Spyder4Pro calibration tutorial – Macs & laptops

This tutorial discusses using the Spyder4Pro to calibrate screens which have no adjustability other than their brightness. This includes:

  • All Macs
  • All laptops
  • Those all-in-one PCs that are trying to be Macs
  • Very cheap desktop screens with no buttons or menus to control their colour

(To the best of my knowledge, this tutorial should be fairly applicable to the Spyder3Pro as well, though not precisely.)

Before you begin, please make sure you’ve read this article.


Part 1: Brightness

The Spyder4Pro helps you control the brightness of your screen, but in a kind of unintuitive way. I’ve done some testing and experimentation, and I’ve found that the best approach is to adjust the brightness manually before you start your first ever calibration.

Warm up

Make sure your screen has been turned on for at least half an hour before starting this process.


Make sure you’re in good light. 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.

Adjust brightness to match prints

Compare your prints to your screen, and adjust the screen’s brightness to get an acceptable match. Remember, don’t hold the print close to the screen – it must be out to the side, so you have to turn your head to compare.

Please don’t agonise over this brightness step. Near enough is good enough.

If you’ve never adjusted the brightness of your screen before, it’s likely to seem horribly dim to you at first. Don’t worry, you’ll be used to it in no time at all, and you’ll wonder how you ever tolerated it so bright before.

Part 2: Install software

Do you still have the disk that came with your Spyder? Great. Run it now to install the software.

But what if you don't have the disk, or a disk drive? No problem, the software is available on the DataColor website for PC here and Mac here.

After you’ve installed, plug the calibrator into a USB port, and launch the software.

It’ll ask you to activate the software, which only takes a moment. It will also ask you a couple of questions about checking for automatic updates (say yes) and providing information to Datacolor (up to you).

Part 3: Setup

On the Welcome screen, you’ll see all of the advice that I’ve already given you (about warm up and light):


In the "Display Controls" section, please ignore the first two instructions about Contrast and Color Temperature. They don’t apply to your screen. The third point, about Brightness, is very relevant, but we already addressed it in Part 1 of this tutorial.

adjust brightness


From the File menu, choose Preferences:


These should all be fine. Make sure the Recalibration Warning is set to Monthly, and Check for software updates is turned on.


"Netbook controls" are only if needed if you have a very small screen, and the Advanced Settings don’t apply to Mac and laptop screens as far as I can tell.

Press "OK" to exit Preferences.

Check all four checkboxes, then press "Next" at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen to continue:


As soon as the software launches, choose Preferences from the Go menu:


Set the Recal warning for "1 Month", then click the “Advanced Settings” button:


"Check for software updates" should be turned on by default. "Share calibration data" is up to you. "Netbook controls" are only if needed, of course.

The "Show RGB sliders" box should remain unchecked. Click the "ICC Settings" button:

At the time of writing this, Version 4 profiles are still flaky. Make sure yours is set to Version 2:


Press OK a bunch of times to get back to the main welcome screen.

Display Type

Choose "Laptop" here. Yes, even if you’re on an iMac – their screens are essentially laptop screens, in their functionality.

choose laptop

On every screen in the software, the Help button is readily available. Always take a moment to use it if you need to. I must say I’m very impressed with Datacolor’s help documentation.


Make and Model

I must confess I don’t understand the purpose of this screen. Maybe it’s just so that Datacolor has a reference for your calibration data, if you’ve chosen to share it with them. Anyway, I dutifully chose my manufacturer from the drop-down menu, and typed in the model of my laptop:

make and model

Display Technology

This section really is important. The Help document says to leave these menus on "unknown" if you genuinely don’t know the answers, but please make the effort to find out the answers if you don’t know.

If you have a wide-gamut screen, I’m sure you’ll know about it, because your wallet will be that much lighter because of it. 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 colours they can show. If the salesman boasted to you about a "110% gamut" or "Adobe RGB gamut" screen, it means wide-gamut.)


The Backlight should also be fairly easy. If you have an LED screen, the manual or your invoice should tell you. Many newer screens are LED nowadays. If you do have an LED screen, it’s almost certainly White LED. RGB LED screens are still pretty rare and expensive.

My laptop is a bit older, so it’s a regular LCD screen, with flourescent backlighting:

Calibration Settings

This screen is the hub of the whole operation:

cal settings

The Gamma must remain on 2.2 (no matter what out-of-date information you might have heard about Macs requiring a 1.8 gamma):


For Macs and laptops, 6500K shouldn’t be your White Point (not at first, anyway). Choose Native instead:


Again, I disagree with Datacolor’s recommendation for Brightness. Choose LCD:


The LCD target is 120cd/m2. That’s way too bright for almost everyone. 80-100 is much more common. Don’t worry, by choosing the LCD target we’re not going to actually be calibrating to 120. It’s a starting point, that’s all. I’ll explain more later.

This one we definitely do agree on. Leave the Ambient Light function off:


… aaaaaaand press Next:


Part 4: Lights out

At this point, if you haven’t already, turn off the lights or pull the blinds, or whatever. For your best chance of accurate calibration, make your room as dark as possible.

Part 5: Calibration

Tilt the screen back, and use the counterweight on the cord to hang the sensor over the back, so it’s positioned roughly on the diagram on the screen.


Click "Next" to begin the calibration process.


The device will take a minute to read black, red, green, blue and white. Then it will pause here:


At the top right it will tell you the Target brightness (120, which is the LCD target we chose earlier) and your Current brightness, which should be lower than 120. You can see mine is quite a bit lower at 77. That’s ok, that’s the level I chose for my print matching in my lighting conditions.

Your "Current" brightness should be between 70 and 100. If so, press "Continue" right away:


BUT … if it’s lower than 70 or higher than 100, I’m sorry, but I kinda need you to stop here, turn your light back on, and go right back to the start, and re-visit your print matching from Part 1. In good light, you really should have a print match somewhere between 70 and 100.

If you can’t be bothered starting over, adjust your screen’s brightness until it’s at approximately 80. That should be a safe area for most people.

IMPORTANT: At the bottom of the screen (my screenshot cut it off for some reason) there’s an "Update" button. You have to press that after each brightness adjustment of your screen, so that the "Current" reading will change to reflect your new result.

Once you’re as near as possible to 80, press "Continue" to move on:



For the next few minutes, your screen will display a whole range of colours while the device reads and records them:

reading colours

NOTE: Please wiggle your mouse every few seconds while calibrating. It’s probably completely unnecessary, but do it anyway. The last thing you need is for your screen to dim itself from lack of activity after a minute or two – that throws the whole calibration into a cocked hat, believe me. Of course, don’t let the mouse pointer go underneath the device – just keep it at the side.

Once the Spyder has taken all its measurements, remove it from the screen, and press "Finish":


New target notification

Upon finishing, you’ll almost certainly get this little pop-up:

adjusted target

Don’t be alarmed – it’s a good thing. It’s telling you that your new Brightness target has been recorded in the software, where it will be remembered for you for all subsequent calibrations.

Part 6: 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 three targets you chose earlier. I calibrated my screen to a Gamma of 2.2 (the default, of course), a White Point of Native, and a Brightness of 77, so I’ve named my profile thus:

name it

Recalibration reminder

For most people, monthly recalibration is quite adequate. You’d only choose a shorter timeframe if you were (a) a raging nerd, or (b) worried that your screen might be dying:


Once saved, you’ll get this enthusiastic message:


Then you can press "Next"

Profile preview

Next, you get a screen with a "Switch" button which allows you to compare your screen with and without its new profile. It’s fun, but fairly pointless, so don’t linger here very long.


This screen is a bit more important than the others, because it tells you the gamut of your screen. But that’s still not particularly important, because the gamut is what it is – there’s nothing you can do to change it.


In this screenshot, you can see that my humble laptop screen has a gamut of 72% of sRGB. But you can see that it in fact slightly exceeds sRGB in one part of the red-to-green part of the spectrum. What does it all mean? Nothing, really, except to serve as a reminder that I’d be utterly wasting my time if I was working in Adobe RGB for my image editing.

Press "Quit" to finish.

Part 7: Lights up

Turn your lights back on, or open the blinds, or whatever.

Part 8: 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 9: Troubleshooting

Sorry, dear reader, I haven’t had time to do the Troubleshooting section of this tutorial.

I’ve you’ve followed along this far, and your prints don’t match to your satisfaction, please visit me at the link below and I’ll help you out right away.


If you have a question about this article, please feel free to post it in Ask Damien.