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Understanding your Monitor: Color

J. D. Biersdorfer, New York Times, January 15, 2004
Q. What is the correct way to calibrate my monitor?

A. The best way to calibrate your monitor depends on how much precision you need in the colors that you see on the screen. Calibrating - adjusting the monitor's settings for brightness, contrast and color - can ensure that the image on your screen is close to what you will see when you print a photo or color document.

Calibration techniques can be as simple as looking at images on a Web page and adjusting the monitor's controls to improve the picture on the screen, or as complex as using special software and hardware sensors that rigorously fine-tune the balance of colors and brightness in the display to correspond with a precise color print. A tutorial on monitor calibration is at ltlimagery .

Your monitor, video card driver or operating system may include a program to calibrate the color on your screen, so check your manuals to see whether such software was included. Some monitor makers have calibration tools for their own models available online, like ViewSonic's Monitor Calibration instructions at viewsonic .

For a quick visual tuning, there are several calibration guides on the Web - including those at risingphotography and pacificnet - that provide a test pattern of color and grayscale squares to look at while you adjust controls on the front of your monitor.

You can also find inexpensive programs that put your monitor through tests to improve its picture, like PassMark's MonitorTest for Windows ( passmark ).

Copyright 2004  The New York Times Company


Viewing the Photo Gallery may require some adjustment to your monitor. Here are a couple of tips.

Michael Moore says "Tell people to remember to set their monitors to "millions of colors." It took me a minute to figure out that the pictures were looking splotchy on my Mac because I had my monitor set to 256 colors."

Jim Matysek adds "Things are likely to be fairly different for Macs and PCs." Jim thinks "Macs in general are much better in this area. For reference, my PC is set for 256 colors, and the pictures still look great. I don't have enough memory to go to a higher color setting and keep a reasonable screen resolution (also it slows things down). Changing color settings or resolution on a PC will also be different depending on whether you use Windows 3.1, 95 or NT."

This page will be expanded as other people make suggestions. If anyone knows of a web site that provides a color test screen and tips on adjusting monitors, please tell us.

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