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Monitor Calibration
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Monitor Calibration (Cont'd)

Here’s how it works. You attach the colorimeter to the face of your CRT monitor with suction cups or just dangle it so it rests on your LCD monitor (never use the suction cups on an LCD monitor or you’ll end up with new one). Then follow some simple, on-screen steps. Here’s what I suggest for two choices you’ll be asked to make. First, choose a color temperature (a measure of how red or blue your screen looks) of 6500K. Then select 2.2 for gamma (which determines midtone brightness) even if you have a Mac (which would usually be set to 1.8).

The entire calibration process takes about five to ten minutes and you can always do it over if you’re not sure you got it right the first time. The colorimeter reads different colors of known values that are projected on the screen. The software then compares how your monitor displays those colors with how they should look and remembers how far off they are from "right-on." For example, your monitor may be showing red as a bit too orange, blue with a tinge of purple, and so on.

When the calibration process is finished, the software records these differences and produces a profile that works together with other components of your imaging program to make sure your monitor’s colors are "tuned" to the same standard that your image files are "tuned" to– so that what you see on the screen will accurately reflect the colors in those files.

Once you’ve finished calibrating, don’t change any monitor settings (brightness, contrast, or color) because it will throw everything off and you’ll have to run another calibration. Also, monitor colors drift over time (CRTs more than LCDs) and you should re-calibrate about once a month, more frequently, if you begin to see color shifts in your prints.

Some other tips:

  • When you calibrate, keep the lights down low and do it at night so bright daylight doesn’t stream into the room.
  • Sometimes the colorimeter may not make perfect contact with an LCD screen because you can’t tilt the monitor back far enough for it to rest flat against it. If that’s the case, hold it gently against the screen to assure accurate readings.
  • You’ll usually have to adjust red, green, and blue values on the monitor during the calibration process to get them to the right color temperature (6500K). To begin with, set them all about halfway so you’ll have adequate room to move them one way or the other. Then adjust them in very small increments to prevent over or under shooting by too big a margin.

Once you use a colorimeter and its software to calibrate and profile your monitor, the anxiety associated with waiting for your photo to roll out of the printer will be gone. And despite what you may have heard, you do not also have to profile your printer (a rather tedious process) as long as you stick to the manufacturer’s inks and papers (or compatible third-party media).

What you do need to know, though, are the color settings to use in your imaging program and the correct selections to make in your printer menus to guarantee consistent results. So go to HOW TO DO IT and read Print Like A Pro!

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