How to Calibrate Your Monitor

If you don’t make your living as a graphic designer or photographer, chances are you may not have given much thought to the importance of color calibrating your computer’s display at home. But the pros rely on calibrating their displays to make sure that the photos and images they are creating on their computer will look the same when they are printed or shown on screen.

When you edit photos on a non-calibrated display, you run the risk of making edit decisions based on the wrong colors. For example, you might use the Levels or Curves adjustment tools too much or too little if the photo you are editing isn’t accurately being displayed on your screen.

Calibrating your monitor for free

You can calibrate your monitor for free using the built-in tools in your operating system. If you’re on a Mac,  go to System Preferences > Displays > Color, and click Calibrate.

From here, you can just follow the prompts and instructions displayed in each window. Looks like this:

If you’re running Windows 10, go to System Settings > System > Display > Advanced Display Settings > Color Calibration. It should look like this:

Using a color calibration tool

Depending on how well you see color and how good your monitor’s brightness and contrast controls are, you may find the free calibration tools in your operating system are lacking or don’t produce the results you were expecting.

I’ve struggled with this myself: various attempts to calibrate my display were more pleasing than the defaults, but not as good as I thought they could be. If you’ve had a similar experience, you may want to look into a device that is made specifically to calibrate your monitor.

In the past, this might have been an expensive proposition setting you back hundreds of dollars. These days, though, color correcting technology formerly limited to professionals who could afford or write this expense off has made its way to the masses.

One affordable solution that will help you get accurate color on your display is X-rite’s ColorMunki Smile (no relation to PicMonkey!). You can pick up a ColorMunki Smile from Amazon or B&H Photo for $69 (or less if you can find an active rebate).

The ColorMunki Smile is super easy to use. Just launch the the software after you install it from from their enclosed CD or download it from their website. Then, simply plug the Smile device into an available USB port and follow the instructions.

In just a few minutes, your monitor will be correctly calibrated and your photos and videos will look better than ever.

Whether you choose to use the built-in tools or a dedicated tool, you owe it to yourself to set up your display to help make your images look their best.

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Mike Wong

Mike’s love of photography started when he was 11 when he tried to recreate Star Wars Episode IV as a stop-motion film with the collection of Star Wars toys he shared with his younger brother. While that didn’t work out, he followed his passion and has over 10 years of experience in the photo industry and loves to share what he’s learned over the years. Mike is Director of Marketing at PicMonkey.