Calibrate your monitor

Before end After monitior calibration

Most monitors will need no adjustment to view a photograph.
However, if the images are less than satisfactory, it is more likely that you need to calibrate your monitor.

There are two main comments we hear about images on a computer screen.
Both of these are easily solvable:

  • The images are too dark (or too light).

  • The images do not have smooth tonal gradation. This is especially visible in black and white images.

The quick and easy way to adjust these two controls on your monitor are as follows:

Too dark or too light test

  1. Turn the contrast to its highest
  2. Turn the brightness all the way up to its lightest setting.

    This is probably too light and there will be no deep blacks on the screen.

  3. Look to level 95% and 100% of figure 1
  4. Now, turn the brightness control down until you should just barely see a difference between the 95% level and the 100% level on the scale.
  5. If you find your schreen to light, turn your contrast a bit less, but try to keep your contrast so high as possible, for the best result.
  6. Ready
figure 1
figure 1
  • Look to figure 2:
  • As well in the black and in the white squares you must just barely see the X.
  • If not, turn your brightness control more or less until just barely see the X in the black and in the white squares.
figure 2
figure 2

Color Scales test

This pattern displays 20 intensity levels for each of 10 principal colors, going from black up to maximum brightness. Use it to check and adjust the color intensity scales for the most important colors.

  • Look to figure 3:
  • The intensity of each of the colors should increase uniformly from black up to a maximum brightness.
  • None of the hues should change with intensity, which is a color tracking error.
  • All of the colors should fade uniformly to black together.
  • All of the brightest steps should be distinct, otherwise the image is saturated.
figure 3
figure 3

Smooth tonal gradations test

This is a bit more difficult than simply dialing in tones on the monitor. Nonetheless, it is critical that this information is understood and used by you if you are to get the most from images you see on your computer screen.

Quick test (figure 4).

If these 2 x two images don’t look very different (the ones on the right should be much better than the ones on the left) then you need to adjust your video card settings.

If your video card is set to 16-bit , you will likely see a graduation that looks similar in both the left and right sample, but the tones will be composed of dots (known as dithering). You will definitely need to adjust your video card.

There are distinct bands on the images on the left. There should be no bands on the images on the right -- it should be a smooth gradation of tones.. If there are, then your video card needs to be configured as outlined below.

 16-bit color depth32-bit color depth

black & white samples

color samples

figure 4

Fine Dot Moiré Test

(figure 5)
  • The Fine Dot Pattern may produce Moiré patterns and video artifacts on the display. Search for discontinuities, irregularities, ripples, waves, and wisps of intensity fluctuations that appear superimposed on the image.
figure 5
figure 5


Are you the owner of a laptop or a LCD screen, then want get also best from that screen.
What many LCD screen owners not know, is that Microsoft has for that a special tool for.
With Cleartype Tuner, you get best from your screen and weller yet can you the screen reproduction gear to your own preference.

Look to the example beneath:

Download here the free "ClearType Tuner" from Microsoft.

Video card / config

Most video cards are set at the factory to create 256 different shades of color, including the shades of gray. For non-graphical purposes (e.g., word processing, email, etc.) this is more than adequate.
For graphics, photographs in particular, this is not enough tones to do justice to an image.
Some monitors, especially older ones, will only make 16 shades of gray!
You will need to adjust your setup configuration to more shades of gray to see images as they should be seen.

The typical choices are:

Bit depthNumber of colorsAlso known as
16-bit16(usually on older computers or laptops)
16-bit65,536high color
32-bit16,777,216true color

Most older systems are set to 16-bit color. Most newer systems are configured at the factory for 32-bit color.

To view photographs, it is essential that your system be at least 16-bit.

If you can, use 32-bit color for the most realistic colors.

You will need to set this adjustment in your "setup" or "configurations" controls of your computer. The location of these controls vary based on your operating system and whether you are on Windows, Mac or another system. Refer to your instruction books or a knowledgeable friend if you need help setting your video card to a higher bit depth.

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