The easy to use wizard-style step-by-step user interfaces of most monitor calibration and profiling solutions makes them very easy to use and to increase the colour accuracy of your computer monitor. However, their ease of use in the default or basic user modes can make you settle for the default options and mean that you never really explore all the options available to take the accuracy of your monitor from just being good to being excellent.
My next blog will cover the advanced mode of X-Rite’s i1 Display Pro but this one will take you through the features you may have missed in Datacolor’s Spyder5ELITE software. It presupposes that you are familiar with the basic methodology and practice of monitor calibration.
Datacolor Spyder5 Elite Preferences
You can often get more out of software if you tweak the default preferences. It often amazes me that more people don’t personalise applications like Photoshop that they use everyday. Often it’s fear of messing with something that they don’t understand that holds them back. So, before we go into actually calibrating and profiling a monitor let’s take a look at the Spyder software preferences. These can be found by going into menus at the top of your screen.
The first screen of preferences is pretty basic. The Sensor should be set to Spyder5, obviosuly. Check for software updates should be on to ensure you always have the latest version. Share calibration data with Datacolor helps them with product development and isn’t going to give away any of your secrets. The Recalibration Warning is OK left at the default of 1 Month. Good monitors should not change during that period but you should get into the habit of regular calibration so you know your screen is always accurate. Reset Never Show Again Dialogs is useful if you’ve previously dismissed warnings but are now training an assistant or somebody else to calibrate your monitor. Show Netbook Controls is useful if you are calibrating a low resolution monitor that cannot accommodate the standard user interface of the Spyder software.
Clicking Advanced Settings will take you deeper into the options. Show RGB Sliders option in Identify Controls screen is very important. To get a monitor to a certain colour temperature the white point can either be adjusted via the graphics card look up table or by adjusting RGB sliders on the monitor hardware. It’s important to note that the backlight of LCD monitors is always a fixed colour temperature and so any adjustment is always software based, it’s just a question if you do it in the monitor software or the graphics card.
Graphics card look up tables are normally just 8 bit. They have 256 levels for each colour. Good quality image editing monitors can have look up tables of 14 or even 16 bits. So if your monitor has good RGB controls it makes far more sense to do the adjustment in the monitor because you’ll get smoother and more accurate results. With this option checked you’ll be prompted to say if your monitor has RGB controls as you go through the calibration and then will be taken through an interactive process of measurement and adjustment. If you do it well you’ll end up with a much more accurate monitor calibration.
The Delta E Warning Level is used when running some of the tests after your monitor has been profiled. Delta E is a measurement of how different two colours are. A very good monitor should achieve levels around 1.0. You’ll be given the result as a number so the level set as a warning isn’t that important.
Clicking ICC Settings will take you to the final preferences screen. ICC Version refers to the International Color Consortium specification used to create your monitor profile. Version 4 is the most recent but version 2 is compatible with a wider range of applications. You only see the benefit of using version 4 if all the profiles are version 4 and you will find that most working spaces and printer profiles are version 2. So it’s best to leave this set to version 2. Likewise Chromatic Adaption Mode refers to the mathematical method for adapting between one white point and another when certain tables in your profile are calculated. Bradford is the method the ICC recommend.
Datacolor Spyder5 Elite Expert Console
To bypass the wizard interface choose Expert Console from the Shortcuts menu when you open the Spyder software. This will take you straight to the calibration settings and offer you choices you don’t get otherwise. Select your display. You can see in my screenshot that I’m using an EIZO ColorEdge CX270. I normally calibrate that screen using EIZO’s ColorNavigator which does a fully automatic hardware calibration. I’m only using the Spyder software for the purposes of this blog. if you have a ColorEdge use ColorNavigator.
Now you need to choose your Target. You can select from one of the predefined targets to give yourself a starting point. You’ll see many options including some film and TV standards. Most users start with the 2.2 – 6500K 120 default. Unless you have a specific reason not to it is a good target for your first calibration but below I’ll outline when you may want to deviate from it. Once you have a custom setting you are happy with you can choose Save Target As…
Monitor White Point
Every light source has a white point and a monitor is no different. 6500K is close to the native white point of most LCD displays and is the white point in many working spaces such as sRGB and Adobe RGB as well as TV standards. There are a couple of reasons to change it though. Firstly, some screens just don’t calibrate well to 6500K, especially if they have poor RGB controls or none at all. You might notice a magenta or green colour cast after calibration. So for these screens selecting Do Not Adjust will leave the screen to its native white point. Secondly, you may be trying to match the screen to a print displayed under a particular known lighting standard and colour temperature. I have a D50, 5000K, view booth. To get a good visual match on the monitor to an print from my inkjet in the booth I find I need to drop the white point target to around 5880K. Why not 5000K I here you ask? Because you are looking at light reflected from a print, and not the light source directly so that print influences the perceived colour temperature. You always need to try several different white point targets when matching to print. You can choose from predefined Kelvin values, enter your own, or use x, y coordinates.
Gamma is the tone reproduction curve of the monitor. 2.2 is by far the most common choice. Lower values will reduce screen contrast, higher values will increase it. Some TV standards use 2.4. You can also choose other types of curve including L-Star but you should only use these if you are using a workflow or working space that requires it.
Visual Mode will measure your ambient light and suggest a brightness level for you to calibrate your screen to. This isn’t ideal as your ambient light might be different next time you calibrate or when you calibrate a different monitor. Using Measured Mode is far better. You can use the Measure Room button after placing the Spyder5 on your monitor but with the light sensor on the top facing away from the screen. A good level for image editing is Medium or lower. The default value of 120 in White Luminance is a good starting point but if you are trying to match to print either in a view booth or in daylight you may want to drop down to 100 or so. Setting Room Light Compensation on will check your target for luminance against actual room brightness. I would recommend unchecking it.
Never try to put a print next to a monitor and flick your eyes back and forth to evaluate a monitor to print match. It won’t work, unless you have a top of the line monitor and a variable dimming view booth and even then it will take a while to get a good match. A good room light level to look at a monitor is relatively dim but this obviously is less than ideal to view a print in. Keep your monitor in dim light and just take the print (printed with an accurate printer profile) away to good, bright daylight. Let your eyes adjust, study the print and then go back to the image on the monitor (with your imaging application’s soft proof function active, of course), let your eyes adjust and then judge any difference in brightness and recalibrate to a new luminance target accordingly.
Calibration On allows you turn the existing monitor calibration on an off, like you can at the end of the calibration process. It only turns the graphics card look up table edits on and off so if you’ve adjusted the monitor hardware well you should see little or no change. Set Gray Balance Calibration to Better to get the best calibration you can. It will take longer but it’s worth it. Next Action defines what happens when you click the Next button below that menu. FullCal will, as the name suggests, do a full calibration from scratch. ReCal will update the existing Spyder5 calibration. CheckCal will check to see if your monitor is still close enough to the previously calibrated state. Profile Only will skip the calibration part of the process and go straight to creating a profile. For the purposes of this blog I’ll do a FullCal. You’ll get a warning saying that the better gray balance will take longer if you’ve chosen that option, click OK.
Datacolor Spyder5 Elite Monitor Calibration & Profiling
Follow the instructions to place the Spyder5 on the display. You will need to take the cap off and move it along the cable until it hangs over the back of the screen to act as a counterweight. Tilting the screen back sometimes helps the Spyder sit flat against the panel.
The software will display a few tones and then bring up the RGB Slider adjustment. A little graph will show you if the red, green, or blue need adjusting. You are trying to get all three in the centre of the thin grey box. I normally start by using a Kelvin value adjustment on the monitor to get close and then switch to adjusting the individual RGB gain values, starting with the red. You need to click Update after each change you make to take a new reading. Remember these are not real gain values like they were in the days of CRT monitors but just look up tables in the monitor firmware. They are signal adjustments not real hardware adjustments, but on a good quality monitor they will get the screen to a certain white point better than the graphics card. Once you’ve got close the grey box line will get thicker and you’ll see a message on screen. I usually carry on until I get all three colours as close to the centre of the box as I can.
Click Continue and the software will measure a little more and then bring up the brightness adjustment screen. It asks you to adjust the brightness to the screen maximum before taking the first reading. It will then tell you what the screen brightness is and then you simply turn the monitor brightness down using the controls on the screen, clicking Update after you make a change. The aim is to get the indicator into the centre of the green area.
Click Continue again and the software will carry on to do more measurement both for calibration and creating the profile. When it’s finished you can name the profile and set the reminder. If you name the profile the same each time then it will overwrite the older profile and stop you accumulating loads of out of date profiles. Once you click Save the profile will be saved in the correction location and set as the profile for that display. Click Next.
Checking your Monitor Profile
I’ve always liked Datacolor’s test image and the profile checking features. With the Spyder5 they have made it even better. Firstly, click on Full Screen to get rid of any distractions. You can examine the default test image for any issues. The greyscale images are very good at showing colour casts. Pressing the spacebar will switch from calibrated to uncalibrated views. If you’ve done the hardware adjustment well then you’ll see very little change as it can’t reset any of the changes you’ve made to the monitor. You are only seeing what’s happening in the graphics card look up table. If you see a big shift between the two views then I would say too much is happening in the card. Pressing any other key gets you out of full screen. If you want to use one of your own photos or another test image you can click Open Custom…
Clicking Next will take you to the Profile Overview where you will see a graphical representation of the colour gamut of your monitor. You can compare it to some standard RGB profiles or another Spyder5 profile you have created. Clicking View Info will show you the details of the uncalibrated, target and calibrated state of your monitor. Print Report will print the same data out. You can then either Quit or use the Shortcuts menu to go to Display Analysis.
The Spyder5EliteMQA application allows you to perform a series of quality assurance tests on a calibrated monitor. There are various tests you can run I would suggest you go for Gamut, Tone Response, Screen Uniformity and Color Accuracy. Select all the tests you want to perform and then click Begin Tests. The software will walk you through the tests. They can take a while. At the end you get a great report you can use to judge the accuracy of your display over time, which display you should be using for your most critical colour editing or if you really need to buy something better. A monitor that you want to use for colour critical image editing should score at least 4 out of 5 in each category.