When your desktop screen’s brightness won’t go low enough

It’s not uncommon for computer screens to be much too bright when you first plug them in. During the calibration process, you’ll often find you need to take the brightness down a long way. Some people find this uncomfortable at first, but after only a few days, they’re used to it, and wonder how they ever tolerated it so nuclear-bright before!

A small percentage of people have to take their screen’s brightness right down to 0% to get a print match. An even smaller percentage find that 0% is still too bright!!! The brightness is as low as it can go, but the screen is still brighter than the prints. How frustrating!

The first thing to do is consider the light in your room. Is it truly bright enough? Remember that too-dim light can make prints seem too dark, and therefore the screen too bright.

If you’re sure the light in your room is fine, and you have a laptop or Mac or all-in-one computer, I don’t have any good news for you, sorry. If your calibrator can’t artificially reduce the brightness of your screen in its software (only the more expensive ones can do this) then you’ll have to invest in a new desktop screen to plug in to your current computer.

If you’re sure the light in your room is fine, and you have a desktop screen, I might have some good news for you. No promises, but something to try.

When you go to the colour settings that your screen’s menu offers, you’ll see various preset options, then one called "Custom" or "User" or something like that. When you explore that setting, you’ll see that you can control the red, green and blue colours individually.

(Just to be very clear, I don’t encourage exploring this setting in most cases. Fiddling with the RGB can cause calibration headaches. But you’re in a special situation here.)

Generally, you’ll find the red, green and blue values are equal by default, and generally they’re quite high. Often at 100%. Can you see where I’m going with this? If your screen’s brightness setting is at 0%, but the RGB settings are at 100%, your screen’s brightness is actually only half as low as it can go!

So, if you reduce those sliders uniformly – eg all from 100% to 50% – you’ll see your screen dim more. Hopefully enough for you to perform your calibration satisfactorily. I’m crossing my fingers for you.

Trouble is, adjusting those individual settings can cause unwanted colour shifts in your screen. So even after you’ve conquered the brightness, you might find you need to recalibrate several times, fiddling with those sliders each time, to get the white point you need. Pour a stiff drink, you might need it:)


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