Jo Avila

7 Myths of Monitor Calibration

Myths and fallacies about monitor calibration are evidently abundant when I talk to other people or when I read what is posted or shared in social media. Let’s debunk some of the more common misconceptions.

1) You have to calibrate your monitor if you want it to be accurate.

That’s a half truth. You have to calibrate and profile your monitor if you want it to be accurate. Calibration is defined as modifying a device to put it into a known and repeatable state of behavior. Part of the process of using a color management product like the Datacolor Spyder5 entails having to adjust certain monitor settings like screen luminance, gamma and white point among others. The software will then flash colors which the hardware will read and measure. These measurements are then used to create a color profile which describes the color behavior of your monitor.

The absence of one makes the other one useless. You calibrated the monitor, but where is the color profile? You can’t create an accurate color profile if your monitor cannot be calibrated.

2) You have to calibrate and profile your monitor in total darkness.

The general recommendation is that you calibrate and profile your monitor in low ambient light (not total darkness). Ideally, no ambient light should directly hit the monitor. A lot of people will calibrate their monitor to get a closer match between it and a print. Can you see a print in total darkness? How will you know if it was indeed a close match to your monitor?

3) We calibrate and profile the monitor to make it match the printer.

There is a great variety of substrates ranging from canvas, matte, semi-matte, semi-gloss and glossy paper that we can use for inkjet printing. The color, brightness and contrast of a digital image will change depending on what substrate you choose to use with your inkjet printer.

This is why soft proofing is a feature of post processing programs like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom.

(Tip: Google how to use soft proofing in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom.)

4) Monitor calibration and profiling only has to be done once.

Think of a car’s engine. It needs regular maintenance and tune up because its performance will drift over time coupled with usage. A monitor’s performance will also drift with time and usage. This is why monitor calibration is done regularly. The general recommendation is to calibrate and profile your display once a month. The monitor that I use for work is calibrated and profiled once every two weeks.

5) Monitor calibration services are okay.

We’ve established that you need to calibrate and profile your monitor regularly. That means that you will be shelling out money very often to pay the person who offers a monitor calibration service.

The amount of ambient light and its color temperature affects monitor calibration and profiling.

Will you always be working under the ambient light at the meet up place where you paid someone to calibrate your monitor?

6) You don’t have to calibrate your display if you are using a Mac.

I was a Mac user for ten years before I switched back to using a Windows machine. People telling me that Mac displays didn’t have to be calibrated was one of the reasons why I bought a Mac. I was disappointed when I learned later that Mac displays still needed to be calibrated and profiled on a regular basis.

There are self-calibrating monitors available on the market. Mac displays aren’t one of them.

7) You don’t have to calibrate a factory calibrated monitor.

There is a huge difference between a factory calibrated monitor and one that is factory calibrated and has a self-calibrating feature.

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