Looking for color control? (A simple introduction to monitor calibration)

Color management, easily explained, is control over RGB values in different environments.

Counter the common perception, an RGB value of R:210 G:0 B:0 as an example, is not a specific color, but an RGB percentage of the color space you’ve chosen to work in.Color management usually starts with a calibrated monitor, the irony of this is that by then, you are often halfway through the production process.Color management is more than just to control color, it is to exploit the potential of your equipment.

In order to certify up to the industry standard it is necessary to have a monitor calibrator, such as the X-Rite i1Publish Pro 2, i1Display Pro, ColorMunki Photo or the new ColorMunki Smile.

Ok, so what does it mean that any given RGB value isn’t a specific color?

Well, if you have a look at the below picture you see four red squares. Depending on your monitor you should be able to see that these red squares are of slightly different reds, but they all have the same RGB values, R:210 G:0 B:0. If you don’t see too much of a difference try looking at your monitor from different angles.

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So, the colors you see on you monitor depends on to factors; the color space you’re editing your images in and the color space of your monitor.

The color space of which you edit you images in you get to set yourself, the color space of your monitor however, is fixed. Most monitors such as an iMac, Laptops and cheap monitors can only display the sRGB color space or slightly more, and this is exactly why it’s important to invest in a high quality monitor such as an Eizo CG series or a NEC Reference which can display almost the full Adobe RGB color space.


When calibrating your monitor, what are you actually doing?

Screen Shot 2013 01 11 at 22 53 06

Your monitor is not accurate. It receives RGB values from you computer and displays them. If you are sending an RGB value of, lets say R:210 G:0 B:0 you know its red but how red it is depends on the working color space and how accurate your monitor is. So, if your sending an RGB value of R:210 G:0 B:0 but your monitor is showing this as R:200 G:0 B:0 you’re seeing your images with other colors than what actually exists.

When calibrating your monitor using a hardware calibrator such as the X-Rite ones mentioned in the into of this article, you’re actually measuring your monitors ability to display colors accurately, by displaying patches of colors that the calibrator records and then compares to the actual RGB values sent to the monitor. Based on this info the calibrators software creates an ICC profile which in the future will compensate for the monitors inability to show correct colors. Extremely easy explained, if your monitor shows the Red value of 210 as 200, then the ICC profile will “send” the red as 220, which then will equal to 210.


What are you calibrating for?

Before you start the calibration process ask yourself; Where do I want to display my images?? Depending on whether you want your images to shine on the web or on a printed media, there are guidelines to take into account. Before we go on, please let me say; there is no way you can make sure your images will look exactly the same on your own monitor and all monitors out there. To many factors plays a part, factors you can’t control. All you can do is make sure your monitors are accurate compared to the files your computer displays.

The settings Im about to give you, are noting more than a recommendation from where you can start from.

If you have a calibrated monitor, you should always take advantages of the dedicated software for that specific monitor. Ie. ColorNavigator for Eizo.

Luminance = 80 – 120 cd/m^2 (This setting defines the lightness of your monitor, and I would recommend you start with setting it to 120cd/m2)

Whitepoint = D65/6500 kelvin. (This is the color tint of white)

Gamma = 2.2 (This defines how dark grades over to light)

These settings will give you a good starting point for your first print. If your work is only displayed on the web then maybe you should consider upping your luminance to 140, or even 160cd/m2. Personally I keep it at 120.

Some calibrator softwares such as the i1Profiler from X-Rite gives you the ability to also specify the contrast ratio of your monitor. Even though most modern monitors can display a contrast ratio of as high as 800:1 and even higher, this is no good if your calibrating your  monitor for print work. A good printer such as the Canon Pixma Pro-1 or the Canon IPF8400 in combination with a high quality glossy paper can only produce a print with a contrast of as high as maybe 350:1. Based on this my recommendation is that you set your contrast to somewhere around 300:1 when calibrating for print work.

And by the way, if your looking for high-end print paper, take a look at my previous post here.

Even though you cant make sure all your prints look perfect in any given light source, or on all the millions of millions of monitors out there, you can make sure that what you see on your monitor is what actually exists in your computer file/image. If you do not already own a calibrator I would suggest you get one. Monitor calibration should be done at least every 200 hours of use/monitor up time. All X-Rite softwares will let you set a reminder for when its time for a recalibration.

Which calibrator is right for you??

If you don’t care about options and rules and technical stuff, then you should get the ColorMunki Smile. This nice little unit will do it all for you, no questions asked.

If you want options, being able to control luminance, whitepoint and contrast then you should get the i1Display Pro. This little piece of hardware is probably the best value for money available when it comes to monitor calibration. It also calibrates your projector if you own one and uses the i1Profiles, the same software as the  i1Publish Pro 2the most advanced solution X-Rite offers. You should get this if in addition to calibrating your monitor you would also like to be able to create custom paper profiles for print. This badboy (it’s really nice actially) calibrates all there is to calibrate. A more advanced review on this hardware to come at a later time.

Enjoy your accurate colors and feel free to ask me questions if you should have any.


Disclaimer: ISO 3664; Someone is bound to ask me why I do not recommend to calibrate to the iso 3664 standard. This is for printshops and advanced commercial printing. And does not fit that of the way any amateur and 99.9% of professional photographers display their images.

Follow-up queations from my latest webinar with X-Rite

On Thursday, December 13’th, I did a webinar with X-Rite about novice colormanagement and how to print with control.

Here are a few of the follow-up questions we received after the webinar:

Q: I’ve bought colormonkey photo and created a profile for my Canon Pixma 5150 and GP-501 paper. Unfortunatly, even if I calibrated my screen and created the paper, I still have color shifts. Any suggestion ?

A: Even though the Colormunki is a great tool for calibrating your monitor and printer there are a few limitations. I feel bound to inform you that the Canon Pixma 5150, is not really a photo printer you can expect to deliver the same results as of a dedicated photo printer such as the Pixma Pro-1. With a limited ink set, you will not get the same gamut and some colore might not be possible to produce. Try different types of paper, such as the Canon Pro Platinum and see what results that would give you.

Q: Is the Colormunki Photo less accurate than the devices that can be used with the i1Profiler software?

A: The hardware it self is extremely accurate, but there are limitations to the software that comes with the Colormunki Photo, i.e. less color patches and control over the profile building with more. If your serious about creating paper profiles, then you should consider hardware such as the i1Basic 2, i1Photo 2 or i1Publish.

Q: When calibrating our monitor using the i1Profiler software, should we use automatic display control for all monitors?

A: You can use automatic display control with most Apple monitors, iMacs and Macbook’s.
Some dedicated desktop monitors also support this feature. In any case, set it to “on” and if its not supported by your monitor you’ll be notified, and will have to adjust brightness, contrast and white balance manually.

Make sure that if you own a Hardware calibrated monitor such as the Eizo CG series or NEC Spectraview, you should use the dedicated software that came with your monitor.

Q: Hi do you have to set your monitor back to the original setting [ mac cinama ] before you start to profile ???

A: No you do not. Apple displays do not have the option to change anything other than the brightness. This will be adjusted correctly once the calibration process starts.
If you own a “PC” monitor with the option of changing brightness, contrast etc, then I would advice you to go into the menu of your monitor and reset it to its factory default setting.

Q: In Martin Evenings LightRoom 4 book print resolution is (by Jeff Schewe) recommended to upsample to 360 if native is less than this and otherwise upsample to 720 if 360 < native < 720 – and lieave it if native > 720. Do You agree on this ??

A: Yes I do. As long as you’re printing on an Epson Printer.
If you own a Canon printer there are other number to consider: 300, 600 & 1200.

Q: Is the Icc profile the same for PCs & Mac?

A: When creating a custom print profile, it will work on both PC and Mac.

Q: is there a difference in profiling a monitor for b/w image processing vs color?

A: When calibrating your monitor, all RGB values are “corrected”. If your are to show a grey of 128, 128, 128 and your monitor shows 134, 128, 128, this will be corrected.
So no, there is no difference in calibrating your monitor for B/W work vs Color.
(PS: most monitors today are 8 bit, which gives you 256 levels of gray from white to black. Still, some high-end monitors can offer 10 bit, which will give you 1024 levels of gray.)

Q: Please repeat what you were saying about plastic paper.

A: What I was saying was that there are several kinds of paper, and that more photographers should try 3’rd party papers such as Canson-Infinity, which offers “real” paper, with greater dMax and bigger gamut. Even though its the coating that comes in contact with the inc, the paper itself sets the feeling you want for your print.

If you attendet the webinar and still have unanswered questions, by all means feel free to contact me. Actually, that goes even for those of you who didnt attend the webinar:)


Q&A’s from the X-Rite Webinar of August 16’th.

Thank you to all of you who attended the X-Rite webinar on August 16’th,covering an introduction to color management.

Let me remind you of our part two in this three part webinar series, live on October 14th, 4pm Central Europe Time / 3pm GMT/ 11am Eastern Daylight Time

Sign up at the X-Rite photo blog

We received a lot of questions and as promised, here is a Q&A covering all the questions I could understand! (some questions had to much slang and shorts for me to understand)

If your question was not answered, please feel free to send me an email!

Here we go:

Q: If you have a built-in calibration tool as in some Eizos do you still need an external tool to calibrate for some reason?
A: No, If you have a monitor such as the Eizo CG245 you do not need any additional hardware. But keep in mind that you can not use the built-in calibrator to calibrate other monitors such as you laptop(of course).

Q: How is it possible the D3X working in Adobe RGB color space exceeds this space’s borders?
A: When shooting in raw mode, your files have no dedicated colorspace. The raw files from a Nikon D3X or a Canon 5Dm2 holds more color information than the Adobe 1998 color space can hold. By choosing Adobe RGB as you color space when pixelating you images, means your “cutting” away information. If (but why would you) you shoot in Jpeg mode, the camera attaches a color space for you (Adobe RGB or sRGB) and the above information does not count.

Q: Your microphone gives away scratchy noise
A: No it doesn’t… Its my voice your hearing…

Q: When the camera only has Adobe 1998, is converting to ProPhoto useful? Data is not direct available so it is calculated?
A: If you shoot in Jpeg, then there is no point in converting to ProPhoto.
Not only will you not gain more information but you will most likely mess up some of the color information.
When you shoot in raw, the color space settings for your camera is disregarded as that is set during post production.

Q: Which is better, i1Display pro or ColorMunki for calibrating Monitors?
A: The new i1Display Pro is a colorimeter, it can only calibrate monitors and projectors. The ColorMunki is a spectrophotometer and can in addition to calibrate monitors and projectors also create print profiles.
If you don’t need the option to create print profiles, I personally would go for the i1DisplayPro.

Q: Can you really calibrate a laptop?
A: Of course you can. You’re however limited to the color space and quality of that specific laptop monitor, which are rarely any good.
Most laptops can only produce 6bit of color but simulates 8bit.
There are laptops that have true 8bit monitors, and larger than the sRGB color space, but I would never use one for critical color managament.

Q: Basic question: do I need to caliberate my iMac monitor more than once? I caliberated my monitor a few months ago using my colour munki but never done it since. is this ok?
A: When working on a hardware calibrated monitor such as the ColorEdge series from Eizo or the Reference series from NEC its recommended you calibrate your monitor every 200 hours.
When working on a non-hardware calibrated monitor such as iMacs, laptops etc, I would recommend that you re-calibrate every two weeks.

Q: What Color Space should I use in my Nikon D3 and which Color Space on Photoshop CS5?
A: Set your camera to Adobe RGB, but remember that this does not matter when you shoot in raw.
I personally have set the working color space in Photoshop to ProPhoto RGB which is also photoshop’s native color space.

Q: What’s you advice to calibrate a Eizo CE240W, use the Eizo ColorNavigator or the dedicated sofware of X-rite?
A: If you have a monitor which can be hardware calibrated, then you should always use the dedicated software that was provided with your monitor.

Q: When needing to convert an image from Adobe RGB to Pro Photo RGB, is it as simple as converting it in PS, or does it mean one has to re-edit the colors in the image again?
A: You should never convert any image from Adobe RGB to ProPhoto RGB.

Q: When will xRite be ready with Lion support for the i1Display LT product?
A: New software should be arriving in September sometime…

Q: what is “native” whitepoint? just because my monitor says 6500K, without an instrument, how will i know it i really 6500K ….espec. after day 165…
A: Native whitepoint is where the whitepoint is naturally set from factory.
This could be 6500K 6389K or any other number. Most monitor makes try to get as close to 6500k as possible.
You can not really be sure what your whitpoint is at, without calibrating your monitor.

Q: If you are going to print your photo you translate it to CMYK and CMYK colorspace is more narrow than RGB, why do you need to use a big colorspace like ProPhoto RGB? Because the paper you print on can´t show so many colors?
A: No you do not. I would still argue that is it better to do so as a safe guard. What if you later on decided to print your image on a Epson inkjet with a way larger color space than CMYK?

Q: I have a wide gamut monitor which can simulate sRGB and AdobeRGB. If I edit sRGB images, should I set the monitor to sRGB before calibration?
A: If your going to use a simulated color space then you should create a specific profile for that space. As you suggested, set your monitor to simulate sRGB calibrate your monitor and switch to this new profile(in your computers OS) every time you simulate sRGB.

Q: Hello, I am working on an iMac 27″ and, as you might know, the monitor does not allow adjustments… so, my question is if the iProfiler can be used to calibrate an iMac
A: The new i1Display Pro is perfect for you. With its new ADC the software takes care of everything for you and adjusts the luminance automatically for you(it does this with all macs and most external monitors that have a USB uplink).

All questions have been cut and pasted from the webinar log.


Attend my webinar with X-Rite

Hi all.

I’m doing a 3 part webinar with X-rite that will launch friday, september 16th.

We will cover ares such as color management, workflow, lightroom and more. Its free and if you would like to sign up then click the x-rite logo below for more info on when and where + more detailed information on what we will cover.

Hope to see you there!