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This page has some information on monitor calibration, profiling, colour management, and wide gamut-displays which some people may find useful. I have an extensive list of references at the end which will probably keep you busy for a few weekends!

Table of Contents

A. Monitor Calibration

This section provides a quick and dirty way to adjust the “brightness” or luminance of the computer screen or monitor, and was originally put together as some people had reported that my images were too dark; these reports were especially common when CRT monitors were common in most people’s homes. Today, with LCD-type monitors, these reports are not so common and, to a large extent, that this is because modern LCD monitors have extremely high luminance levels set as default such as over 200 candelas per square metre or cd/m2. I have to squint to look at monitors with these high luminance levels.

But monitor calibration is more than just about luminance levels; the colours on the screen matter too. The common colour-standard for screens is sRGB IEC61966-2.1 which is just shortened to “sRGB” in normal discussions.

The most accurate way to get correct colours and luminance levels is to use a device such as a colorimeter or spectrophotometer to measure the light from your monitor which, in conjunction with appropriate software, allows you to calibrate and profile your monitor. Over the years I've used colorimeters and spectrophotometers from x-rite and DataColor but I've now settled on the x-rite i1 Display Pro colorimeter which has been designed to provide more accurate readings for wide-gamut monitors compared to older colorimeters. I believe that the DataColor Spyder 4 is also similarly endowed.

However, I imagine that you’ve landed on this page because you do not have a hardware device such as a colorimeter or spectrophotometer and are seeking some help in alternative means of adjusting your monitor. The steps below describe a quick and dirty process for setting the luminance of your monitor. I also highly recommend that you visit Norman Koren's site and The Lagom LCD monitor test pages as these offer superior methods; if you are going to use those sites then please make sure that your web browser zoom settings are at exactly 100%.

I've set my monitor luminance to 80 cd/m2 which some people may consider too dark; others may recommend 90 cd/m2 or even 120 cd/m2. Regarding standards, ISO 3664:2009 allows a monitor luminance from 75 cd/m2 to 100 cd/m2 with a monitor colour temperature of 6500K. And ISO 12646:2008 allows a monitor luminance from 80 cd/m2 to 120 cd/m2 with a monitor colour temperature of 5000K. You see, it all depends, and I've found that 80 cd/m2 suits me fine. Your mileage may vary.

OK then, let’s begin! Hopefully your monitor has controls labeled "Contrast" and "Brightness".

Step 1

Ensure that the monitor has been switched on for at least 30 minutes. Also ensure that room-lighting is not too bright.

Step 2

Most monitors today should have a setting that allows you to choose from a number of colour presets; choose “sRGB”. If you do not have such a setting, trying resetting the monitor to its default setting; this may or may not help! Once ready, we can proceed to Step 3.

Step 3

FOR CRT MONITORS:

Set the monitor "Contrast" level control to the maximum value. If image distortion occurs or if the screen seems too bright then lower "Contrast" level until the distortion is reduced. Note that CRT monitors can exhibit severe geometric distortion at high "contrast" levels.

FOR LCD MONITORS:

LCD monitors do not suffer from the same contrast-related geometric distortions that CRTs do, so it is very easy to set the "contrast" level too high on LCD monitors. Instead, as a starting point, try going for a "contrast" level that is 30% or 40% of the maximum that your monitor can achieve especially if you have a brand spanking new monitor. Older LCD monitors may need to have the contrast as high as 100% due either to ageing or to older design limitations. This is the hardest and most subjective setting to achieve without a hardware-based calibration device.

Step 4

This step is all about adjusting the black-level. Starting from a "Brightness" level of 0% (i.e. zero) on your monitor controls, increase the monitor "Brightness" level so that you can see all 21 distinct shades in the test bar shown below. The goal is to keep the blackest bar as black as possible (so that blacks appear black on photos) but still be able to differentiate between adjacent bars.

                                         

Not all monitors will be able to pass this test. In particular, unless ambient lighting is very low it may be difficult to differentiate between the two darkest levels. However, with rapid advances in technology, a growing number of monitors are able to pass this test with ease.

I have found that a number of LCD monitors exhibit subtle but noticeable colour artefacts such that each greyscale bar appears to have a different tint or hue from other greyscale bars resulting in some looking red, some green, etc. You'll have to investigate if this can be rectified on your monitor.

If my images still appear dark, then sorry, that's the way that I've done them. I did say that I prefer dark images!

Remember, the steps listed above are quick and dirty and are only about monitor "brightness". Reproduction of correct and consistent colours will require the use of a hardware-based device such as a colorimeter or spectrophotometer.

B. My display settings

If it helps anyone, which I seriously doubt, I use two Dell UltraSharp 3008WFP 30-inch monitors which I've had for a few years now in a dual-monitor configuration.

These are monitor calibration settings from January 2013:

Monitor 1 Monitor 2
"Brightness" monitor control 53% 44%
"Contrast" monitor control 100% 100%
"Red" monitor control 68% 66%
"Green" monitor control 64% 61%
"Blue" monitor control 71% 68%
Colour temperature (or "white point") 6500K 6500K
Gamma 2.2 2.2
White level luminance (cd/m2) 80 80
Black level luminance (cd/m2) 0.2 0.2

CIE chromaticity diagram

C. Wide-gamut displays (oh woe is me!)

This is really about colour management support within modern web browsers and the particular issues experienced when using these browsers with wide-gamut displays.

I use wide-gamut displays; these are monitors which can display more colours than normal sRGB monitors. Unfortunately, this has caused much woe with regards to seeing the correct colours on the web as few browsers properly manage colour. If you use a "standard" sRGB display then you're lucky as you are unlikely to experience large colour shifts (if any!) when viewing images through a web browser. Unless I take particular care on managing my colour workflow I will see colours much more saturated than intended resulting in a very poor and harsh user experience. Currently, the best colour-managed web browsers on Windows 7 and Windows 8 are Firefox 16.02 and, with some limitations, Google Chrome 23.

A background on browser colour management can be found in the following links:
  1. Firefox colour management settings
    http://www.metalvortex.com/blog/2012/03/16/831.html
  2. Why I use Firefox browser
    http://www.metalvortex.com/blog/2011/08/21/643.html
  3. Web browser color management
    http://simon.tindemans.eu/cm/webcm
  4. The sad state of web browser color management
    http://gearoracle.com/guides/web-browser-color-management-guide/
  5. Color Management and iPhone 4
    http://correctcolor.org/cccommentary/?p=140
  6. Color Management on the Internet
    http://correctcolor.org/cccommentary/?p=88
I've found that Safari 5.1.7 has a strange colour management implementation as it does not seem to handle tagged images in a consistent manner; I don't know what it does. Perhaps it's not reading the profile properly? However, based on its features, Safari has no relevance to Windows users; Apple doesn't care.

IE9 and IE10 do have some colour-management, but they assume that your monitor is sRGB which is useless for those who have non-sRGB monitors; a real shame and unforgivable after all of Microsoft's claims that IE9 would allow you to see colours correctly. This is a real problem for those who care about accurate colour reproduction on the web.

Once configured correctly, only Firefox and Google Chrome seem to provide proper colour management in Windows 7 and Windows 8 (I should add that this is all based on using ICC v2 and not ICC v4 as I've had some issues with ICC v4). However, Google Chrome's colour management is automatically disabled if there is any Flash content on the page, which I think is quite daft. Additionally, Google Chrome converts everything to sRGB before converting to the monitor colour space; what this means is that a user will miss out on the greater colour range offered by those images with colour spaces larger than sRGB (Adobe RGB for example) assuming that the user's monitor is wide-gamut of course. This sRGB conversion by Google Chrome isn't too big a handicap, though, as most images on the Internet should be in sRGB.

For Firefox, colour management configuration instructions can be found at http://www.metalvortex.com/blog/2012/03/16/831.html
As Firefox is my main browser, I do invest time investigating its colour management behaviour, and I've got some information on ICC v2 and v4 support within Firefox at http://www.metalvortex.com/blog/2013/01/12/1115.html

For Google Chrome, a command line switch is required in order to instruct it to use colour management, but this colour management is disabled if there is any Flash content on the page. The command line is enabled by appending the string --enable-monitor-profile to the application shortcut target e.g. C:\Users\name\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe --enable-monitor-profile

Depending on your version of Google Chrome, this colour management command line switch may not always work; Google Chrome's colour management support is a bit patchy. The other problem with using a command line switch is that the command line is not used when clicking on a link in an e-mail client, for example, when Google Chrome isn't already running; there may be ways to force this via changes in the Windows registry (good luck!).

WARNING: If you do not have a correctly calibrated and correctly profiled monitor then using colour management may result in incorrect colours being displayed.

The following images show the relative colour differences and handling of tagged and untagged images between the main browsers on Windows 8 Pro 64-bit as of November 2012. Note Safari's inconsistent handling of tagged images.
  1. Untagged image
    Only Firefox and Google Chrome show the untagged image correctly. But Google Chrome will fail if there is Flash content on the page.
     untagged image


  2. Tagged image
    Only Firefox and Google Chrome show the tagged image correctly. But Google Chrome will fail if there is Flash content on the page. The background colour is untagged so all browsers except Firefox and Google Chrome (when it works!) have a problem in showing that correctly.
     tagged image


  3. Tagged image
    Only Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari show this tagged image. Note that Safari had failed with the previous tagged image (see above) so Safari seems a bit inconsistent. Also, Google Chrome will fail if there is Flash content on the page. The background colour is untagged so all browsers except Firefox, Google Chrome (when it works!) and Safari have a problem in showing that correctly in this example.
     tagged image


Based on the above, for Windows 7 and Windows 8 environments that have had proper monitor calibration and monitor profiles created, I recommend the use of Firefox for consistent and accurate colour reproduction; all other browsers fail in some manner.

I'm lucky that my two monitors have very similar colour responses otherwise my woe will be never-ending in a dual-monitor configuration with each display showing different colours in colour-blind applications.

If you find that your wide-gamut monitor is giving you hell and you can't live with it any longer, there are a couple of options besides replacing the monitor! The two options here are about trying to configure the monitor to respond as per a narrow-gamut or sRGB monitor.

Option 1

There may be a colour preset in your monitor controls to select "sRGB" mode. Do that. However, I find that on my monitors that this "sRGB" mode is not really that close to sRGB. But it may work for you.

Option 2

Your graphics driver may have an adjustment to change colours, gamma, etc. On my machine, I can use the "NViDIA Control Panel" to reduce "Digital vibrance" from 50% to 40%. 40% seems a decent match to sRGB; your mileage may vary. It ain't perfect, and I do recognise it as a kludge. Please note that you should have calibrated the display to 6500K and gamma 2.2 before making these adjustments in the "NViDIA Control Panel" or its equivalent. Once this is done, you should then remove the monitor colour profiles or select an sRGB profile in your OS's colour management control panel.

I'm sure that there may be other options dependent upon your hardware/software configuration. You'll have to decide what works for you. And good luck!

D. References

  1. Making fine prints in your digital darkroom - Monitor calibration and gamma
    http://www.normankoren.com/makingfineprints1A.html
  2. The Lagom LCD monitor test pages
    http://www.lagom.nl/lcd-test/
  3. Why Are My Prints Too Dark?
    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/why_are_my_prints_too_dark.shtml
  4. The Darkroom Makes a Comeback
    http://www.creativepro.com/article/the-darkroom-makes-a-comeback
  5. Web browser color management
    http://simon.tindemans.eu/cm/webcm
  6. The sad state of web browser color management
    http://gearoracle.com/guides/web-browser-color-management-guide/
  7. Color Management and iPhone 4
    http://correctcolor.org/cccommentary/?p=140
  8. Color Management on the Internet
    http://correctcolor.org/cccommentary/?p=88
  9. Colour management for dodos
    http://dpanswers.com/content/tech_colmgmnt01.php
  10. Deconstructing Chromaticity
    http://www.photo-mark.com/notes/2010/sep/08/deconstructing-chromaticity/
  11. ICC specifications
    http://www.color.org/icc_specs2.xalter
  12. Is your system ICC Version 4 ready?
    http://www.color.org/version4html.xalter
  13. Monitor displays & viewing conditions - ColourStandards
    http://www.colourstandards.com.au/monitor_display.html
  14. Choosing an LCD Monitor for Photo-Editing/Viewing
    http://www.clarkvision.com/photoinfo/choosing_an_LCD_monitor/
  15. Why Use the ProPhoto RGB Color Space?
    http://www.outbackphoto.com/color_management/cm_06/essay.html
  16. Color Working Spaces: ProPhoto RGB vs. Adobe RGB (1998)
    http://codphoto.wordpress.com/2010/02/21/color-spaces/
  17. Firefox colour management settings
    http://www.metalvortex.com/blog/2012/03/16/831.html
  18. Why I use Firefox browser
    http://www.metalvortex.com/blog/2011/08/21/643.html

This page last updated on June 2013 by Kulvinder Singh Matharu

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