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Part 1 - Monitor Calibration and Characterisation

On opening Photoshop 7 for the very first time we are presented with an information dialog (shown below). The purpose of this dialog is to warn the user that the Photoshop "Colour Settings" will be automatically configured or to provide access for manual setup. As with Photoshop 6 and unlike Photoshop 5 and 5.5 there is no "wizard" to help the user through the process of configuring the "Colour Settings". If Photoshop 6 is anything to go by many new users will panic at this dialog and accept the defaults only to realise later that this was only a short-term solution.




For the purpose of this essay I to have chosen the "No" option and have therefore accepted the default Photoshop settings. However, I chose this option for no other reason than to concentrate upon monitor calibration and characterisation. Once I have discussed calibrating the monitor we can return to colour settings.


Accurately calibrating and characterising the monitor is a critical element for any colour-managed workflow. Our aim is to calibrate the monitor at system level so that we can eliminate unwanted colour casts from the monitor, and so obtain the best possible display  environment for editing our images. We also need to characterise the monitor by means of an ICC device profile. This profile is simply a file that includes a description of the characteristics of your monitor. The monitor profile will then be used by Photoshop to compensate for the monitor's colour-display limitations. Photoshop optimises the display of images using the image/document profile (e.g. Adobe RGB, sRGB, ColorMatch), and the monitor profile.

Adobe no longer installs Adobe Gamma with the Mac version of Photoshop, however, Mac OS9.x or OSX users can use the Monitor Calibrator supplied as part of ColorSync or copy Adobe Gamma from the Photoshop installation CD. The Monitor Calibrator utility operates in a similar fashion to Adobe Gamma and so I'll not bother describing it here.

To calibrate and characterise the monitor Windows users should open the "Adobe Gamma" utility or a third party alternative. For many new users Adobe Gamma is more than sufficient and it's free.

Adobe Gamma is a "Control Panel" utility that is accessed from the "My Computer > Control Panel". Before running Adobe Gamma, it is best that the monitor has been switched on for at least 30 minutes. It is also best to work in subdued lighting when calibrating a monitor using Adobe Gamma. Another good tip is to set the "Desktop Colour" to grey.

Step 1

When the Adobe Gamma utility is first opened you will be asked to make a choice between the "Step- by- Step (Wizard)" and the "Control Panel" method. It's probably easier to use the "Step-by-Step (Wizard)" method.




Step 2

Using the Load button choose your monitor profile or pick one that's close. If in doubt choose the Adobe default monitor profile or even sRGB, it really makes little difference since all we are doing is defining the start point.




Before progressing to the next step, be sure to give the profile a unique description and include the date (my example shows Mitsubishi Diamond 31/3/02).

Step 3

Set your monitor contrast control to maximum and then adjust the brightness control until the innermost grey square is only just visible against the black surround. Squinting your eyes helps with this process, as does keeping the room lighting at a low level or off.




Step 4 

If you're using a manufacturer supplied profile for your specific make and model of monitor then in all probability the Phosphors will be listed as "Custom". If this is the case leave well alone. If you don't have a monitor profile choose either Trinitron or P22-EBU. I keep getting asked -"how do I decide which is appropriate for my monitor?"  You can tell a Trinitron monitor by simply looking at the display area. A Trinitron type monitor will have two faint lines running across the display area approximately 1/4 from the top and 1/4 from the bottom. If your monitor has these lines choose Trinitron, otherwise choose P22-EBU.




Step 5

Begin by keeping the "View Single Gamma" selected. However, keep in mind that this option "ONLY" allows you to adjust the relative brightness of the monitor.

Adjust the slider until the inner grey square blends with the outer frame, squinting slightly can help. Finally, deselect the "View Single Gamma" checkbox.





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