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Monitor Calibration
My boss is certain that all other computers display colors like hers...

 5:51 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

We have a small web design firm with a few different artists and about 8 computers in the office.

We recently installed PANTONE'S huey to correct the colors on our monitors so that we are producing sites with accurate color. It seems to work great on the three computers we installed it on, but there's one problem....

Our boss will not convert. She is "positive" that the rest of the world's computers display colors the way hers does, and that the huey has screwed our colors up.

I've explained to her my understanding, which is that the huey calibrates our colors to display accurately, and that ALL monitors are off, some more than others. At least with ours calibrated correctly, we will be somewhere in the middle, with our sites looking the best on the more accurate displays.

I know, of course, that the bottom line is pleasing our clients, and there will be many times that we have to change colors based upon what they are seeing on their computers.

I would like to hear other's experience with this issue, and I will sureley get the boss to check out the thread. Thanks.



 6:05 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

The most basic reason that others will not match is simply brightness and contrast...

even on an LCD...you can't get everyone "the same"......evne LCD's have quirks from one manufacturer tothe other, various video cards also add a flavor....someones $10.00 special certainly won't look like anothers $1500.00 video card....

change her brightness/contrast...and explain that "what if" others don't share her view/choice of brightness...now the shade is different...

bottom line...she's wrong...and you need to simply produce examples...

hope that helps...


 6:56 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

get a few computers together - arrange them in a line (next to hers) and show her the difference.

I had to do the same - I used dual Mac screens two laptops and a pc in the demo - to show everyone in the team that it is completely impossible to make the worlds computer screens all look the exactly the same.


 7:33 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

So, I guess the real question is, does the Huey color correction make our computers look *more* like the middle of the road displays out there?

Or, does fixing our colors with this thing, even though they are technically correct, throw us off significantly from what most mainstream computer displays look like?

This is what I think she wants to know.


 8:14 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Huey makes your displays' color more correct.

Since most display manufacturers also aim to get correct color --on average-- on their products, this makes your colors more accurate on more displays.



 8:58 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

I went down this road again and again in the printing industry with a lot of calibration sofware and methods in reference to calibrating RGB to printed values. Although it's apples and oranges in reference to web applications (all things being RGB,) the core result is the same - You will never arrive at a perfect solution. Add one element to any "perfect" calibration:

Color is subjective.

It doesn't matter if you read the values with the most sensitive equipment and the numbers are within .0001% of each other. The next person is going to see that color differently. This has been proven over and over again. If you want proof, start an argument among your color experts on exactly what color defines "Teal."

Besides, for all the money you invest in calibration, are you going to calibrate all your customers' monitors for them so they see what you see?

Secondly, there are a large chunk of colors in Pantone and CMYK that simply will not reproduce in the RGB gamut and vice versa. It can't be done, because the pigments are not colored light.

The best solution to the calibration issue is to stick to an acceptable range. If you create a color and it looks different on a good calibrated monitor, a crappy monitor, and an LCD, you're cutting it too close. Unless you want to hide behind the "you need to upgrade" argument, in which case you might as well use "site best designed for" too. :-)


 9:02 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

From the boss in question: :)

I do not think all computers look like mine; and I know all computers display colors differently. :)

The problem: We have been doing this for 12 years with no color problems. We were very lucky in that all of the colors we provided looked good on all computers, including our clients, even though often a tad different.

Ever since using Huey on the design computers in the last 2 weeks, almost every one of the newly designed sites look terrible on my monitor and great on theirs.

I do not think it is smart for us to depend upon the color based on Huey corrected monitors, changing all computers so that they look the same, and providing these proofs to our clients. The risk is great that our clients will not see it like we do, and we will be providing lower quality work.

I believe we should design sites so they look good on all monitors in the office, including the Huey corrected one, since most computers will not have Huey ... and this way we'll have more than one color to review.

If we make sure that ALL colors showing up on ALL monitors at least look good ... even though they do not look the same ... our clients will be happier since there is a higher likelihood they will see the colors as one of computers does.

I don't think it would be a good idea to tell my clients they should buy a Huey if they do not like the colors of the proofs we provided -- they will only be concerned about how it looks to all of their customers and how it looks to them.)

This way, we have more than one monitor and can make sure the color looks good on all. Think I'm off track here?


 9:09 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

From the employee again (my account was hijacked) :)

Where's the huey uninstall tool? ;)


 9:48 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

The boss is right on with her post. ;)

For the "real" seoArt, yes, your reasoning is good too, but testing only on calibrated monitors isn't a real-world test. You should keep a calibrated monitor, of course. But the bottom line is you need to test each design on many different monitors before you'll really know where the "middle of the road" is.

I always test new designs on many different monitors, from my really nice LCD display right down to my really nasty CRT that makes everything look like a late-dusk photograph on bad film...


 3:58 am on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

As much as I hate to admit, the boss is usually right. :)

I think you hit the nail on the head though Matthew. I guess I was hoping that huey would be a simple answer to this problem everyone has been dealing with since color monitors came into being.

One good thing about it is that it's easy to turn the correction on and off. We still need to check colors on other monitors though, just like we always did in the past.

[edited by: seoArt at 3:59 am (utc) on Oct. 27, 2006]


 6:52 pm on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

The risk is great that our clients will not see it like we do ....

This is not a risk, it's almost a mathematical certainty.


 9:28 pm on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Excellent thread!
Good luck seoArt :)


 3:50 pm on Oct 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

tell your boss to at least get the gamma set up correctly on her monitor, even if the colors are wrong... the aim website in finland has a stairstep graphic that you can download, that'll get you in the ballpark.

if she has an lcd monitor, the gamma will never be right, but close is better than nothing.


 8:24 pm on Oct 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

FWIW I've given up on color management even for _print_. The brand of ink and paper and the dexterity of the guy handling the job has a bigger impact on the final color than any of our nitpicking with monitor calibration and profiling. I've had wildly different results from the same masters, different printing shops, and both were "correct". For me, it's a lost battle.


 9:06 pm on Oct 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

While it's fine that 99.9% of users do not calibrate their montitors, you're supposed to provide professional services. You should be reasonably accurate in representing colors even if the average Joe's monitor does not render them accurately.

It's quality assurance and it comes at a cost - do it.


 10:06 pm on Oct 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

Remember that the colors a monitor can produce is limited. E.g. try a light yellow on a CRT and on a LCD (no matter how they are calibrated). Same for orange. Typically they show something very different. Same for a true 100% cyan, a monitor just doesn't produce that color, while in general any printer is really good at it.

For a monitor: use RGB colors and try it on as many monitor as you can see to make sure it doesn't go off too far. Especially with the colors a display has trouble with testing is the solution.

Calibration will yield you the assurance you are right, unfortunately most monitors are not calibrated at all. So yes a calibrated monitor should be used in the test, but you should also view it on a CRT, on a laptop, ... and be sure
it always looks acceptable to your customer.

E.g. a customer having a logo with a yellow in it, make sure it doesn't turn into what some would call orange on some CRTs.

Pantone is for printing. Unless you typically would print your web creations, don't worry about them.

Pantone reference cards are a good way of communicating colors, of having predictability, but it's for printing, not for displaying. So yes you can use them to communicate but they define a full spectrum, and reproducing that spectrum with just rgb values isn't possible, let alone dealing with mixing them.


 4:10 am on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

I own exactly 6 computer. A laptop (LCD), two desktops with LCD and 3 desktops CRT.
They are 6 different brands.
I manually, should I see by eye with shades of grays and other primitive tests, calibrated the two LCDs, but the laptop don't have any adjustment other than bright and contrast. The CRTs are mostly on the factory default.
My websites looks and all the websites looks slightly different on each monitor. Nothing more, nothing less, just "slightly" difference.
If you're seeing such a big different between the calibrated and non-calibrated monitors, either the non-calibrated is totally whacked, or you over-calibrated the others(don't know if that possible).


 6:18 am on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

It all seems kind of irrelevant.

No matter how accurate the colors show up on your screen, that says nothing at all about how they show up on your customers screen.

And from what I understand, the Pantone colors are for correcting screen colors for PRINT MEDIA, not for computer screens.


 9:16 am on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Our boss will not convert. She is "positive" that the rest of the world's computers display colors the way hers does, and that the huey has screwed our colors up.



If you convince her to do it, as soon as her printer jams or she starts getting pop-ups or spam it will be your fault...<grin>

I believe the saying is: "Never try to teach a pig to sing -- it will only waste your time and annoy the pig".

That said, you could argue using math and science, which will prove you are right.


 12:26 pm on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Calibration for 'on-screen' displays is a myth. As someone else said, the Pantone system is a print product and should stay there. Calibration is a method of reconciling the methods of the print design industry, which uses the CMYK colour space and 'on-screen' desktop publishing which views colour on RGB monitors.

The idea of calibration is that you find a way of 'standardising' the display and output of colours across a variety of known devices, using specific hardware profiles. It is impossible to effectively do this for the monitors of users who are not even in your office. And even then, the monitors will look different under different lighting conditions and a variety of other factors.

And when it comes to LCD monitors the issue is even worse than CRT. Each production batch is different and, being a developing technology, manufacturers are constantly updating their products.


 4:45 pm on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've worked with color now since 1990. I've been in the commercial printing industry where color is critical. We constantly perform monitor calibrations within our design workspaces. But, the lighting in those spaces is also calibrated. We also have "press ready" monitors.

I can tell you from almost 17 years of experience that calibrating a monitor is good practice and you should at least take care of the basics.

As others have mentioned, monitor calibration is typically for print. I remember the first time I bought an LCD flat panel. I actually took it back because the colors were "too vibrant". That was a few years ago when they were first becoming mainstream. I couldn't develop websites using that LCD as I was seeing colors that my clients were not. The whole backlight issue brings in another factor that really throws thing off if you are used to the standard CRT monitor. Imagine taking your CRT and shining a bright light behind it. Colors become more vibrant and in some instances look completely different.

Pantone is the authority on color when it comes to print. Fortunately for us, Pantone also provides RGB and Hex values for colors that companies use in their marketing materials. As long as you are using those values, you should be good to go. There are certain colors that may need to be tweaked here and there but for the most part, you can be assured that your butt is covered as long as you are using the appropriate color values.

No two monitors at the basic consumer level are going to show colors the same. Heck, I've watched them calibrate the press ready monitors and the process is painstaking. There are so many factors that have to be taken into consideration that it just isn't worth it for anything other than print. And even then, the client needs to go on the press check and approve those first sheets coming off the press for color. That's another issue in itself. Once it goes on press, color control is now in the hands of the pressman and the equipment they are working with. What a nightmare that can be. I know, I've been on press checks that started at 0100 and they didn't get the color right for 5-6 hours.


 4:46 pm on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Calibration for 'on-screen' displays is a myth.


Getting the brightness and gamma close to displaying the full spectrum goes a long way towards getting the colors in line. Since colors are mathematical, it can't hurt to try to get as close as possible.

If you search for "monitor calibration (online, tool)" you'll find a lot of links to pages to test shades of grey for instance. Adjusting brightness and gamma until you can differentiate between, say, 256 slots is a good start.

As for calibrating color for monitor/print compatability: If you have advanced output devices (printers), most of them will leave one or more profiles in the system's color directory. But, again, these are for getting the monitor as close as possible to print output.

Under WIN-XP you can select:
-Control Panel
-Color Management

and select from available (.icm / .icc) profiles


 6:35 pm on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

The boss is correct.

If you just want something to look good on your average monitor, use them AS-IS out of the box so you're using average to attain average.

However, if you need color corrected work for print then use Huey, but not for your web work.

Get 2 monitors and enjoy :)


 9:39 pm on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

You should design for the site visitors NOT for your self. We design a lot of sites, I have trained a number of designers. I have spent many hours coaxing new web designers off fancy monitors and setups. Its a very simple argument but some Designers just don't want to hear it:

1.) Don't design something the client (and the clients audience) can't see!

2.) Don't use colours, fonts or any stuff that does not work for the majority of the audience (site visitors).

3.) Don't even buy a fancy monitor, Design using the monitor (and settings) used by the majority of your audience. And design in a way that look good on the most popular variations.

A client might have a fancy monitor, I tell the client we are not designing for them, we are designing for their clients (site visitors). The client appreciates this after a little explanation.

Design for print is a different matter because you have a lot of control over what the audience will see, using pantone, calibration etc).


 10:15 pm on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

A tip for Mac designers... set your monitors to Windows 2.2 gamma instead of the standard Mac 1.8. It will look dark and grimy for a while but at least you will be seeing your designs (more or less) as 93% your audience will see them. Shades of colour are very different between the two platforms.

If you can't bring yourself to make the change, you can also preview Window/Mac gamma by jumping from Photoshop to ImageReady (Apple-Shift-M) and selecting Image > Adjustments > Gamma from the menu. There is a handy feature that lets you toggle between gammas.

Fireworks also has a "Windows Gamma" option under the View menu.

Actually, it wouldn't be a bad idea for Windows designers to do this too if their clients use Macs (don't optimise for Mac gamma, but at least check that it looks OK).


 10:36 pm on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

the last 2 posts in this thread are the most relevant ..


 10:45 pm on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

I agree in part with kapow (esp. fonts), but not about the screen defaults. If your monitor is calibrated, at least you will be working with an average. If you design for whatever your particular monitor displays by default, you could be way off at the other extreme. For example, if your personal monitor tends toward blue and someone else's has a major yellow bias, they will see nothing resembling the colours you intended.

At least a calibrated monitor puts you in the middle. You the designer will be working without any visual bias either way.

Designs should still be tested on different screens if possible. There is probably a PS plug-in that lets you simulate different extremes and show an average - if there isn't, there should be!

SeoArt (the boss):

Ever since using Huey on the design computers in the last 2 weeks, almost every one of the newly designed sites look terrible on my monitor and great on theirs.

You make a good point, but how do they look on your friend's computer, your mum's...? It's possible that your monitor is the exception.


 3:43 am on Oct 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

If you want to get addional perspectives on "color", start looking at saturation / chroma and tone.

Some gemologists claim there is no such hue as "pink" i.e pink sapphire .. that it is actually a low saturation of red.

If you believe pink is a hue, find it on the color wheel or find its wavelength.;)

Then try to find brown .. = red with a dark tone.

One of the instructors at AIGS in Bangkok told of a green tourmaline collection with 50,000 identifiably different stones.

Okay, now go ahead and calibrate your monitor.:)


 5:27 am on Oct 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Just install a 2nd CRT for your boss and make sure the calibrations are totally different. After a few days trying to get them halfway close, the boss will have a deep and lasting understanding that no two are alike :-).


 3:26 pm on Oct 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

If you can't bring yourself to make the change, you can also preview Window/Mac gamma by jumping from Photoshop to ImageReady (Apple-Shift-M) and selecting Image > Adjustments > Gamma from the menu. There is a handy feature that lets you toggle between gammas.

Great tips! I'd like to add one more, taken from the macworld.com forums- you can view the gamma difference by using Photoshop's "Proof Setup" command and set it to Windows RGB. (View->Proof Setup->Windows RGB) This will darken your monitor to simulate the Windows default. Theoretically, this is the same as using a 2.2 gamma monitor profile but you have to remember to set it.

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