Last Updated: 26/02/2016
display screen colour management
display system calibration and profiling
Monitor display profiles are part of what is perhaps the most important colour management of all as the computer's screen is our only window on digital content. It's important to set up the screen accurately so that it displays images in a way that matches the accepted standards for print viewing using a good hardware sensor. I am very happy to advise on what equipment suits your needs and budget.
The process is not as "plug and play" as some are led to think, because proper software settings are vital to good results. Within high quality calibration software, variable White Point and Luminance options are available to the user and those target settings must be carefully selected to suit the specific "screen viewing*" and "print viewing*" environments. (*important note - those two lighting conditions are not the same, prints need far more light for accurate viewing than is acceptable in an on-screen work area, prints should be viewed and assessed in natural daylight or a lightbox). There is lots of information about setting up your screen, including the selection of optimal target options in software, in the e-book "how to get accurate colour on screen".
verification of the results
Whilst software verification can be useful, the ultimate test is via visual verification, since this will properly confirm appearance and that you chose the right software calibration targets. Comparison of a test-image file shown on the calibrated display (with correct Photoshop softproof settings) to an accurate printed proof, for “verification” of appearance, is pretty much vital as an aid to confidence. More information about that here. Remember, though, that even with a desktop lightbox (or lightbooth) like those available from Graphic technology,side by side viewing of screen and print is hard on the eye, it's recommended to set the screen and viewing lightbox at right angles and spaced apart so you need to move your head or swivel your seat to see one then the other. Even so, you'll find it easy to spot differences which might be minimised by calibration target value adjustment in your software. Thanks to colour management guru Bruce Fraser for that tip.
the calibration and profiling process
In a standard display system the first step in the process calibrates the system, loading a Look Up Table ("LUT") to the systems video card - step two then measures calibrated appearance to produce an ICC profile.
On completion of the process, the resulting ICC display profile is built, containing both the calibration instructions for the computer's video card (where relevant) and the device characterisation table used by a colour-management savvy application like Photoshop to correctly display image files.
Good calibration and profiling software will provide a wide range of calibration target settings which are used in order to tune and optimise screen appearance, these options are vital since e.g. optimal targeted luminance and white point are set relative to work room lighting conditions.
Above right: basICColor Display Software verification screen.
calibration sensors & software
Display system profiles are made in a process which uses an accurate screen sensor like basICColor's discus device pictured left - and good software like basICColor Display to assess the display system capabilities and build the ICC profile which describes them.
A very reasonably priced alternative device which can still provide good results is the Datacolor Spyder5, shown right. I recommend using the Spyder5 with basICColor Display software if budget allows.
hardware calibration displays
"Hardware Calibration Displays" like Eizo ColorEdge and NEC Spectraview behave in a similar manner in practice, but, in the background, the calibration LUT is actually loaded straight to the screen's internal circuits which operate at a higher bit depth to optimise the transformation of image data during display.
(only the calibration software can load that LUT, beware switching profiles in any other way).
If you'd like to discuss or get help with Display System calibration please click here to get in touch.