This tutorial discusses using the X-Rite i1Display Pro to calibrate screens which have no adjustability other than their brightness. This includes all Mac screens, and all laptops. It might also include cheap desktop screens with no buttons or menus to control their colour; and the new breed of all-in-one PCs that try to look like iMacs.
Before you begin, please make sure you’ve read this article.
(As time goes by, X-Rite updates their software regularly, so some of the screenshots on this page might be slightly different to your version. It shouldn’t prevent you following the instructions, but please write to me if there is a glaring discrepancy that I need to update.)
Part 1: Prepare and Install
Make sure your screen has been turned on for at least half an hour before starting calibration.
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I can almost guarantee that the disk that came with your device is out of date.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, let it install itself, then launch the i1Profiler software.
Part 2: Preferences
When you launch the program, you’ll be greeted by this screen:
The first thing to do is glance down at the bottom right-hand corner and make sure the “Check for update” is turned on.
If it’s not turned on (which is unlikely), just expand that section and check the checkbox:
Next, change from “Basic” to “Advanced”:
Then, on the left-hand side, press “Profiling” to commence:
Part 3: Targets
The next screen you’ll see is the “Display Settings” page.
Display and technology type
At this point, you might need to dig around in your filing cabinet to consult the invoice or paperwork that came with your computer, to find out whether you have an LED screen or not. X-Rite told me that their software sometimes knows what screen type you have, but it doesn’t always get it right (in fact, it got it wrong for me when recording this tutorial) so always check for yourself, and be sure you’ve made the best selection from this list:
- Generic: Choose this one if you really don’t know what type of display you have. Needless to say, this is not preferable.
- CCFL: This basically means ” not LED”. The older your screen is, the more chance it’s CCFL. But since 2012 or so, most new screens have been White LED.
- Wide Gamut CCFL: Once again, if your screen is older, and if it was very expensive at the time, it might be wide-gamut CCFL. But these screens are somewhat uncommon now.
(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.)
- 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 / OLED / Plasma / GB-LED: I’m not aware of many monitors using these technologies right now, but again, check your screen’s specs carefully.
- Projector: This tutorial doesn’t cover projector calibration, sorry.
By default this will be on D65, but change it 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.
Leave the remaining four options as shown here – Standard (2.2), Native, unchecked, unchecked:
Press “Next” to continue:
Default Profile Settings
These defaults are ok, except for the Profile Version. Version 4 (the default) is still a bit flaky, so change it to Version 2 instead:
Default Patch Set
This one is up to you, really. The small set gives the quickest calibration, the large set gives the most accurate profile. Choose your number of patches based on (a) how much of a hurry you’re in, and (b) how much of a colour nerd you are.
Even though Automatic Display Control sounds great, it too is flaky in my experience. I tend to turn it off, and turn on the second checkbox to allow me manual adjustment:
The interface is sadly vague at this point, and it’s too easy to casually hit “Next” and completely skip the actual calibration process. Make sure you press “Start Measurement”:
Part 4: 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 5: Calibration
The software will guide you through the next couple of steps. It will tell you to turn the device’s cover around, tilt your screen back, and position the device carefully on the screen.
Once you’ve followed the instructions, and pressed “Next” a couple of times, you’ll get to this screen:
The instructions here are poorly-written, but logic will guide you.
Step 1 tells you to hang your device on the screen, which you should have already done, and press Next, which you shouldn’t do until after steps 2 and 3, of course.
Step 2 doesn’t apply to your screen, so ignore it.
Step 3 lets you tell the program what controls your screen has, and Brightness is the only one you need to select, as I’ve shown in the screenshot.
The brightness adjustment step
The screen will flash a few times as the i1 takes some initial readings. Then it will pause and wait for you to adjust your screen’s brightness to get as close as possible to the White Luminance target you specified.
It’s very simple and logical. The goal is to get the yellow bar in the green zone. Just increase or decrease your screen’s brightness setting to get as close as possible to the target:
You can probably adjust your screen’s brightness using F keys on your keyboard. In some cases, you’ll need to use the slider in the Display control panel, and toggle back and forth between the control panel and the i1 program. Needless to say, the F key option is easier.
Don’t be surprised if you can’t achieve the exact luminance target. In fact, it’s quite unusual if you can. Near enough is good enough. During my calibration, the closest I could get was 103, which is a perfectly acceptable margin of error:
If you can’t get it right on the money, I find it’s better to err slightly on the low side, rather than the high side.
If you can’t get your screen’s brightness low enough (it’s rare, but it happens) then just take it as low as it can go.
Press “Next” to continue.
The colour readings
For a few minutes, the device will read a range of colours:
NOTE: Please wiggle your mouse every minute or so during this period. 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 – 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 i1 has taken all its measurements it will return to the Instructions Page, at which point you can remove the device from the screen and turn its cover back into place, then press “Next” …
… and “Next” again.
Part 6: Save the profile
By default, the X-Rite software will try to give your profile a gibberish name involving the model of your screen, and maybe the date. Personally, I prefer to name the profile by the targets I used:
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.
If the software detects multiple user profiles on your operating system, it will give you the option of “User Level” or “System Level”. I can’t imagine a circumstance where you’d want to restrict the profile to just one user, to keep this on System Level if it gives you the option.
Finally, set the reminder to 4 weeks:
Create and save profile
Again, not very intuitive interface design by X-Rite, but the next step is to click this button:
Part 7: Lights up
Turn your lights back on, or open the blinds, or whatever.
Part 8: Evaluate the profile
Once you’ve saved the profile, the software gives you some results screens to evaluate. This is the most important one:
The White Point target is of most interest. I’ve instructed you to calibrate to the “Native” white temperature target, because that’s the easiest for both you and your screen. However, right up until this point, we don’t know what the native temperature of your screen actually is.
6500K is the common standard, and 500K either side of that is perfectly acceptable to all but the biggest nerds. You can see in the above screenshot that the native temperature of my (not very fancy) screen is 6258K, which is an excellent result – better than I expected, to be honest.
You’ll also notice that the final luminance result was 99, even though it read 103 during the process. Small disparities like that are very common, and nothing to be worried about.
Make a note of your resultant white point and luminance, because I’ll discuss these results further, if necessary, in the Troubleshooting section further down the page.
There’s also a 2D graph which can be of interest:
Generally, the better the screen, the straighter and closer together those lines will be. As I said, my screen isn’t a particularly good one, so the lines are all over the place.
If you’re having some trouble with your calibration, I encourage you to take screen captures of the two results screens I’ve just shown you above and include these in your a question on the forum.
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: If you find that you need a target lower than 80, or higher than 120, I encourage you to make a frank assessment of the light in which you work, and decide if it’s truly suitable for imaging.
If you are unhappy with the colour of your calibrated screen … well, your screen itself doesn’t give you any flexibility, so we need to look to the calibrator instead.
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.
White point targets
If plain recalibration isn’t necessary, or doesn’t work, then you have to explore the only available avenue of flexibility – the white temperature targets.
Remember how we chose “Native” the first time? Well, now it’s time to try the other options.
Did you take note of your screen’s native white point? If you feel your screen is too warm, try one of the targets which is higher than your screen’s native. Or, if you think your screen is too cool, try one of the lower targets.
For example, my screen’s native temperature was 6258K. If I wanted a cooler result, I could try 6500K (“D65”) or even 7500K (“D75”). If I wanted a warmer result, I would try D55 or D50.
If you want even more fine-tuning, choose “Daylight Temperature”, which will give you a slider for even more careful targeting. But I hope it won’t come to that for you.
I won’t lie to you – this could take a while. You might need to try calibrating a number of times before you find the best target.
Part 11: If all else fails
If, after numerous calibration attempts, you can’t get a result you like, you have three 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.
If you’re working on a laptop, consider buying a good external monitor to run off it. General info about monitors here.
Part 11: Regular recalibration
After one month has passed, you’ll get the reminder to recalibrate.
When you launch the software, it will check for updates, and notify you if there’s a newer version of the software 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.