How to Calibrate Your Monitor

Two Parts:SetupCalibration

In order to see images the way they were intended to be seen, your monitor might need to be calibrated. If you're a web designer, digital photographer, or graphic professional, this is especially important. You don't want to spend hours choosing the perfect subtle color scheme only to see a mismatched mess on someone else's monitor or coming out of a printer; you need to calibrate your monitor so that what you see is what you get.

Part 1

  1. Image titled Calibrate Your Monitor Step 1
    Adjust light levels and screen cleanliness. Make sure that no reflections, glare or strong, direct light reaches your screen. The room doesn't have to be dark, but it should be dim enough that ambient light shouldn't interfere with how you see what's on the screen. If your screen has visible dirt or smears, clean it thoroughly before you continue.
    • If you'll be doing image editing or other color-sensitive work, it's also important that the light levels do not change over the course of the day or between work sessions.
  2. Image titled Calibrate Your Monitor Step 2
    Check the screen resolution. If you are using an LCD monitor, check the manual or box for the "native" resolution or refer to the list below. For all other types of monitor, choose the highest resolution that lets you comfortably read text and view small images.
    • Typical LCD monitors have the following native resolutions, according to size: 19 inch: 1280 x 1024; 20 inch: 1600 x 1200; 22 inch: 1680 x 1050; 24 inch: 1900 x 1200.[1]
  3. Image titled Calibrate Your Monitor Step 3
    Adjust the number of colors. Set your monitor to "millions of colors," or if the more "nuts and bolts" option is available, to a high color depth. Color depth is the number of bits used to determine the color of each pixel, or the number of bits used to determine each color component of the pixel (Red, Green, and Blue).[2] These two alternate definitions make terminology a little confusing: 8-bit, 24-bit, and "millions of colors" are all equivalent on a modern display. 16-bit or "thousands" is noticeably worse but uses less video card memory, while older 8-bit or "256 color" displays are poor options for modern displays. 30-bit and up displays offer additional improvements that most users won't notice.[3]
    • The maximum color depth is constrained by your monitor, graphics card, and operating system. You'll need to look at the specifications for each one of these in order to improve.
    • In Windows, right-click your desktop and select Graphic Properties or Screen Resolution. In Windows 7, you'll need to then visit AdapterList All Modes.[4]
    • On Mac, open System Preferences, then select Displays. Many modern Mac setups do not have these options listed, but these typically run on 24-bit color depth anyway.
  4. Image titled Calibrate Your Monitor Step 4
    Print a comparison photo (optional). Skip this step unless you plan to use your computer for editing images that will then be printed. This step may also not be useful unless you have a high-quality printer and glossy photo paper.
    • Ideally, print several photos on one page, including black & white, daylight color, and low-light color images, and subjects with several natural skin tones.
    • Let the ink dry away from direct sunlight to set the colors correctly.
  5. Image titled Wake Up Without an Alarm Clock Step 1
    Continue once your monitor has stabilized. If you've sped through the steps above, make sure your monitor has been on for at least 30 minutes before beginning the calibration, especially if it's a CRT display.[5] This will ensure that your computer has reached its typical working temperature, which can affect color display.
    • If you aren't using your computer, set the display sleep time to later to prevent the monitor from turning off during the wait.

Part 2

  1. Image titled Calibrate Your Monitor Step 6
    Explore free calibration options. Look below this step to find your computer's built-in walk through, or use an online tool such as Photo Friday or Once you've selected a tool, you may follow the onscreen instructions, and/or use the steps below to help guide you.
    • On a Windows computer, click the Start button, then Control Panel. Search for "Calibrate display" in the control panel search bar and click "Calibrate display color." You may need to enter an administrator password.[6]
    • On a Mac, open System Preferences, then select Displays → the Color tab → Calibrate.... If you don't see this, search for "Calibrate" in the System Preferences search bar.
  2. Image titled Calibrate Your Monitor Step 7
    Consider purchasing software instead. Although unnecessary for most users, professional graphics designers and digital photographers may appreciate professional-level calibration software. Look for one with an accompanying colorimeter, and make sure it gives you the option to select gamma and color temperature.[7]
    • Some versions of Photoshop come with "Adobe Gamma" calibration software, but this is an out-of-date program only intended for CRT monitors and older operating systems.
  3. Image titled Calibrate Your Monitor Step 8
    Adjust your brightness and contrast. They are located either on the front of your monitor or on-screen in your calibration controls. Typically, the calibration guide will show you two or three grey-scale shapes to help you adjust this. Follow the instructions on screen. For best results, the image or images on screen should include at least four colors: black, dark grey, light grey, and white.
    • Squinting and sitting back from the monitor may help during fine adjustments.
    • Many laptops do not have contrast controls.
  4. Image titled Calibrate Your Monitor Step 9
    Set your gamma. When your computer is instructed to make a pixel brighter, it increases the voltage to the monitor. However, the relationship between voltage and brightness is complex, and must be adjusted to a linear pattern using a "gamma correction," named for one of the mathematical terms involved. Some calibration settings allow you to adjust a slider to suit your preferences, but there are only two settings commonly used:[8]
    • A gamma of 2.2 is the most common standard for monitors. This will let you see images and videos in the intended brightness range, and design web visuals as they will appear to other internet users.
    • A gamma of 1.8 will display images closer to how they will appear after printing. It may also make it easier to notice shadows during detailed image editing work.
    • Note that image-editing software will often adjust gamma to this value on its own.[9]
  5. Image titled Calibrate Your Monitor Step 10
    Set your white point. Also called color temperature, this determines the overall color tint of your screen. The most common standard for computer monitors is D65 (or 6500), a slightly bluish tint. This gives a brighter effect familiar to people who use computers or television. Some graphics professionals who focus on printed work prefer D50 (or 5000), a neutral or slightly yellow tint that better imitates printed materials and daylight.[10]
    • Some monitors can adjust this directly on the built-in monitor buttons. Try this if there is no white point or color temperature setting in your color calibration guide. Use "warm" if no exact numbers are available.[11]
  6. Image titled Calibrate Your Monitor Step 11
    Schedule your next calibration. Calibrate your monitor every two to four weeks to keep the display suited to your needs. Professionals may want to calibrate before each important project.


  • Some monitors have or develop uneven illumination across the screen. Drag an image around and see whether it looks brighter or darker in certain places.[12] There's no way to correct for this short of replacing the monitor, but if you know it's there you can watch just one area of the computer screen during calibration, to avoid skewing the results.
  • Some monitors have a built-in auto-calibration button, although you may wish to check the results yourself.


  • If you have more than one calibrating program on your computer, make sure that only one is running at a time or else there could be conflicts.
  • Each brand of printer will give different color results, as will different brands of printing paper. You can calibrate your printer as well, but this takes specialized software.
  • If you are running Windows Vista you will lose your ICC(International Color Consortium)/ICM(Image Color Management) profile information during log off or when User Account Control is activated.

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Hardware Maintenance and Repair