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Monitor Color Calibration

Posted by: John Knapko on 01/28/2012 - 4:56 PM

I'm in the market to purchase a quality monitor calibration system. There are quite a few on the market with lots of results and reviews. Still unsure, I've decided to toss this out to my FAA community.
Of those of you who have experience with a monitor calibration system, such as Spyder3, ColorMunki, X-Rite i1Display 2, etc . . . I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on these.
I know the importance of them, so I'm not looking for a debate on their necessity.
I'm looking more for personal reviews of particular brands and models you have experienced. I emailed Murray Bloom with this issue as well. Murray, feel free to jump into the discussion here as well if you like. I'm sure your input can benefit us all.

As far as expense, I don't want to spend more than needed, but I don't mind spending more if it's a considerable, proven upgrade in quality.
I'm using a higher end PC w/ windows 7 sys software. I do not have a printer at this time. Hopefully in the not too distant future.

Thanks all!


Oldest Reply

Posted by: Isabella F Abbie Shores on 01/28/2012 - 5:12 PM

Spyder is mentioned a lot by the top photographers as being one of the best


Posted by: John Knapko on 01/28/2012 - 5:20 PM

Hi Beth! Thank you. Yes. I've heard Spyder is popular, but I'm hoping to hear things such as why exactly. pros and cons. Good results or not so good results. Compatibility issues perhaps with certain brand or type monitors, computers etc. High sales history doesn't necessarily mean quality product. But recommendations from artists who understand the system is valuable info.


Posted by: Jeff Kolker on 01/28/2012 - 5:49 PM

I have Spyder, and it seems to do OK. Now, I'm not an expert, but just wanted to get my monitors close to the right colors. I had ordered one of my own prints, and was redder than I had seen on my screen. Oops.. so I had to get something

I have two monitors, it calibrates them both, and they are pretty close together in their color display now. Before Not perfect, but I think that is partially my own ignorance. If I were a true photographer, I might work at it to get it much better. And I might still when I have the time.

Probably not the overwhelming endorsement you were looking for, but it does work, and even in just a little time, I was able to get my monitors fairly well calibrated. I can only imagine that if you spend some effort at it, you'll get more exacting results....


Posted by: John Knapko on 01/29/2012 - 1:12 AM

I'm surprised. I expected a much larger turnout of responses, especially from all of our photographers and digital artists. Hmmmm
Thank you Beth and Jeff. I appreciate your input.


Posted by: Ernie Echols on 01/29/2012 - 2:48 AM

John, I have the Spyder 3 (purchased it last year) and am very happy with it and think my work looks much better now. I did purchase an 18x24 Canvas recently and it looks the same as it did on my monitor. :)


Posted by: Richard Rizzo on 01/29/2012 - 5:47 AM

Spyder for sure.


Posted by: Peter Chilelli on 01/29/2012 - 8:59 AM

Like you John, I thought I'd see many more posts saying the difference justifies the expense. I plan on getting to it for "peace of mind" reasons, but I wonder if most of the viewers don't have their own monitor calibrated,how much impact is there?


Posted by: Murray Bloom on 01/29/2012 - 9:36 AM

My view is that calibration is essential. No matter which model you use (my Eye-1 cost me over $500, but will calibrate monitors, printers, projectors, etc.), there's nothing more important than having your digital file reflect the accepted standard. You can have an image that looks positively stunning on your uncalibrated monitor, but if that monitor is off in color, gamma, brightness or contrast, the image will never print correctly, and when viewed by anyone else who has a calibrated system, it will not be faithful to what you devoted all your time and effort making it to be.

The reality is that even the least expensive colorimeters will get you very close to perfect; and if you're serious about your work, there's no excuse not to be using one.


Posted by: Todd Bennett on 01/29/2012 - 5:33 PM

John, I use the Pantone Huey and I've been happy with it.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 01/29/2012 - 7:59 PM

i have a spyder 3, but couldn't get it to calibrate on default settings. it would always look blue. i had to set the white point on native to get it to work. the tech guys really tried to help, but they were pretty useless. it might just be my computer, but it's hard to know.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: John Knapko on 01/29/2012 - 8:54 PM

Thank you all for the replies so far. I appreciate it! Truly.
For those of you using the Spyder3 system . . . I notice it comes in at least 2 versions. One is the Express for generally around $100 or less. and an "elite" version for approx $200 or so. I'm curious to know if that extra $100 is producing results that justify double the price.
It sounds like those of you using the Spyder3 are having pretty good results. I was wondering if you're getting those results with the less expensive version or the elite.

@ Murray: I agree. Knowing what I know now, there really is no excuse for not having one in place. I mean everything we are doing is riding on it really. I realize I probably do not need a $500 calibration system to see a big difference. I just don't want to underspend. Times are tough and I try my best to research as much as possible before i plunk down my hard earned paper.

@ Todd: I'm not familiar with the Pantone Heuy system, but i will definitely look into it! ty for sharing that.

@ Mike: Thats unfortunate. I guess we need to realize there are variables in place with each of our individual computer systems that allow inconsistencies and other compatibility issues. I would be wondering in your case how accurate it is and if its worth using at all. The Spyder system I mean. Maybe you need to look toward a different brand to satisfy your computers temperament.

Thanks again. I really do appreciate all your responses!


Posted by: Michelle Calkins on 01/29/2012 - 9:03 PM

Can I ask how these work? What is the process?


Posted by: Mike Savad on 01/29/2012 - 9:38 PM

the main difference between the elite and non, is the ability to do two monitors. i have two on my system. technically, you can simply switch the default screen to the other one and make another profile for that one. but if you have two screens that match, you wouldn't be able to get them match exactly to each other. while i have a different screen as my second. i can see getting another of the same in the future. i think there is also some kind of screen uniformity tests. but they take forever and aren't worth it.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Mike Savad on 01/29/2012 - 9:41 PM

the process. you place this mouse sized thing on the screen. you need to be able to tilt it back so it sits, the test takes 10 min or so. when you run the program it will flash different shades of gray, black, white, red, green, blue, and it does some other things. all in small steps. in the end you will hopefully have a balanced screen. technically it should be done every month. mine has a built in light sensor to adjust to the light in the room as it changes. but that's annoying. same with adjusting the tint as the room is brighter or darker. mine is unplugged. and because i'm lazy, i haven't touched the thing in a while.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: John Knapko on 01/29/2012 - 9:43 PM

Anyone who knows more on this subject than me please feel free to chime in on this.
Hi Michelle. Its a small apparatus that is placed on the front of your monitor and if set up properly should calibrate your monitor. By that it means it attempts to analyze your monitors settings and if necessary, it make adjustments to things like gamma, color, brightness & contrast settings to get them to an industry accepted standard.
So, in theory, what you see on your screen is true to spec.
Therefore, as Murray Bloom has stated above, " if that monitor is off in color, gamma, brightness or contrast, the image will never print correctly, and when viewed by anyone else who has a calibrated system, it will not be faithful to what you devoted all your time and effort making it to be."

But a problem lies in that I would venture to guess a very small amount of monitors out there are calibrated, or calibrated correctly. So even though your monitor says the image's settings are industry standard and appear correct, they may not appear the same way when viewed through someone elses non-calibrated monitor. A potential buyer may be turned off from your piece simply because his or her settings are off and they don't see what "you" see.
But then again, if your system is not calibrated and theirs is . . . you are both seeing 2 different images anyway. You may be wondering why your work isn't selling, even though it looks great in your opinion on your own monitor, but the rest of the world sees varying results. I suspect I will see differences I can't live with once I get my system calibrated. Even though calibrated monitors i'm sure are currently a minority, it is definitely in your advantage to have your monitor calibrated, for the piece of mind, as Peter mentioned above.

TO Murray Bloom:
Im also wondering about another issue and hopefully Murray Bloom can help me with this.
I see on a Spyder3 comparison chart online that it mentions Display Calibration and Printer profiling. I am confused. It seems that only the Spyder3Print SR 4.0 & Spyder3 Studio SR are the only 2 that have printer profiling.
Is that to say that the other models of the Spyder3 cannot calibrate what I see on the monitor screen to expect the same results from the printer? Iím just trying to understand this. I realize you're not an authority on Spyder, but I am just trying to understand the terminology used.


Posted by: Viktor Savchenko on 01/29/2012 - 10:02 PM

Finely tuned up system must include calibration of monitor, printer,your software (Photoshop for example), and papers profiles.
To achieve this task it takes a lot of time, and money spent on ink and paper. FAA or any local printer isn't bed solution
to make good quality print. Make sure your image has impressive and attractive value.
The printer, OS,and Software are resisting changes you did with only monitor calibration. You must to learn how to change default automatic
setting into smart manual Color management.


Posted by: Philip Lane on 01/29/2012 - 10:11 PM


My best advice to you is depending on your objective and ahh yes that is the rub. If you are looking ti calibrate your monitor for general purpose such as work flow, Spider would be my choice. However if you are looking to calibrate your monitor to match the output of your printer then I would choose ColorMunki. I have just got through testing the ColorMunki system for a friend and it does an excellent job of calibrating your monitor. ColorMunki is not perfect though, so be aware it does not do such a good job of matching the color output of your printer . I often find the printer profiles ColorMunki creates to be very flat and under saturated so be aware of this.

All the best



Posted by: John Knapko on 01/29/2012 - 10:14 PM

I would agree Viktor.
But for now I'm basically concentrating on the monitor. As you stated it takes a lot of time, money and patience to properly calibrate your entire system. But we all need to start somewhere. I'll be satisfied with my monitor for the time being. :)


Posted by: John Knapko on 01/29/2012 - 10:21 PM

Hi Philip! I'm curious as to why you are recommending ColorMunki to calibrate your monitor to match the output of your printer, if in your opinion it doesn't do a great job, or it's less than perfect as you say.
Let me just ask this question I mentioned a few posts up again then.
I see on a Spyder3 comparison chart online that it mentions Display Calibration and Printer profiling. I am confused. It seems that only the Spyder3Print SR 4.0 & Spyder3 Studio SR are the only 2 that have printer profiling.
Is that to say that the other models of the Spyder3 cannot calibrate what I see on the monitor screen to expect the same results from the printer? Iím just trying to understand this. I realize you're not an authority on Spyder, but I am just trying to understand the terminology used.
Do only a few calibrate your monitor to the printer profiles? I assumed almost all of them would do this. Am I incorrect? Like I said, just trying to understand all of this :)


Posted by: Murray Bloom on 01/29/2012 - 10:23 PM

Philip, I have to disagree. The monitor has to be adjusted to the industry standard. Then, the printer needs to be calibrated the same way. If the monitor was to be calibrated to the printer, everyone's monitor would be different, since everyone has different printers. That would defeat the main purpose of calibration, which is uniformity of the image across computers. And what if you used more than a single printer?

The way my Eye-1 calibrates the printer is as follows. You send a standardized file to the printer, which has sample colors and grayscale patches, a lot like the colors and shades that are used when calibrating the monitor. Then you read the printed output with the colorimeter (the calibrating device). The software then creates a new printer profile for that paper. The monitor is never a part of the process, nor should it be. It's the printer that you're adjusting.


Posted by: John Knapko on 01/29/2012 - 10:24 PM

Just worth mentioning, I do not print my own work at this time. I intend to do so in the not-too-distant future, so monitor-to-printer profile calibration "will" be a factor eventually, but for now I'm just focusing on monitor-only calibration. If that makes sense. :) I'm not sure if i'm coming across correctly.


Posted by: Viktor Savchenko on 01/29/2012 - 10:29 PM

To John, if you have your monitor size less then 26" your effort diminished in geometric digression.


Posted by: John Knapko on 01/29/2012 - 10:30 PM

I think I follow you now Murray. That makes sense.

So can you address my question then about display calibration and printer profiling? It would seem I would need a package that addresses both then.


Posted by: John Knapko on 01/29/2012 - 10:34 PM

My current monitor is 24" Viktor. I wish it was a bit larger, but I would think calibration is just as important. Im new to calibration, so my assumptions run wild lol


Posted by: Murray Bloom on 01/29/2012 - 10:41 PM

Yes, John, you're correct. However, if you're relying on someone else (like FAA) to do the printing for you, you have to trust that they have their equipment set up properly. In the case of FAA, based on all the positive comments I've seen, they apparently have.

If you're going to do your own printing, you should calibrate both your monitor and printer, which requires something more than the economy model calibrator. However, assuming you have a pretty good eye, it's often possible to tweak the printer driver by using the controls that they give you. The idea is to get the printed output to mimic the displayed image as closely as possible, taking into account the inherent differences between the two machines, like the color intensity and range of brightness that each can produce (the printer is much more limited in this respect). 'Eyeballing' can get you pretty close if you're good; but for the best results, calibrating the printer is the way to go.


Posted by: John Knapko on 01/29/2012 - 10:46 PM

Gotcha. Thank you Murray


Posted by: Viktor Savchenko on 01/29/2012 - 10:50 PM

In my previous post I mentioned photographic papers. Guess why celebrity photographers admire just a few brands?


Posted by: Murray Bloom on 01/29/2012 - 10:56 PM

Printer calibration takes into account the differences in papers, canvasses, etc., and adjusts for them each time it creates a new printer/paper profile. The reasons that certain media are preferred is often because of their inherent qualities, such as archival permanence and visual factors. For example, I like using Inkpress Luster as my general purpose paper because of its keeping qualities, relatively low cost (I buy it in 100 foot rolls), and especially their brilliant whites. Bright whites mean brighter colors as well as an enhanced contrast range.


Posted by: Philip Lane on 01/30/2012 - 3:19 PM

Murray I agree your monitor should be calibrated to a standard, that being said most devices I have used including spyder and colormunki do a fair to midland job of matching monitor to a printed output. In Johns case unless he is trying to match his monitor to a printing device then there is no need to break the bank for a decent monitor calibration system. As you know printers are CMYK devices so matching printed out out is not a perfect science. when software is translating an RGB image to a CMYK world.Personally I work with to monitor profiles 1) for general workflow and another which closely matches my Epson 7890's printers output. In a nutshell its all about what you are trying to do.


Posted by: Murray Bloom on 01/30/2012 - 7:21 PM

Philip, you don't match a monitor to printed output. You standardize the monitor and then match the printed output to the displayed image, either by eye or by hardware-calibrating the printer.


Posted by: Philip Lane on 01/30/2012 - 7:32 PM

I have never found any hardware at any price that works as well as my two eyes. That being said, I have found having specific monitor profile just for printing works for me much better hardware calibrating eg. ColorMunki and Spyder. This profile is a match for an RGB image that is converted in Photoshop to a CMYK image. Once this is done the CMYK is is much more dense and needs to be re curved to closely match the original RGB color and density. In doing this you are working from a starting point that will closely match a realistic CMYK output. Of course you will net to make test prints and fine tune : ) Of course I agree with you in essence Murray, I just find the popular color calibrating systems to be seriously flawed.


Posted by: Ken Bennison on 01/30/2012 - 8:49 PM

I use the Spyder Pro3. I also do test prints to make final adjustments to my photos.


Posted by: Eric Monse on 01/30/2012 - 9:19 PM


I have been using a Greytag Eye One with great results for the last year and a half,I get the best results if I control the ambient light in my studio for consistency it seems to be very stable and I don't have the color drifting too far off target compared to what I was using before..



Posted by: John Rizzuto on 01/30/2012 - 9:24 PM

How about a monitor with built in calibration so your monitor is actually calibrated and not just your graphics card....


Posted by: Murray Bloom on 01/31/2012 - 12:01 AM

Actually, it probably doesn't make much difference whether the monitor or card is calibrated. In fact, the EIZO looks like it's adjusting the monitor's electronics, so the principle is the same in either case. I like that it's bigger than my 24" monitor (27"). It's amazing how quickly we can become spoiled.

Eric, I use an Eye-1 myself and love it.


Posted by: Philip Lane on 02/01/2012 - 12:18 PM


Sorry to confuse you both spyder and colormunki are available in different versions as you do not need to buy the spectrometer for printing if you just want monitor calibration.


Posted by: John Knapko on 02/01/2012 - 3:46 PM

I think I understand now Philip. Thank you everyone. I was just concerned about monitor calibration and color standardization. I am however, hoping to finally buy a nice quality printer for myself sometime this year, so it may possibly be in my best interest to purchase a calibration system that actually has a spectrometer and printer/paper profiles. Not sure which printer yet. Money is always an issue these days. I was considering something along the lines of an Epson Stylus Pro 3880. I saw this printer in action a number of times and was very pleased with the output. Even though it doesn't allow me to print large scale, it does allow me to print large enough for portfolio use.
We'll see. Need to do some more homework on that topic. But getting back to calibration, thank you for your help.


Posted by: Philip Lane on 02/04/2012 - 3:53 PM


I have some updated information on ColorMunki Photo, the first few tests of this system yielded pretty poor results when it came to matching printer output. I have made several subsequent tests and found the source of the problem. The mini USB connection to the Spectrometer is prone to loosen while the spectrometer glides over the printed output of your printer thus the profiling can be seriously flawed during this process. Upon correction of the problem the ColorMunki Photo performed considerably better and yielded much better targeted results that required much less tweeking for a final print. Additional the whole ColorMunki Photo system seems to work effectively with a Windows 7 environment than it does with Mac platform. It is my sincere hope this updated info helps you in your quest.


Posted by: John Knapko on 02/04/2012 - 7:29 PM

Thank you so much Philip for taking the time to update us with your findings! I have not made my purchase yet, but recently have been seriously considering ColorMunki. I got a few very positive recommendations from people outside of FAA recently about it. Your findings are definitely helpful and very much appreciated. Thank you again.


Posted by: John Knapko on 02/09/2012 - 4:10 AM

Just a heads up for those who may be interested . . . the Spyder4 system is now out and available.
Express, Pro and Elite versions. Just when I think i had my mind made up. lol


Posted by: Patrick Raffaelo on 02/11/2012 - 9:45 PM

Go to this website and see a video on what to buy and how to
calibrate monitor. You might have to copy and paste link to your browser.


Posted by: John Knapko on 02/12/2012 - 3:44 AM

Hi Patrick. Thanks for posting the video. It doesn't really show what to buy but it does offer a general overview of the process which may be helpful to some.
Getting back to the original post I would be more interested to hear what "you" use and your critique of its performance.

Spyder? version 3? version 4? Express, pro, elite?

Same for ColorMunki & XRite, and any other for that matter.

I'm always looking for not just comparisons of brands, but of the different versions as well.
In your opinion, is the additional expense of a higher priced version justified? and why?

What type of monitor are you using? Laptop, CRT, LCD? what size is it? What make and model?
I understand not everyone shells out a lot of money for a high end monitor, because not everyone needs it, and in these tough times, not everyone can afford it. But I would also like to hear opinions and pros/cons in using these systems with a not-so-expensive monitor, as well as with a higher end one. Since we all have a wide range of monitors, I'm sure a wide range of comparisons have the possibility of helping all of us.
That sort of thing.

Thanks to everyone who has posted so far! Great stuff! Its not really a cut and dry issue, so there's lots for all of us to learn.


Posted by: Lara Ellis on 02/12/2012 - 8:48 AM

I recently purchased the Spyder pro 3 and I like it. I decided on that one after a discussion in here. It's pretty affordable and easy to use. :-)


Posted by: John Knapko on 02/14/2012 - 3:40 AM

That's great to hear Lara! Spyder seems to be pretty popular. Easy to use is always a plus as well.


This discussion is closed.