Monitor Balancing

Monitor balancing – two words that strike fear into the hearts of relatively sane people.

So what is it that most people don’t understand or makes them fearful to tackle?  I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that articles and blog posts are being written, books being published and all they are doing is trying to sell equipment and programs so it makes it look a lot harder than it is.  I also believe many people simply do not understand what monitor balancing it is and why it needs to be done.  So before we go any further let me explain what monitor balancing is.  Monitor balancing is simply balancing your monitor so that the image you see on the screen is the correct color and density, in addition it insures that it is the same color and density that the final print will be.  It is no harder than this, it is no more difficult, that is it.  Many people believe that when they buy a monitor, or computer system, that the monitor is already balanced.  This is not so, every computer and monitor combination is different.

There are several different ways to balance your monitor, there are the easy and inexpensive ways, and there are the more advanced and expensive ways. So which one is right for you? Lets take a look at two of the ways that you can balance your monitor.

  1. The first way to balance your monitor is really simple.  All you need is your digital camera and a few minutes.  Set your digital camera to program mode, set your white balance to auto, set your ISO to 400 and go outside and take a couple pictures.  When you are taking these pictures make sure you shoot something that you know what the color is such as your car, house or garden.  When you have taken these images go inside and load the images onto your computer, open one of the images in your editing program then take a look at the image. Then compare the colors that you are seeing on your screen to what you know to be true.  If there is a huge difference you have a problem with your monitor balance.  If it is hard for you to see the difference from the real life color to what you see on your monitor then your monitor is pretty closely balanced.  Is your monitor perfect?  Probably not but for most people it is close enough for what they need to do.  On the other hand if you’re looking at a picture of some grass and the grass looks blue, purple, or yellow then you have a problem, or if you’re looking at a picture of your car and the car and surrounding areas are really black and it’s a sunny day outside then you also know you have a problem.If your monitor is only slightly off a quick and easy way to correct it is to use the balance controls built into your monitor.  You can change the colors, density, and contrast using these controls making your monitor look a lot closer to the real life colors.  NOTE: Please make sure before you do any changes that you have recorded the original settings and you know how to get back to what you’re changing to reset it should you make a mistake.
  2. The second way to balance your monitor is much more accurate, and much more expensive.  You need to buy a monitor calibration tool, there are many types and styles on the market to choose from.  When you have bought this device you need to set it up and run the balancing program.  Using a calibration device will set up a profile for your monitor so all the colors are as accurate as possible.  A good calibration device is going to cost you in the neighborhood of 200 to 600 dollars, and for most people this is a waste of money as many people do not need to have a monitor 100% accurate.

** A couple things to note with monitor balancing. No matter how accurate your balance is there is always going to be some difference from what you see on your monitor to what you see in print. The reason for this is is that your monitor is a back lit display, which means that light is being projected through your image and at you, with a printed image light is hitting the image and reflecting back to you.  Even if you’re viewing your image under ideal lighting conditions there will always be a little difference from what you see on a monitor to what you see in print. Another thing to note is that your monitor will always change, it changes through the day as it warms up, it changes as it ages, and it also changes depending upon what the ambient light is in the room that you are using it. So even after spending the money to buy a professional calibration unit you may still find that you are having some issues with your color as your monitor changes.

If you need any additional help in balancing your monitor give me a call.  Each monitor and each situation is a lot different so what is right for one person may not be right for another.

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