Color Management- Monitors

Monitors have come a long way from the first monitors I used that would show only text and were one bit. The CRT (think your old television set before they went flat screen) was the way to go until the early 90’s when the TFT LCD screens starting coming out (TFT= Thin Film Transistor, LCD= Liquid Crystal Display). These earlier LCD screens were backlight with a CCFL (Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamp) but have been replaced by LED (Light Emitting Diode) backlighting. To add to the confusion, LCDs can vary in the manner of display of their crystals. Acronyms you will see are TN, VA and IPS. Instead of understanding what these mean, just remember IPS = best for photo editing. Next best is VA. Some of these new monitors can actually display wider color gamuts (Color space, remember from the first Blog, than the Adobe 1998 Color space. Hence better correlation in color from scene to camera to monitor.

Problem with all monitors is that they are too bright and their colors are not consistent to a common reference color. Before we get into managing your monitor, lets talk about your room situation. I remember a friend giving a talk about room situation in his color management talk in the early days of digital (before digital cameras when we were scanning film and editing in Photoshop.  In order to be consistent about color in his workspace, he painted his walls as close to 18% grey as possible, had blinds that darkened the windows and even put on a black lab coat so no color would be reflected back onto the monitor from his clothing and possibly influence his vision. He was way ahead of his time back in the mid 90’s. So, just close your blinds, make sure no lights are shining directly on your monitor, dim the lights some if you routinely get sunburn from them while editing.

   monitor with shades open

   monitor with shades closed

Profiling and calibrating your monitor.

There are numerous devices out there that will work for managing your monitor. If you want to spring for one of the best monitors (EIZO CG275W 27 inch or EIZO CG245W), they come with built-in calibration systems that work very well. But you will fork out  $2850 -$3300 for each one. Considering the quality and the fact that they come with a 5 year warranty, they are worth the price if you are a professional photographer.

Datacolor Spyder4Elite

Since I have been using a Datacolor Spyder since they first came out, I will talk to you about using one. You can go to Datacolor website to compare the different models (Datacolor Spyder version comparison), but I chose the Elite.

First is to install the software. You will register with Datacolor using your serial number. Then the instructions are to plug in the Spyder before launching the software.

Once you launch the software with the Spyder connected, you will see this screen, which will painlessly walk you through the proper steps of calibration (including reminding you to warm up your monitor for 30 minutes prior to calibration). It even measures the brightness of the monitor and sets it automatically.

After running through the brightness and white point, the software will then step through red, green, blue and gray patches to profile the monitor to known values for those patches.

Once this is done, you save the profile by clicking SAVE. Nothing else to do, at least on my Mac Pro with 30 inch ACD. It used to be a pain on Windows system to know where to go to install the new profile.

After you have saved the new profile (computer automatically uses this profile), it allows you to view the uncalibrated view and then the calibrated  view. Big change.
The software even allows you to set a reminder for the interval to recalibrate. I set mine for 1 month, but if I am printing, I usually calibrate before printing.

In the next blog I will show you how to set your Lightroom and Photoshop. For more information about Digital workflow and monitor Calibration, go to ASMP dpBestWorkflow

3 Responses to “Color Management- Monitors”

  1. Anne Grimes says:

    Hi Bill,
    I got the Datacoloe elite for Christmas and called ASAP about getting some help lest I mess up, but you answered most of my questions so when I get back from Savannah Monday I will get to work on the monitor I use to print.Made lots of rum and creme de menthe balls for Christmas….so good.Am considering the firefles for a summer jaunt—how much climbing will I need to do for this?

    • Anne,
      I will be writing about printing, but maybe not for a week or so.. Depends on what I have to do next week. May be in the backcountry of the Smokies with some Medical Students we are teaching for a Wilderness Medicine elective.
      As far as June, there won’t be that much climbing at all for the fireflies.

      Have fun with the DataColor..


  2. Russ Bishop says:

    Great article Bill. I love my Spyder – use it to calibrate weekly. The monitor hood is also a great addition to avoid that stray light.

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