This tutorial discusses using the Calibrite ColorChecker Display Pro and the X-Rite i1Display Pro to calibrate most desktop screens – that is, screens which have buttons and menus to control contrast, brightness and colour.
There are two main methods for using this device on your screen. This is the easiest, so I recommend you try it first. If it works for you (and it should for most people), that’s great. If not, you’ll need to progress to Method 2.
Before you begin, please make sure you’ve read this article.
Part 1: Monitor preparation
Make sure your screen has been turned on for at least fifteen minutes before starting calibration.
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.)
Move the OSD
On some screens, the OSD (on-screen display, ie the menu) is right in the middle by default. That’s no good, of course, because that’s where the calibration needs to take place.
Somewhere in the menus will be the controls for the OSD’s position. Find them, and move it over to the right-hand side. In fact, down into the bottom right-hand corner would be even better.
Explore the colour presets
Now you need to investigate the range of colour settings that your screen offers. All monitors will have two or three (or more) colour 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’re ignoring those in this method. We’re sticking to the presets.)
Found ’em? Great. Now grab a piece of paper, and write them down in a column:
A little later you’ll be writing their precise temperatures on that page.
Choose the first preset
Set your screen to the first colour preset in your list, whatever it might be.
Part 2: Install
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I can almost guarantee that the disk that came with your device is out of date.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 to get the up-to-date version.
Don’t plug in the device yet. Install the software, and restart your computer if it asks you to.
Plug in, and launch
Now you can plug the device into your USB port, let it install itself, then launch the i1Profiler software.
Important: If you have multiple monitors (eg a desktop monitor attached to a laptop, or dual screens running on your computer), the very first thing you must do after launching the i1 program is to move the window to the screen you wish to calibrate. The software is wonderfully intuitive for calibrating multiple screens – you put the program on the desired screen, and it does the rest.
Part 3: 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:
X-Rite tend to update their software regularly, so it’s good to have the automatic updating turned on.
Next, change from "Basic" to "Advanced":
Part 4: Monitor readings
The purpose of this section is to record the exact colour temperature of each of your monitor’s colour presets.
On the left-hand side of the program, press "Uniformity" to commence:
Then choose your screen 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, so check for yourself to be sure you’ve made the best selection from the 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”. 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 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.)
- 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 / RG Phosphor: 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.
Press "Next" to continue:
Then press "Start Measurement":
This screen will instruct you to uncover the lens of the device:
Then this one will show you where to place the device:
Make sure you tilt the screen back as far as it will go, so that the device can easily sit flush against the surface:
Press "Next" to take the first reading:
The device will briefly read the screen’s output, then it will move its yellow guide to the next segment. In the first (middle) segment that it just read, you’ll see its results:
Ignore the Luminance result, that’s not relevant right now. We’re only interested in the White Point.
Important note: Since I first wrote these instructions, the software now takes three readings per section – light, medium and dark. The only one you need is the first one:
Move the device to the next space, but before doing anything else, write down the first result, eg:
Now, access the screen’s menu, and choose the next preset. In this photo, you can see my screen’s blue OSD on the right-hand side:
Press "Next" again to take the next reading:
Then write down the next result … then change the screen to its next colour preset … then repeat.
Do you get the idea? By testing each of your screen’s colour settings, you’ll be able to decide which is the best to use.
(Annoyingly, I had to test the last one twice, because the little instruction panel covered the result, so I couldn’t write it down. No biggie, it only added a few extra seconds to the process.)
You’ll end up with something like this …
… and your piece of paper will have all the numbers written on it.
Once you’ve taken all the readings you need, you (annoyingly) have to press "Previous" a bunch of times …
… to get back to the software interface:
Whereupon you can press "Home" to return to the main page:
Part 5: Choose the best preset
Ok, now you’ve got all those numbers written down, it’s time to evaluate them.
For almost all of you, the goal is to choose the preset which got closest to 6500K. Most labs recommend this target. If you lab doesn’t give a specific recommendation on their website, you can usually assume that 6500K is the right temperature to aim for.
My screen gives me a preset which is just over 6400K. That’s fabulous, I’m very lucky. I hope you’ll be that lucky too.
But don’t sweat it if you can’t get within 100 points of 6500K. Honestly, anything from 6000K to 7000K is a good starting point.
(However, if you don’t have a preset that gets you in the 6000-7000K range, you should probably stop here, and go to Method 2 instead. But honestly, it might be time for a new screen – start putting a few dollars aside.)
Set your screen to the best preset. Now you’re ready to calibrate!
Part 6: Targets
Back on the main page, press "Profiling":
The next screen you’ll see is the "Display Settings" page.
Display and technology type
We’ve already discussed this. It should remember your selection from earlier, but I can’t guarantee it, so make sure you double-check it’s correct.
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.
After the calibration is complete, the first thing you’ll do is compare your prints, at which point you might find a lower white luminance is necessary. More discussion about this later.
Leave the remaining three options as shown here – Native, unchecked, unchecked:
Press Next to continue:
Default Profile Settings
These defaults are ok, except for the Profile Version. At the time of writing this tutorial, 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":
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:
This is an important little section:
- Step 1 tells you to hang your device in the middle of screen. Yours might still be off to one side, so place it back in the centre. It also tells you to press Next, which is a bit silly, because you have to do steps 2 and 3 first, of course.
- Step 2 tells you to do a factory reset, but you’ve already done that right back at the beginning, so ignore this.
- Step 3 lets you tell the program what controls your screen has. Your screen has all three options, but I recommend unchecking the "Contrast" one. My testing has found that it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Much better, in most cases, to leave the screen on its factory default Contrast setting.
Part 7: 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 8: Calibration
Once the lights are low, it’s time for business. Press "Next":
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:
Don’t be worried if you can’t achieve the exact luminance target. In fact, it’s quite unusual if you can. Near enough is good enough.
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:
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 9: 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:
If your screen is old and failing, or if you’re simply an incurable geek, you can set a shorter recalibration period. But for most of us, 4 weeks is fine.
Create and save profile
Again, not very intuitive interface design by X-Rite, but the next step is to click this button:
Part 10: Lights up
Turn your lights back on, or open the blinds, or whatever.
Part 11: Evaluate the profile
Once you’ve saved the profile, the software gives you some results screens to evaluate. This is the most important one:
In the above screenshot, you can see that my final White Point was 6436K, which is very acceptable.
You might notice that my final luminance result was 98, even though it read 99 during the process. Small disparities like that are very common, and nothing to be worried about.
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. The Acer screen that I calibrated for this demonstration isn’t a particularly good one, so the lines are awfully wayward. (Luckily this isn't my editing screen.)
If you’re having some trouble with your calibration, and you plan to write to me at the forum to seek my help, I encourage you to take screen captures of the two results screens I’ve just shown you above, because I might ask to see them.
Part 12: 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 13: Troubleshooting
If you find that your screen is brighter than your prints, then run the calibration process again (from Step 6), 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, you can try a couple of things.
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 (from Step 6).
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.
Consult your piece of paper again. If you feel that your screen needs to be warmer to match your prints, choose the preset that gave you the next lowest number. If you feel that your screen needs to be cooler to match your prints, choose the next highest preset.
Once you’ve changed the screen setting, calibrate again (from Step 6).
If none of the presets work for you, then it’s time to try Method 2, where I’ll show you how to manipulate the custom colour settings (red, green and blue) of your screen.
Part 14: 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, from Step 6. I assure you that subsequent recalibrations will be faster and easier than the first time.
If you have a question about this article, please feel free to post it in Ask Damien.