How to calibrate your monitor for the best viewing experience possible

Plenty of people stare at computer monitors all day — if you’re reading this, chances are you’re doing just that. But how many people take the time to calibrate their computer monitor? Proper calibration will ensure that your colors and black levels are true, and will ensure that your monitor is producing the best results for editing and viewing images and videos. Plus, it’ll be easier on your eyes! Knowing how to calibrate your monitor is an increasingly important skill.

You could take your monitor to a professional to have it done, but why not do it yourself and save the money? A quick at-home calibration is relatively quick, hassle-free, and will greatly improve image quality. And, manufacturers keep pumping out better displays all the time, with new technologies like 4K UHD resolution, high dynamic range (HDR), and curved monitors providing a veritable feast for the eyes — but only if they’re properly calibrated.

Here’s our guide to calibrating your monitor to help make sure colors are represented accurately at all times. We can’t guarantee you will produce results as good as the pros, but even these basic calibration procedures will help outshine your monitor’s factory presets.

Before you begin

You’re going to want to do several things before you begin the calibration process.

  • Turn on your monitor at least a half hour before calibration so the monitor can warm up to its normal operating temperature and conditions.
  • Set your monitor’s resolution to its native, default screen resolution.
  • Make sure you’re calibrating in a room with moderate ambient lighting. The room doesn’t need to be pitch black, but you don’t want the sharp glares and color casts resulting from direct light.
  • Familiarize yourself with your monitor’s display controls. They may be located on the monitor itself, on the keyboard, or within the operating system control panel.

Calibrate using built-in Windows and Mac tools

Both MacOS and Windows have built-in calibration tools to help guide you step-by-step through the process, which is particularly helpful if you are new to the calibration process. The free tools should be the first stop if you’re merely a casual image junkie or working on a tight budget. They are extremely handy, quick, and easy to locate within your operating system. Keep in mind that the adjustments will be limited by the display type and model, though.

The assorted terms — gamma, white point, etc. — may seem a bit daunting at first glance, but each utility provides a relatively simple explanation of what they all mean. Realistically though, you don’t need to know the ins-and-outs of the jargon in order to calibrate your monitor.

Windows

In Windows 10, the calibration tool can be found by opening the Settings app. Click the System selection in the main menu, then pick Display in the next menu. Once you have Display open, scroll to the bottom and click Advanced Display Settings. Once again, scroll down until you see Color Calibration, and then click on that. You can also open the tool by typing “calibrate” in the Cortana search box and select “Calibrate display color” from the results.

In older versions of Windows, you can find the Color Calibration utility in the Display section of the Control Panel, which is listed under Appearance and Personalization. Alternatively, as in Windows 10, you can usually open the utility with a Windows Search. Just enter “color calibration” in the search bar, and it should appear as the first result.

how to calibrate your monitor windows 10 display color calibration tool

Window’s thorough instructions will walk you through the calibration process once you’ve found and opened the software utility. Just follow the on-screen instructions to choose your display’s gamma, brightness, contrast, and color balance settings. A sample image for you to match will accompany many of the settings. Simply make adjustments to mimic the sample as close as possible. Once the calibration wizard is complete, make sure to choose the “current calibration,” or return to the previous calibration if you are unsatisfied with the results.

Once you’ve finished, the new calibration will be stored as a .ics file, of color calibration file, and will show up as a new International Color Consortium (ICC) Profile in the Color Management settings app. The easiest way to open this app is to type “color management” in the search box and choose the first result. Once it’s open, you can select your monitor from the device list and see which ICC Profiles are available.

how to calibrate your monitor windows 10 color management icc profile

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

MacOS

In MacOS, the Display Calibrator Assistant is located in the system preferences under the Displays tab. If you are having trouble finding it, try entering “calibrate” in Spotlight to scan through your computer’s various folders and files. The result should show an option to open the utility in the System Preferences panel.

how to calibrate your monitor macos color calibration tool

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Your Mac’s step-by-step instructions will walk you through the calibration process once you’ve found and opened the software utility. Just follow the on-screen instructions to choose your display’s brightness, contrast, native gamma, target gamma, and target white point. Click Continue and save the calibration profile once you’ve finished with the adjustments.

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