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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Computer Tip: Monitor Calibration & Correct Print Settings

The biggest complaint by computer users is that computers are not WYSIWYG (pronounced wizzy-wig; What You See Is What You Get). In other words, the color hues and shades on the monitor display does not always match the printed colors. In fact, it is impossible to absolutely match the colors because monitors and printed material are two different technologies. The backlit screen on the monitor make the colors brighter and lighter than the ink colors on dense paper. However, it is possible to get a fairly good match IF the monitor is properly calibrated and IF the color profile (generated by the calibration process) and print settings are entered correctly into the software being used to print the images.

The reason why monitors need to be calibrated is that every monitor interprets information from the computer operating system (OS) differently. Thus the color on the monitor needs to be adjusted with a color profile. The color difference is very evident if two monitors are side-by-side and the same image is placed on both. But the colors seen on the monitor(s) will only be accurate if a profile made during the monitor(s) calibration is assigned to the Photoshop or Illustrator file. Note: The colors as perceived on monitors alters as ambient light changes during the day and the angle at which the monitor is viewed. Also colors in the monitors change as phosphors (CRT monitors) and liquid crystals (LCD monitors) fade over time. Thus, monitors should be regularly calibrated.

Monitor Calibration
Monitors can be calibrated with software that is embedded in the computer OS or they can be calibrated more precisely with a colorimeter (device that measures colors). Once the monitor is calibrated, make sure that the calibration name is selected in the Color Settings dialog box in Photoshop or Illustrator. This way the corrected colors will be viewed while using the software. More information about the Color Settings dialog box is in the Printer Settings section of this article.

Calibration with OS software depends upon the user to adjust the display's brightness/contrast with slider bars and set desired options with buttons. Using the OS software is not as precise as when using a colorimeter but it still does a decent job. Calibrating with OS software may be all that is needed to get good prints but only as long as the print settings are entered correctly in Photoshop and Illustrator. View the video "Monitor calibration in vista" to see how to calibrate a monitor attached to a computer using Vista in Windows OS. And view the video "How to Calibrate a Mac Display" to see how to calibrate a monitor attached to Macintosh computer.

Calibration of the monitor by using software and a colorimeter is automatic. The software flashes different colors and lighting intensities onto the monitor. The colorimeter device measures the colors to produce a color profile. Listed below are several companies that sell affordable calibration products that include a colorimeter device. Hint: Each of the calibration systems listed below link to where they can be purchased. Make sure that you read the comments on the site for each system to see the pros and cons for them!

Note: The only calibration system that I have used is the Pantone huey Pro. I've compared the accuracy between the monitor to prints with both the huey and the Apple Calibration method and found that the huey was more accurate - especially for certain hues of greens and for beiges. View "Monitor Calibration" by B.C. of " on why he uses a Pantone calibration system."

Pantone colorimeters
This calibration system is the only affordable one that gives the user the option (if wished) to automatically continually adjust the screen for ambient light. Pantone huey Pro can calibrate multiple monitors that are side-by-side.  This is ideal for artists that use multiple monitors. Note: Pantone colorimeter devices are now owned by X-Rite. X-Rite produces their own calibration software and devices so Pantone colorimeters may not be supported and could be phased out. At the time this article was written there still seemed to be plenty on the internet available for purchasing.

• Pantone MEU116 ColorMunki (calibration for a single monitor) - cost $60.24 at

• Pantone huey Pro MEU113 (calibration for multiple monitors that can be side-by-side) - cost $89 at

X-Rite Eye-One Colorimeter
This calibration system checks for ambient light to determine optimal room lighting but does not give the user the option to automatically adjust the screen. It calibrates only a single monitor but the software can be upgraded to calibrate multiple monitors.

• X-Rite Eye-One Display LT (calibrate single monitor but can upgrade software to calibrate more monitors)  - cost $149 at

Spyder 3 Colorimeter
This calibration system samples a larger part of the monitor than most colorimeters and theoretically has a more precision calibration.

• ColorVision S3P100 Spyder3 Pro (calibrate single monitor) - cost $129.79 at

Monitor plus Additional Device Calibrations
For ultimate and very precise calibration, not only calibrate the monitor but also calibrate the printer and possibly your scanner. A calibration system for additional devices is pricey and probably not needed unless you are in the business to print high quality images. In my opinion, it is not necessary to calibrate any other device besides the monitor. By just calibrating the monitor normally does a good enough job in proofing art, printing marketing materials, and portfolio pages. Below is a calibration system that calibrates multiple devices.

• Color Munki Photo - Monitor, Printer & Projector Profiler by X-Rite - cost $449 at

Photoshop Print Settings
Of course the monitor needs to be calibrated but the main reason why colors look terrible when printed is because the printer settings in Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator print dialog box is incorrect.  The following discussion is generic because the correct settings are different for each printer model. Disregard the discussion and recommendations if you already get good prints with your settings. View "Printing With Correct Color / ICC Profile - Adobe Photoshop Tutorial [In-Depth]" video that mostly shows what is discussed below.

1. First of all make sure that you you have selected your monitor calibration name in the Color Settings dialog box. Go to Edit / Color Settings (command + shift + k) and select with the pull-down menu the correct profile name for your monitor in the Working Spaces for RGB. This way the corrected colors will be viewed while using Photoshop and the correct profile will be used when printing the image.

2. Next open the print dialog box (command + p). Choose your printer in the Printer box; enter the number of copies to be printed in the Copies box; select the position of the image on the page in the Position box.

3. Make sure that Color Management is selected at the top right side of the print dialog box. Select Document. The monitor calibration name should be listed. If it isn't, leave the print dialog box by pressing cancel and go to Edit / Assign Profile and select the correct profile. Open the print dialog box again and make sure the correct profile is listed.

4. In Color Handling select Photoshop Manages Colors; in Rendering intent select the kind you want. Note: Epson printers recommend that Relative Colorimetric is the best for their printers; select Black Point Compensation.

5. Open Print Settings . . . Make sure your printer is selected under Printer; select a preset in Presets if you have already saved custom printer settings or select last used settings.

6. In the middle of the box use the Layout pull down menu and select Print Settings; choose the type of paper you will be using under media type; choose color in Color; in Color Settings choose off (No Color Adjustment). It is VERY IMPORTANT to turn the color settings off so that the printer does not try to manage the color. Having both Photoshop and the printer manage the colors creates ugly looking colors. Select the Print Quality you wish; uncheck High Speed unless you are printing a draft copy.

If you wish to save the settings, return to Layout by using the Print Settings pull down menu. Under Presets select last saved setting and then save as. Enter a name for the print preset and save.

7. Finally press Save at the bottom to return to the print dialog box. The print settings are complete and you should be able to now print an image that closely matches the color on the monitor.

The next time you print an image you may choose a preset customized print setting that you already saved or use the last saved setting.

By calibrating your monitor and making sure that the print settings in Photoshop or Illustrator is correct, the monitor colors should closely match the printed image. Hint: Make sure that you embed the color profile in your file by assigning the correct profile (go to Edit / Assign Profile). That way the profile information stays with the file and can be used by various types of printers to print accurate color.

Comments are welcomed. Please click on comments and write them in the comment window at the bottom of this article.


  1. Another obstacle with (CRT anyway) monitors is their temperature setting for this is also a color setting. I originally had my monitor set very hot and bright - which means that it was heavily blue. I've since lowered it to only slightly blue (because the change seemed overly yellow but that was just my eyes not adapting yet) and will, at some point probably move down to just hotter than the Sun's surface temperature.

    I wish I could use some of this but I am still running XP and my graphics program is PhotoImpact8. :)


  2. I sooooo needed this information, Joan. Thank you!

  3. I am floored at the generosity of all of the information you share. Thank you so much for being so kind.