Monitor Hardware Calibration

Monitor hardware calibration is a critical process to make sure the colors of a photograph are accurately displayed. The process requires a piece of software capable of writing information into the monitor LUT and a colorimeter. If you've ever sent images to a print lab and when they returned been disappointed because they look very different than what they looked like on the screen, this article is for you. I use BenQ monitors so I will walk through the steps for BenQ. Other monitors will have a similar process, the settings may be slightly different through.

Colorimeters

The two main contenders in this area are Datacolor SpyderX and the X-Rite i1. There are others, the most notable being the ColorMonki which is manufactured by X-Rite. I use the Datacolor SpyderX Pro. Since I use the Datacolor hardware but use BenQ's software as the BenQ Palette Master Element is the only software that can write to the LUT of the monitor to complete a monitor hardware calibration.

SpiderX Pro
Pallette Master Element Pallette Master Element is BenQ's proprietary software used to hardware calibrate BenQ monitors. It is available for free from BenQ and can be downloaded here.  It is available for Windows (7, 8, 8.1 and 10) as well as MacOS.  Being proprietary it will only work with BenQ PhotoVue and VideoVue series monitors.  

Preperation

The monitor should be powered up with a display on it for at least 30 minutes prior to the monitor hardware calibration.  This gives the monitor time to warm up.  Next, go into the OSD (On Screen Display) and from the System Menu (3 lines with dot preceding them) select System->Reset All->Yes.  This will ensure there are no custom settings that could alter the calibration.  I tend to clean my monitor screen to make sure there are no finger prints where the colorimeter will be.  

Getting Set Up

On the left side of the monitor there are USB ports.  There are two USB ports that are downstream ports (used for USB device connections).  Connect the colorimeter to one of them.   Start Pallette Master Element.  Once it is up and running as shown to the right, select the BenQ monitor you want to calibrate (if you have more than 1). The colorimeter should already be selected, if it is not click the drop down list and select the correct one (in my case it is the SpiderX). Click on the Check Sensor button. The software will verify the correct colorimeter is selected (note the green check to the right of the colorimeter selection). Click the Advanced radio button. Once all this is done click the Start button. The next screen (Workflow) has two buttons labeled Profiling and Validation. Click on Profiling and then click the next button.
Monitor Hardware Calibration
Monitor Hardware Calibration

Display Settings

On this screen there are a few options to change. I'll go through each and suggest a choice but explain the choices so you understand them.

White Point  - You'll notice there are 3 options, the one I have selected D65, The  options available are D50 or 5000 Kelvin, D65 or 6500 Kelvin and P3 which would be used for video.  Since 6500 Kelvin is the inductry standard and works with most print labs I selected D65 (same as 6500 Kelvin).

RGB Primaries - The monitor is a wide gamut monitor so to take advantage of that I select Panel native as my default option.  Adobe RGB, sRGB, Rec. 709 and DCI-P3 are specific to end use.  Fpr example, Adobe RGB is for printing generally and sRGB is for general display across devices while Rec. 709 and DCI-P3 are for video.

 Luminance - The default setting typically is 160 cd/m2 which for video may work fine.  For prints a more appropriate setting will be between 80 to 120 cd/m2.  A good point to start is around 100.  If your prints are too light re-calibrate using a slightly higher number, if they are too dark set it a slight bit lower. 

Gamma -  For images 2.2 is approapriate if you're working with video you may want to set it to 2.4.

Blackpoint - This setting controls the contrast. Absolute Zero will cause your monitor to display the maximum contrast available. While Relative will produce a more neutral black, as the monitor will follow the gamma curve completely to the black point.  I typically set this to Relative.  When you are satisfied with the settings click the Next button.

Measurement Settings

This screen allows us to make adjustments to the resulting profile from the monitor hardware calibration we are going to perform.

Calibration Preset - This is the targeted preset in the monitor the calibration will be written to. I typically leave this set at Calibration 1.

ICC Profile Name - Next Palette Master Element pre-fills this in the  with information from the display settings you chose. I tend to leave it as the information contained is quite useful.

Profile Distribution - This setting allows you to choose if the created profile will be only for the user you are logged into the operating system as or if it will be available and used system wide. Please note that if you choose this option you must have administrator privileges on the system or it may fail to write the profile.

Profile Version -  V2 will be the most compatible across applications and systems while V4 will include all the additions and changes to the Profile Format. I typically select V2 as I want to maximize compatibility with other software

Profile Type I set to this to 16 bits LUT which is the most accurate.

Patch Size I always set this to Large as it also is more accurate.

PME-Measurement Settings

Measurement

Once you're ready and have placed your colorimeter on the screen click the start measurement button. You'll notice the application will have an outline of the colorimeter, make sure the device is within that outline. You'll see the screen flash, change colors as the application reads the information from the colorimeter. It can take as long as 30 minutes but generally it takes around 10 to 12 minutes to complete. Good time to go get a cup of coffee.

Once everything is complete you will be provided the opportunity to validate the calibration. To do that click the button on the screen that says Validate making sure the colorimeter is still positioned in the same spot. It takes about a minute to complete.