This tutorial discusses using the X-Rite ColorMunki Display to calibrate most desktop screens – that is, screens which have buttons and menus to control contrast, brightness and color.
Before you begin, please make sure you’ve read this article first.
Part 1: Setup
Make sure your screen has been turned on for at least half an hour before starting calibration.
Make sure you’re in good light. You’re about to make some preliminary comparisons between your screen and your prints, and viewing prints in dim light is a futile exercise. It needs to be bright enough, and white enough. Read this if you haven’t already done so.
Reset to factory defaults (first time only)
When you’re getting ready to calibrate for the very first time, you need to search the screen’s menu to find the setting that puts everything back to its starting point. Every screen is different, so I can’t tell you exactly where to find this function, but trust me, it’ll be there somewhere. It might be called “Reset Screen Defaults” or “Restore Factory Settings”, or something like that. You get the idea.
(When you’re doing subsequent monthly calibrations, this reset step shouldn’t be necessary. But never say never – some screens may need that “kick in the pants” each time, if they won’t recalibrate easily.)
Choose best color setting
You begin by selecting the best color setting that your monitor offers. All monitors will have two or three color presets – they’ll be called “Warm”, “Normal” & “Cool”, or “6500K”, “7500K” & “9300K”, or something like that. (Most will also have a “Custom” or “User RGB” setting, but we’ll try to avoid that complexity if possible.)
Pick the setting which matches your prints the best. If you’re in the lucky minority, you might find one that gives a really good match. But most of us simply have to accept the closest available setting, even if it doesn’t look perfect. Don’t worry, the calibration process will do the rest.
Part 2: Installation
Check the site
I can almost guarantee that the disk that came with your device is out of date. So don’t even bother opening it – just go straight to the X-Rite site and grab the latest version from the “Software Downloads” section.
Don’t plug in the device yet. Install the software, and restart your computer if it asks you to.
Now you can plug the device into your USB port, then launch the ColorMunki software.
Part 3: Preferences
Immediately go to File>Preferences:
Here’s what it’ll look like:
The Tone Response Curve (1) should remain on 2.2 at all times. The ICC Profile Version (2) should be set to Version 2. Presently, Version 4 profiles are still a bit flaky on some computers, but Version 2 is robust.
Turn off both the checkboxes (3 and 4).
Choose the correct setting carefully in the Technology Type menu (5). If you get it wrong, it can mess with your results. If you’re not sure, check your invoice, or the manual, or google your computer’s specs.
- CCFL: This basically means ” not LED”. Most older LCD screens will be CCFL, but newer ones are likely to be LED instead.
- Wide Gamut CCFL: If you bought a wide-gamut screen, you’ll remember, because your wallet is probably still hurting. Most laptop and Mac screens are normal gamut, but check your paperwork if you’re not sure.
(Please don’t mix up wide gamut with wide format. Wide format screens are … y’know, wide. 16:9 shape, or whatever. “Wide Gamut” refers to the range of colors they can show. If the salesman boasted to you about a “110% gamut” or “Adobe RGB gamut” screen, it means wide-gamut.)
- White LED: This is the most common type of modern screens. If you know your screen is LED, it’s almost certainly white LED.
- RGB LED: RGB LED screens are still pretty expensive and rare. If you’ve paid top dollar for one of these, you probably won’t be using the ColorMunki to calibrate it, to be honest.
- Projector: This tutorial doesn’t cover projector calibration, sorry.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If the Technology Type says “No Entry”, it means the computer can’t detect the calibrator in the USB port. If you haven’t plugged it in already, do it now. If you have plugged it in already, it hasn’t been recognized yet. Try another USB port, or if that doesn’t work, try restarting your computer with the device left plugged in. We’re told that the device won’t work in USB3 ports, so make sure you use a USB2 port.
Once you’ve made the appropriate changes to the Preferences window, press Ok.
Part 4: Targets
Click “Profile My Display” …
… then immediately choose “Advanced”:
Set the White Point target to Native:
This is a setting that might take a few attempts to get right. I can’t tell you exactly what setting will suit you best, but I can tell you that the default setting of 120 is invariably too high.
I recommend choosing 100 the first time you calibrate.
Press “Next” at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen to continue.
Turn off both the checkboxes on this page:
Press “Next” again.
Part 5: Lights out
At this point, if you haven’t already, turn off the lights or pull the blinds, or whatever. Strictly speaking, the surrounding light shouldn’t matter, but it can’t hurt to be extra safe.
Part 6: Calibration
Tilt the screen back, rotate the Munki’s cover around, and use the counterweight on the cord to hang the sensor over the back, so it’s positioned roughly on the designated spot on the screen.
Click “Next” to begin the calibration process.
The contrast adjustment step
The screen will flash a couple of times as the ColorMunki takes some initial readings. Then it will stop and ask you to adjust your screen’s Contrast setting to its highest possible level.
Press “Next” and the Munki will commence its brief contrast readings. Then it will pause and wait for you to adjust the contrast.
It’s very simple and logical. The goal is to get the yellow bar in the green zone. Just decrease your screen’s contrast setting to get as close as possible to the target. Don’t be worried if you can’t achieve the exactcenter of the green zone – just get as close as you can.
Press “Next” to continue.
The brightness adjustment step
The screen will flash a few more times, then pause for you to adjust your screen’s brightness to get as close as possible to the White Luminance target you specified.
Again, don’t be surprised if you can’t achieve the exact luminance target. Near enough is good enough. And if you can’t get it right on the money, I find it’s better to err on the low side, rather than the high side.
SPECIAL NOTE: It’s very rare, but some people have screens which can’t achieve a low enough brightness. Even with the brightess setting turned all the way down to zero, the yellow bar is still too high. If this happens to you, press “Back” to get back to the main screen, then go to File>Preferences and check the “Achieve display luminance value using video LUT’s” checkbox. Then commence the calibration again. Put your screen’s brightness as low as it can go, and the Munki itself will lower the brightness the rest of the way when it makes the profile.
Press “Next” to continue.
The color readings
For a few minutes, the device will read a range of colors:
Once the Munki has taken all its measurements it will return to the main window, at which point you can remove the device from the screen and turn its cover back into place.
Part 7: Save and evaluate the profile
Now it’s time to give your profile a name. Your naming convention isn’t vital, and you can do whatever you like, but I find that it’s handy to name it by the two targets you chose earlier. I calibrated my screen to a luminance of 100, so I’ve named my profile thus:
This way, I don’t have to scratch my head each month, trying to remember what targets I calibrated to last time. It’s right there in the profile name. And each time I recalibrate, I just over-write the old profile with the same profile name, so I don’t end up with a string of useless old profiles in my system.
(X-Rite persist in recommending that you put the date in the profile name. This is utter nonsense. There is no value in keeping out-of-date profiles on your hard drive, unless you suspect that your calibrator is failing.)
Once you’ve given the profile a name, press “Save”. It’ll take a couple of seconds, then tell you it’s been successful:
Set the reminder
Don’t skip this part. Check the “Remind me” box, and choose 4 weeks as the recalibration period:
The last page of the ColorMunki software is a “Before and After Comparison” screen, where you can look at photos of beautiful women in order to … well, just because it’s nice to look at photos of beautiful women, I guess. There’s no real purpose to this page, so press “Finish” and exit the software.
Part 8: Lights up
Turn your lights back on, or open the blinds, or whatever.
Part 9: The comparison
Now that the calibration is finished, it’s time to check the results, by comparing some prints. I explained this process on this page.
If you are satisfied that you have an acceptable match, then your work is done. You may begin editing, or go and have a beer, or something.
Part 10: Troubleshooting
If you find that your screen is brighter than your prints, then run the calibration process again, with a lower White Luminance target. For example, if you calibrated to 100 the first time, and you think it’s a little too bright, calibrate to 90 next time. Of course, if the difference is strong, then you’d choose 80 instead.
Conversely, if your screen is darker than your prints, then recalibrate to a higher luminance target.
Note: In the rare circumstance that the ColorMunki’s lowest brightness target of 80 isn’t low enough for your print matching, manually reduce your screen’s brightess to a satisfactory level, then recalibrate with “Native” as the White Luminance target. However, if this is necessary, I urge you to consider the light in which you edit, and brighten it if possible.
If you are unhappy with the color of your calibrated screen, you can explore other options.
But first, ask yourself if your calibration was as good as it could be. Was the device sitting perfectly flat against the screen? Was there too much light glaring on the screen? Was there any risk that the screen might have dimmed during calibration? If there’s any doubt in your mind about those questions, try a plain (careful!) recalibration.
At this point, please let me reiterate – have some tolerance. Calibration isn’t some kind of magic. It can never make ink on paper exactly match light coming from a screen. “Acceptably close” is what we’re aiming for.
Other screen settings
Try another color preset on your screen. If you used “Normal” the first time, see if “Warm” or “Cool” look better, for example.
Then calibrate again, and see if you’re closer to a match.
White point targets
The last available avenue of flexibility is the white temperature targets.
Remember how we chose “Native” the first time? Well, now it’s time to try the other options.
If you feel your screen is too warm, try D65 first. Or, if you think your screen is too cool, try D55.
I won’t lie to you – all this fiddling could take a while. You might need to try a number of calibrations before you find the best one. But once you have it nailed, subsequent monthly calibrations will be much faster, I promise.
We’re in desperation territory here. Try one or both of the options on this page, and see if you can get better results:
I have no experience with these settings, sorry. You’re on your own.
Part 11: If all else fails
If, after numerous calibration attempts, you can’t get a result you like, you have four options:
They’re the experts, after all. See if they have a solution for you. Maybe you’ve got some kind of graphics card glitch, or something.
Lower your expectations
Choose the best calibration, and live with it.
It’s possible that your screen is just … well, crappy. A new one might be in your future. General info about monitors here.
Part 12: Regular recalibration
After one month has passed, you’ll get the reminder to recalibrate.
When you launch the software, I recommend quickly going to the Help menu and checking for updates, and installing them if available:
Then, go ahead and run the calibration process as normal. I assure you that subsequent recalibrations will be faster and easier than the first time.