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Part 1 - Monitor Calibration and Characterisation

Accurately calibrating and characterising the monitor is the probably the most important aspect of the colour-managed workflow. The aim is to calibrate and characterise the monitor so that we eliminate unwanted colour casts and so obtain the best possible display environment for editing our images. We characterise the monitor by means of creating an ICC device profile, which is simply a data file that includes a description of the monitors’ colour handling characteristics. The profile will then be used by Photoshop to compensate for the colour limitations of the monitor. Photoshop automatically optimises the display of images by carrying out an on-the-fly conversion between the image/document profile (e.g. Adobe RGB, sRGB, ColorMatch) and the monitor profile. This conversion does not alter the actual image in any way.

Note: Adobe no longer supply Adobe Gamma with the Mac version of Photoshop although the Apple Display Calibrator Assistant found within System Preferences offers similar features. A tutorial describing the process of calibrating a display with the Apple Display Calibrator Assistant can be found 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 can easiest be accessed from 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 helpful tip is to set the desktop colour to grey.



Control Panel as is appears when using the Windows Classic Theme


Step-by-Step Calibration

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.

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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