This is after calibration.

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