Working on a calibrated monitor is critical for color-conscious photographers. I calibrate my NEC 3090WQXi and Wacom Cintiq 21UX (I highly recommend both of these monitors!) with an X-Rite i1D2. Here’s how I do it:
Before you begin, make sure you have
* Installed the driver for your Eye-One Display.
* Installed the software for the X-Rite Match Program
Have you done that? Then we’re ready to move on. You may wish to print this out to guide you as you work within the Match software.
1) Launch the Match software. In Windows, you do this by clicking on your Start Menu and going to All Programs>GretagMacbeth>Eye-One Match 3.
2) Plug in your Eye-One device.
3) Select Advanced for your profiling mode, then press the Next Arrow.
4) Select your Monitor type (I’m selecting LCD for my desktop monitor), then press the Next Arrow.
5) Define your Target Settings on the dropdown menus in the next screen. I recommend White Point 6500K, Gamma 2.2, and Luminance 100 cd/m2. Acceptable luminance levels are anywhere from 90-120 cd/m2. If you are working in a very dark room, you may wish to choose 90; if you are working in a very bright or well lit room, choose 120. I typically work in a reasonably dark room at night, so I have my monitor set at 100 cd/m2. If your lighting conditions vary wildly, you may wish to create more than one profile (I’ll explain more about this at the end). You may also wish to choose brighter or darker settings once you have calibrated and compare your monitor output to prints from a pro lab that you trust.
Do not choose different values for White Point or Gamma unless you really know what you are doing and have a good reason for departing from the aforementioned recommendations. (NOTE: If you are concerned whether your current environment will allow the device to take a good reading, you may wish to take an ambient light measurement. If you want to do this, click the box to “Perform ambient light check.” Taking these measurements does not affect the monitor profile – it only alerts you as to whether your conditions are appropriate for accurately calibrating the monitor. The on-screen instructions for taking the reading are self explanatory, and I’m not going to get into this step in this tutorial. ) Press the Next Arrow.
6) Press one of the hardware buttons on your monitor to bring up the monitor’s OSD (on screen display). If you are able to move the OSD to one of the corners of the screen, do that; then place your Eye-One device in the center of the monitor, laying evenly against the screen (do NOT try to suction the device to the screen). If you can’t move the OSD, Place your Eye-One device on the monitor off to the side – somewhere where it doesn’t touch the OSD when it’s on the screen. Once you’ve placed your device, press the Next Arrow.
7) Use your monitor buttons to set your contrast to 100%. Then press START (in the Match software window).
8) If you get the message below, press YES to continue anyway.
9) Adjust the +/- (or up/down) buttons on your monitor to adjust your monitor’s contrast. Wait a few seconds for the device to take readings each time you make an adjustment with your monitor buttons. When the black bar on the Contrast Indicator is well within the green zone (middle is ideal), wait 5-10 seconds to make sure the reading has stabilized, then press STOP. Then press the Next Arrow on the Match software screen.
10) Select the kind of white point controls your monitor supports (you’ll have to pull up the OSD again to see what options you have). Some monitors only allow you to select certain color temperature presets (typically 5000K, 6500K, 9300K). Other monitors allow you to directly adjust the R, G, and B channels. If you have the option for adjusting color temp presets OR RGB controls, you’ll want to work with the RGB Controls, which allow you to best refine your white point. Most laptop screens won’t allow you to adjust the white point settings at all (if this is true for you, just press the Next Arrow, and skip to step 12). After you’ve determined what white point controls you can control, choose the correct option, then press START.
11) If you are working with color temp presets, choose the color temp that brings the black bar closest to the green zone (usually 6500K). If you are working with RGB controls, this step is a LOT of trial and error, so be patient. Adjust the +/- (or up/down) buttons on your monitor to adjust your monitor’s RGB controls. Your goal is to have all three black bars in the green zone and the “Current” color temp listed at your chosen color temp (should be 6500K). You will find that as you adjust one channel, it makes the other channels jump around. This is especially frustrating when, say, you get the R and G channels within the green zone, but when you go to adjust the B, it makes the R and G channels jump out of the correct area. Stick with it. When the black bars on the R, G, and B Indicator are well within the green zone (middle is ideal), wait 5-10 seconds to make sure the reading has stabilized, then press STOP. Then press the Next Arrow on the Match software screen.
12) Now you are going to adjust your monitor’s brightness (THIS OPTION IS NOT AVAILABLE if you are working with an i1D LT; I consider it critical, so I highly recommend the i1D2 if you can swing it). Press START.
13) Adjust the +/- (or up/down) buttons on your monitor to adjust your monitor’s brightness. Wait a few seconds for the device to take readings each time you make an adjustment with your monitor buttons. When the black bar on the Luminance Indicator is well within the green zone (middle is ideal), wait 5-10 seconds to make sure the reading has stabilized, then press STOP. Then press the Next Arrow on the Match software screen.
14) Now the calibration software is going to take a bunch of readings. Your screen will flash different colors as measurements are made and your ICC profile is created. Be patient. This process usually takes 3-5 minutes.
15) Congrats! You’ve profiled your monitor. This last page tells you how good of a job you have done.
On the summary screen, there are a few things to make note of…
Target vs. Current: How well do your target color temp/gamma/luminance measurements match your current measurements? Ideally, they’ll be dead on, but I would calibrate again IF
• Your color temp is more than 100K from your target (if you’re between 6400K and 6600K, you’re probably fine)
• Your Gamma is not dead on at 2.2. 2.1-2.3 may be acceptable, but I’m a snob about my Gamma; I’d recalibrate if that is off.
• Your Luminance is less than 90 cd/m2 or greater than 120 cd/m2. I’m not a real stickler for a precise luminance, because there is such a range of opinions on what is best.
Corrections curves (the graph with the lines):
• If your lines converge, HOORAY! You did most of your calibration accurately by hand, which means that your LUTs (look up tables) didn’t have to correct as much to compensate for bad hardware settings. What does that mean? Well, when you are in non-color aware applications that do not apply your monitor’s ICC profile, you are not going to see an enormous color departure – the hardware settings themselves are already giving you good color.
• If your lines are bowed or otherwise not overlapping, that means that the LUTs had to do more “work” to compensate for your hardware settings in order to give you correct color. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s something to watch for. Try a little harder to get your black bars within the middle of the green zone when you calibrate.
• Worth noting: If you do “Easy” calibration (not the advanced route), your LUTs will do all the work; you don’t do any hardware calibration at all, so the lines are likely to be pretty bowed.
Color space chart: This large, rainbow colored area shows you your monitor’s color space. The triangle shows you the sRGB color space. I have a wide gamut monitor, so my monitor’s color space exceeds the sRGB color space (and covers more than 90% of the Adobe RGB color space, which you can’t see here). Most monitors’ color spaces should cover the entire sRGB triangle; if the chart indicates that your monitor isn’t covering the entire sRGB color space, I’d think about saving up for a monitor with a wider gamut.
Before & After: Click this button to see how your monitor profile has changed. Click “Calibration OFF” to see your monitor without the new ICC profile. Remember that this can’t show you exactly what the monitor looked like before you got going, because it doesn’t revert all of your hardware settings back to where they were originally. Still, it’s kind of fun to see that you’ve made some progress!
16) IMPORTANT. You need to save your monitor profile. Review the following:
• Text box with ICC profile name: The default filename is “Monitor_M-DD-YYYY.icc” If you can’t remember that, rename it something you can remember (you may need to locate that file later). I do recommend including the date in the filename, as it makes it easy to locate the file you need if you ever want to revert to an earlier/different profile for some reason.
• Activate reminder for the monitor calibration: I recommend setting this at “4 weeks.”
When you’re ready, press the NEXT menu button (or hit “Finish Calibration”). Your new ICC profile should be set as the default profile for your monitor. That’s it!
You may wish to double check whether your computer is indeed applying your new profile as the monitor default. You can do this within ColorSync (on a Mac) or Color Management (on a PC).
17) If you regularly work in very different lighting conditions, you can create multiple profiles to optimize your monitor’s display for those conditions. Once you’ve created one satisfactory profile, calibrate again for a different luminance (lower number if lighting condition #2 is darker; higher number if lighting condition #2 is brighter) using the “Easy” (not “Advanced” calibration). This way, you won’t mess with the hardware settings that you’ve worked so hard to fine tune; instead, in this case, you WANT to let your LUTs do the work – this makes it easy to swap out your ICC profiles for your given lighting conditions.
Let me know if you have questions or a better way to do any of this!