Color management guide by Arnaud Frich

Generalites about colors Monitor calibration Printer calibration Manage colors with Photoshop Resources on Color Management

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Updated on December 16, 2016
 

How to choose your monitor ?...

écran NECNow that you know my take and my philosophy regarding the approach for choosing a screen for photo edition depending on whether you're just a beginner or a professional editor, I'll now review eight important criteria according to me, among which some are only important for experienced or very demanding users. Even if a beginner will give importance to the size of the screen he'll choose, a professional will also find the number of bits of the LUT table of his screen important. Let's see that together now.

Seven criteria to define your priorities... and a subsidiary? suivre

  1 - What size of monitor to choose / Simple or multi-screen

  2 - 4K... or not? - Updated June 2016

  3 - What facepanels and/or technologies to choose: TN or IPS, LED or not?

  4 - Homogeneity?

  5 - Grey gradients: 10, 14 or 16 bits LUT table?

  6 - Wide gamut... or not?

  7 - Place a visor or not? 

  8 - And the subsidiary question: what brand?

 

My 2016 photo monitors buying guide

- What screens for less than $800? Suivre

- What screens for more than $1,000? Suivre

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1 - Size of the monitor: 24, 27 or 30 inches, simple or multi-screen?

According to me, three criteria matter when you're choosing the size of your future monitor:

  • on the one hand, its physical size on your desk,
  • its definition (the number of pixels)
  • hence its resolution on the other hand: 4K or not?

A) Physical size of the monitor: 24, 27 or even 30 inches...

The size you choose for your monitor will have three major impacts:

  • Its bulkiness on your desk
  • Your budget
  • and your comfort when working.

It is obvious that the bigger your screen and the more space you'll have on it to view your image, but also to display a few tools palettes pretty useful when you want to work comfortably, especially with Photoshop. Picking a 27 or 30 inches when you choose to use one screen only doesn't seem at all exaggerate to me! Keep in mind that it will take more space on your desk though. I can't make the decision for you but I can help you choose with this example:
- most 27-inches and all 30" can display 2,560 pixels in width. You thus have the possibility to display two tool columns in Photoshop and keep a 1,900 pixels wide workspace, hence the space you have on a 24". Not bad! Right, but as we'll see again later, in 27" your screen will display a 0.215 pitch while in 30" you'll be closer to the more usual 0.27 mm. The difference? The texts will look a lot smaller on a 27" and it can really be an issue if you don't get called an eagle eye!

B) Simple or multi-screen?

I have the feeling that when you've tried multi-screen, you can't go back to one considering the comfort it provides... And it doesn't always have to be more expensive. Here's why...

A - Simple screen - In the same quality range, there's a gap of at least $300 between a 24 - and a 27-inches screen. On top-range monitors, this difference reaches $500. I'll let you do the math! It is obvious though that if you're considering performing photo edition with one (or even two) monitors, I'll recommend a 25 - or 27- inches monitor as a minimum. You can find Dell screens from $350 on: Ultrasharp U2515H or Ultrasharp - U2713H.

  • Pros: Price (and yet...!) - Bulkiness on the desk - Necessary power of the graphic card: a graphic card in a lower quality range will be enough (except for 4K).
  • Cons: Except if you choose a 30-inches, you have to move the programs windows almost all the time - In Photoshop, you can't always open several tool palettes without shrinking dramatically the space dedicated to your image.

 

 

The major downside of a one and only screen remains the lack of space to open several tool palettes in Photoshop, especially in 24" of course, and without being in the way of the edition of the photo.


B - Multi-screen
- Being a multi-screen adept since I myself own three - a top-range one called "graphic art" (the new BenQ PG2401PT) "surrounded" by two "low-range" monitors that I very much like and recommend shamelessly to all those with a tight budget (HP 23XW with IPS panel). I find interesting and even rewarding to make the choice of a quality main screen in 24 inches and two others of a lower quality, especially in sRGB to make surfing the web easier, in 23 or 24 inches so as to have some space to work and repart your program windows better. In a two-screens configuration, I could pick two 27-inches.

 



My office and its three monitors: two HP 23 Xi and the 24-inches BenQ PG2401 PT (replaced by my Eizo CS240). Note that I painted the back wall in a neutral grey.

 

  • Pros: the main screen can be a 24-inches "only" so you can buy a quality screen for a reasonable budget in comparison with a top-range 30-inches - You can keep open more windows or tool palettes at the same time - a third monitor enables you to keep Internet or your e-mails on display without having to reduce the main window. Very convenient
  • Cons: I can see two: the space taken on the desk - you can count 1.50m in length to put three 24-inches monitors side by side - and the graphic card must have three outputs and be reasonably powerful. With a RAM of 1 Gb, it works.

My recommendation! A solution around a very good monitor but in 24-inches only and of one or two lower range monitors - with an IPS panel though - as secondary screens is a solution to consider seriously for a tight budget and an increased work comfort. In Photoshop for instance, it is so convenient to have all the tool palettes you're using open while leaving your quality 24-inches monitor to your images. It is then convenient to move all the Photoshop palettes on the second screen. Do you really need your tool palettes on a $5,000 screen?!

 

Deux écrans cote à cote...

I can leave 9 Photoshop tool palettes open all the time on my 23-inches (1,920x1,080).

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2 - Switch to 4K... or not?

The more pixels your screen will have for a physically equivalent size, the more subtle they will be. The word used to define pixel size is pitch, so the smaller the pitch, the less visible. The very antique 72 ppi (dpi for screens) is now often replaced by an average of 94 ppi. And pixels are now really discreet indeed. But it's more and more common to find screens over 120 ppi and even more with 4K. What for?

A - 4K, the next standard?

Nowadays, all our screens display either 1920 x 1200 (or sometimes 1920 x 1080) - they're then called Full HD monitors - either 2560 x 1440 px and they're called WQHD. Depending on their physical size, their resolutions (these famous ppi) change and their pitch is bigger or smaller. The pitch represents the size of a pixel and here are a few values:

  • in 23'' Full HD for instance, the pitch is 0.25mm so the screen displays 96 ppi.
  • in 24'' / 1920 x 1200 or in 30''/ 2560 x 1440, the pitch is 0.27mm and the screen has a resolution of 94 ppi.
  • in 25'' / 2560 x 1440, the pitch is 0.22mm only and the resolution is 115 ppi.

You need to know that the human eye is unable to see a difference in the accuracy of details at 240 ppi on an A4 page held at 12 inches. But we watch our screens from at least twice this distance hence about 24 inches. A screen at 120 ppi would thus give the impression to be perfectly smooth with invisible pixels in these conditions. Clearly, at 94 ppi (24" in Full HD 1920 x 1200 or 30'' in 2560 x 1440), the 0.27mm pitch is still a bit visible at 24 inches. But of course at 115 ppi like the excellent Dell U2515H (25'' in 2560 x 1440), not only wouldn't you see the pitch but there would almost be no difference with 4K (3840 x 2160) that shows even better a resolution.

  • 24'' in 4K (3840 x 2160) - 0.14 mm pitch hence 188 ppi. It's a lot more than the 120 ppi needed at 24 inches.
  • 30'' in 4K (3840 x 2160) - 0.16 mm pitch hence 160 ppi, still perfectly enough to be invisible at 24 inches.


A first opinion... 4K was created at first to renew the TV screens market and it is unarguable that such big screens needed an improved resolution. Even on a 4K screen in 65" resolution is "only" 25 ppi. You need to sit quite far from such a screen not to distinguish the pixels! Yes, for TV screens, but here we're talking about computer screens that are at 60 cm only from our eyes and that are not supposed to display just images...
So it is obvious considering these figures that 4K on our "small" computer screens is over-dimensioned while it could still be improved for TV screens (they're already talking about 8K)... But since the industry can't set several norms at the same time, the TV screens standard is also applied to our screens. Not without consequences...

B - Display of the details in photos and videos...

Everyone agrees to say that high resolutions (I'm not talking about smartphones' ultra high resolutions) are a lot more pleasant on computer screens because it's definitely impossible to see the pixels. The renderings of photos, for instance, are even closer to the renderings of photo prints. Watching videos is a superlative experience of course, even more on OLED screens with such deep blacks.

 

 

Just note that for us photographers, it alters our way to work because when the image is displayed at 100% - which used to enable us to observe the details in our images - it is now smaller in proportion with our 4K screen and the edition or accentuation will have to be performed with new references. Long story short, it is now necessary to enlarge the image up to 200% or even 300% to get our former points of reference back, hence the sufficient level of details. It is obviously just a matter of getting used to it because it won't be natural to enlarge your photos up to 300% in the beginning!

C - Other consequences with 4K: size of the texts and the interface palettes - Updated in June 2016

Unlike a video monitor or a TV screen or even a screen only used for gaming, our computer screens must display, in addition to our nice images, texts and palettes and other windows. And that changes it all!

Since computer programs were designed for a Full HD or WQHD (average pitch of 0.27mm), the size of texts is perfectly adapted to a comfortable viewing from about 60cm. When the same program is displayed in 4K (and without particular settings of the program - texts in percentages and not in pixels - in the operating system or the program itself) texts become ridiculously small hence often impossible to read!

Let's review the situation in mid-2016...

4K settles in with its assets but not all programs are ready even if operating systems evolved accordingly... but you need to do the updates.

1 - Operating systems:

Mac OS 10.11 El Capitan and Windows 10 are now compatible with 4K. You'll have the possibility to choose the percentage of enlargement of texts in display preferences. Works perfectly now.

 

 

In Windows 10:

 

Display preferences settings Windows 10

 

And in El Capitan - 10.11:

 

Display preferences settings Mac OS

 

You then benefit from an extremely fine display - very beautiful on Surface Pro 4 for instance - and from a "usual" use of space for palettes hence perfectly easy to read as well as texts also perfectly visible.

Consequence: to manage 4K accurately - hence to be able to display texts and palettes enlarged - you will absolutely need a recent operating system.

2- Programs:

It varies quite a lot! We had to wait till 2016 for Photoshop CC to offer a display option in percentage, still not ideal by the way - text is either tiny teeny either too big! - so a priori, it is possible with a Mac and a PC to enlarge the size of windows and texts on a 4K screen using the menu "Preferences > Interface > Text".

 

Text size settings in Photoshop CC

Photoshop CC's interface options in Preferences. It is highlighted in grey in the interface here because I'm using a Full HD screen.

 

With X-Rite's iProfiler for instance, it's still very tricky because the program isn't adapted. Things are moving the right way but there are still many delays!

Consequence: as for operating systems, you need to be sure to carefully update your favorite programs. For Photoshop, there's no other option than using Photoshop CC updated in its 2016 version. 4K isn't compatible with an "old" computer.

D - What computer and what graphic card for 4K?

4K is attractive... because it's new! But not only! As we just saw, it also has big qualities, such as offering such small a pitch that pixels become invisible. And for retailers, it also has the quality to sell! Just kidding. Indeed, in mid-2016, we have to admit that it is still very expensive because not only are screens more expensive than Full HD or WQHD but you'll also have to own a brand new computer or heavily update yours, of course the graphic card but also the wirings, to enjoy it fully. A lot more information per second needs to be transmitted to display a full-resolution image. So 4K is also more demanding in terms of equipment, and that's even more true if you often watch videos.

Indeed, you need a very powerful graphic card even if you're not a gamer - (Quadro NVidia, ATI Geforce, etc.) - that must be equipped of a Minidisplay (Thunderbolt), Display port or HDMI 1.4 input in conformity with the last norms to transmit all the data at 30 or 60 Hz. Some older graphic cards, very powerful at their time, might be enough but they'll display videos in 30 Hz which will be a lot less comfortable. For images it won't be a problem. So that's right, many graphic cards display 4K in 30 Hz but all users agree to say that it's quite tiring and unpleasant when you're mainly watching videos.

1 - 4K and video - A video traditionally needs to display 24 images per second. That's true for cinema, but for a computer screen, because of the refresh rate, it's better to renew the display at 60 Hz if you want the video to be really fluid. So the graphic card and the wirings must be able to handle very high speed transmissions.
With the DVI norm, of popular knowledge, it is only possible to transmit 60 Hz at 1920 x 1200. This norm can't handle WQHD (2560 x 1440) to 60 Hz so let's not even mention 4K. For them, you need to use HDMI (1.4 as a minimum), Display port or MiniDisplay port inputs and of course very recent graphic cards.

2 - 4K and photographers - For photographers, the problem is noticeably less complicated since they don't need more than a 30 Hz display (as long as they don't have the weird idea to also watch videos on their computer!!!).  And as for video editors, forget about DVI and go straight to HDMI or Display Port.

 

My recommendation! In mid-2016, to switch to 4K, you need to have installed Windows 10 or Mac OS El Capitan, installed the last versions of your programs (crossing fingers for these to be compatible with 4K and you need a brand new graphic card to handle a 4K display at 60 Hz. Even if many older graphic cards will handle 4K, it's in 30 Hz only so the display of videos won't be pleasant.

  • In 22 inches Full HD: Full HD definition 1920 x 1080 ideal - Pitch almost invisible but texts are really small! Interesting for video editors or gamers. No additional cost.-
  • In 23/24 inches Full HD: definition 1920 x 1080 or 1200 - Visible pitch (but it also depends a lot on the anti-reflection treatment of the panel and in 2016 big progresses have been made) but good size of text and good level of details in the images.
  • In 24" 4K: the definition is so important that you absolutely need a recent operating system (Windows 10 and Mac OS El Capitan) and you also need to make sure that your favorite programs are 4K-friendly. Important additional costs because the screen is more expensive and you'll most likely need a new graphic card.
  • In 25 inches WQHD: 2560 x 1440 - Almost invisible pitch (115 ppi) but texts and details are too small except if a trick in your software enables to display texts bigger or smaller. Perfect screens for gamers and video editors who don't want to switch to 4K - not to have to buy a new graphic card - and can thus use it as a secondary screen.
  • In 27 inches Full HD, (1920 x 1200) I don't like it too much because I find the pitch really too visible at 60cm/24''.
  • In 27 pouces WQHD: I prefer 2560 x 1440 by far but texts are really small then (and little details too). Not a big fan of this size! but no specific problem of compatibility.
  • In 30 inches WQHD: 2560 x 1440 - It's the same pitch as 24''/1920 x 1200 so a good size of texts and details in Photoshop on former operating systems or older program versions. 4K might become a new standard but it'll have to wait until graphic cards follow, until everyone get a last generation Display Port input (1.2) to transmit the data and accept that details in our photos become less visible if you don't zoom in at more than 100%! A 30'' in 2560 x 1440 is thus an excellent compromise in my opinion, especially for photographers.

Assets of 4K:

  • Images not enlarged too much very clean and refined,
  • lots of space to display tool palettes (if you're OK with tiny texts),
  • an image displayed at 100% is easier to compare to a print,
  • more space at 100% to perform scissorings but...

Drawbacks:

  • Still a bit expensive nowadays because...
  • 4K screens are more expensive,
  • and you need a recent graphic card
  • and brand new wirings (HDMI 1.4, Display Port or MiniDisplay),
  • texts are often still tiny in certain programs,
  • you need to zoom in at 300% to get the "usual" level of details in Photoshop.

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3 - Screen technology: TN, VA or IPS?

Will reading spec sheets be of any help to make your choice? Should you prefer a monitor with an IPS panel or can PA/VA be enough? Do you absolutely need to choose a LED lightning technology? Wide gamut? I have bad news: it's like in real life! Your best butcher can serve you a piece of meat of a lower quality someday and tell you he wasn't in the meat!!!

As for now, three screenpanels technologies are competing on the market: TN, VA or PA and IPS.

1 - TN - The vast majority of laptop monitors or office ones use it, unfortunately. Its two main downsides being a very important change in colors/brightness depending on the viewing angle and a huge lack of homogeneity. Practically speaking, I advise even beginners and tight budgets against it.

 

TN panels are very sensitive to the orientation of your eye towards the screen. Brightness and contrasts vary a lot.

 

My recommendation!
Us photographers should avoid it!
I'm open-minded but this is really pushing too far!


2 - VA or PA panels
- A large number of office or gaming screens use the VA/PA technology. You can have good surprises in VA/PA even if it's not the best technology! Actually, the biggest risk is not to be sure of the quality of YOUR monitor because even if you read a test or saw the screen at a friend's, the brand doesn't guarantee at all regularity on a serial. Bad surprises are more than common!

My recommendation! If you can, avoid it as well. Prefer the next one but there can also be good surprises in this category! Note: NEC PA242 and 272 use an IPS and not a PA panel!


3 - IPS panels
- And finally, the IPS technology (which comes in several variants) is the best to manufacture panels for photographers. It notably offers viewing angles close to 180° without big changes in the display of the photo in terms of contrast and luminosity, unlike TN panels above. It doesn't seem to darken or change colors when you change your viewing angle to the screen or when two people are watching the same screen. Depending on the level of the manufacturer though, the homogeneity of the panel will be varying. On the paper, IPS panels are a token of quality, but still not an absolute guarantee in low-ranges. It is still the technology to favor for photo edition monitors, even not too expensive ones, possibly with a wide gamut of at least 95% of Adobe RGB 98, or a LED lightning... Please note that the iPad's panel is an IPS technology (no less!) as well as more and more panels of top-range laptops like certain Asus and Sony laptops and of course Apple's MacBook Pros.

My recommendation! If your screen uses an IPS panels, you will certainly be surprised by its quality, even under 200 euros. Always choose an IPS panel.


What about the panel's lightning: LED or not? - Pieces of advice for advanced users

No technology is A PRIORI better than another. It all depends on how it is implemented. It is only fair to say that an IPS panel with an RGB LED lightning is the top of the panel in 2016 and that the best-mastered technology nowadays is apparently the LED technology. You might also want to note that manufacturers integrate a LED lightning in their "beautiful" screens.


My purchasing advice

IPS panels are to be preferred for their viewing angle... But they're not a guarantee! Some DELL screens use an IPS panel and yet receive bad critics (to be accurate: mainly due to a lack of homogeneity and to the big lottery of their serial numbers). July 2014 update: except for their last Ultrasharp screens.

A LED screen sounds good on paper but it's not a fundamental criterion. This technology can be perfectly implemented as well as be only a marketing selling point! January 2015 update: top-range monitors are all equipped with LED technology now and the technology seems mastered by all manufacturers now.

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4 - Homogeneity of the monitor

Contrôle d'homogénéïté de l'écranThe great strength of top-range screens, called Graphic Arts, lies in their homogeneity, especially for NEC and EIZO ones. They display the same brightness in levels and colors (to a tiny something) on the whole surface of the screen.
Is this fundamental? Of course not! It is very pleasant and more convenient but in no way a turndown reason. Here's a true story: a friend of mine, professional photographer and photo editor, prefers working on a very wide screen (30") in order to have more space rather than on a homogeneous screen. He knew very well where he had to watch his screen when he needed accuracy knowing its limits.

 

My purchasing advice...

If you want to work on a very wide screen (27" and more), it will be difficult to have homogeneity unless you're ready to spend a lot of money. Other criteria will then have to be watched...
You determine whether the size of your monitor is very important in your workflow. You can also consider the two-screen solution...

Important! read below: the DELL case that could very well happen with other generic brands.

The perfect solution would be to be able to buy your monitor in a shop where you can change it quite easily if the measurements of your calibration sensor are really too far from the ideal ones.

 

Example: the DELL case... (Updated in July 2013)

Confirmed by several different sources (retailers, testers, magazines, photographers, schools...), low- or middle-range DELL screens (so it doesn't concern new Ultrasharp ones) are to be watched very closely because it's impossible to know in advance what you're really going to buy. It's a huge lottery indeed! Why?
Ecran DELLBecause the serial numbers that are sent to the press for tests are carefully selected and you have absolutely no idea whether what you're going to buy will be the same product. These very generic brands reserve themselves the right to change components worth the "same" value but which influence the quality of the final product on IMPORTANT CRITERIA FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS. Bad surprises are plenty.

I report here a story that I've been told by two sources who don't know each other: a company (whatever its name) needs a large number of monitors. It orders DELL ones with all the guarantees to buy a serial, token of regularity. As you might have guessed by now, big gaps are noticed from the sole points of view of homogeneity and color management. Some of the serial numbers were lacking homogeneity so much that they were impossible to calibrate!!! For any non-photographer John Doe, the screen would be perfect but for a photographer it becomes an issue.

Hard to recommend DELL (except for its new top-range Ultrasharp screens of 2013-2016) in these conditions but it's too bad because when you get a "good" serial number, their value for money is great.


My recommendation! Don't focus on homogeneity. It's very pleasant but not "essential" except maybe for professional photo editors.

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5 - Quality of grey gradients: LUT 10, 14, 16 or 20 bits? - Pieces of advice for advanced users

Dégradé de gris avec cassures de tonsA - Gradients, what are we talking about? Very good panels display very beautiful grey or color gradients, without tone breaks and above all, without colored breaks unlike the image here.

My opinion: However, I find that more and more monitors calibrated with the last X-Rite or Datacolor sensors offer way "cleaner" grey gradients, even on "low-range" monitors like my HP 23XW.


B - 10 bits, 14 or 16 bits ?
Note that for "top-range" DELL, NEC and EIZO monitors, we're talking either about LUT table on 10 bits or more, either about hardware calibration. What is this all about?

Vocabulary - A technical lesson to start with: an RGB signal from your photo must be sent to your graphic card then to your monitor to be displayed correctly, if possible without losses. But it can undergo a degradation during its transmission from one to the other. The transmission of the original signal (the one in your digital file) is performed in what is called a LUT table. There's a LUT table in your graphic card and another one in your monitor. LUT is an acronym meaning conversion table. But the problem is very simple: when an RGB signal is sent to another device - for instance from your graphic card to your monitor - and since we're working digitally hence in bits and not continuously (we're working on 256 levels), there can be approximations in the transmission. If the graphic card is of a good quality standard and your monitor as well, the transmission of the signal can be performed almost without any visible loss. How do you notice them? Precisely at the display of these famous grey gradients as shown above. To avoid that as much as possible, manufacturers install LUT tables in their monitors that work in 10 bits rather than the usual 8 bits, hence on 1,024 levels in order to "blur" the losses. But since marketing has been noticing that and 10-bits LUT tables have been existing for more than 5 years, we're now talking of LUT tables in 16 bits. Whyt not in 32 bits now?!!
Moreover, please note that to work correctly, these monitors must work hand in hand with the graphic card in 10 bits as well, as the NVidia Quadro K2000 that costs over $600 and a special calibration program. I don't have any of this and I can assure you that my grey gradients on my "old" Quadro and my old graphic card are already perfect.

My opinion: indeed, monitors with 10-bits LUT tables always display very progressive grey gradients. However, the gradients of a recent iMac are also very beautiful and yet in 8 bits! As for LUT tables over 10 bits, you are now aware of what I think about them...

C - Hardware calibration - The calibration program takes over some settings of your monitor directly, without you needing to fix brightness manually following its instructions, for instance. It is supposed to make it possible to display more regular curves hence gradients without tone breaks. I have this possibility on my Quato and honestly, I can't see a difference with or without it. It's convenient, but not more!

D - Choose a 10-bits graphic card - As I already mentioned it before, this type of graphic cards, very uncommon on the market and not compatible with 2014/2016 Mac Pros, for instance, are also supposed to enable a perfect display of gradients. Hopefully this is not essential or I would have to go back to a PC!!! I'm kidding, I have nothing against PCs.

All of this ends up being marketing! Of course, if you only take the best, everything will be perfect. But it was already perfect 5 years ago without all these technologies. As more and more monitors are wonderful, they have to wash whiter than white! Doesn't it sound familiar?! There are very beautiful gradients without 10, 14 or 16 bits displays. It will of course be perfect on an EIZO stuffed with all these technologies but it was already the case before 16-bits LUT tables. What are they gonna make up tomorrow to sell us gradients more perfect than perfection?

My opinion!
>Don't over-bother with a 10-bits graphic card or a 16-bits LUT table monitor. It is very expensive and of a very limited interest. However, if you want to have nice gradients, favor monitors with an internal LUT table on 10 bits. You don't have to spend a lot of money anymore to treat yourself to one. But let me repeat that I saw very good gradients on 8-bits LUT table monitors and if recent iMacs didn't show so many reflections, I would recommend them shamelessly because I find their gradients superb once calibrated with the fantastic sensor i1Display Pro. With that said, here again, even when I unplug the good USB wire, I can't see a difference... Check the quality of your wire as well because tone breaks can come from it... unless the plugging is in cause. On some "low-range" monitors, the HDMI input doesn't work as well as the DVI.

 

A few pieces of advice to make your choice...

Choisir sa sonde de calibrage d'écran Whatever the screen you'll pick, calibrate it with a very good calibration sensor and you'll "improve it" noticeably. Or at least, you'll soften many of its defects.

Choose a calibration sensor suivre

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6 - Wide gamut or not?

Dégradé de gris avec cassures de tonsYou should never take theoretical needs for real ones, as I explain it several times on this site (ICC profiles, color workspaces, Print with Photoshop for instance...).

"Normal" screens display more or less the sRGB color space. This color space already contains many colors of the visible spectrum (2.5 million of 8 million of the Lab space hence roughly those seen by most of the people) and above all of the printable one. Here's quite simply why many people seem to "be content with it". Indeed, everybody likes beautiful colors, even those who don't have an optical acuity above the average!

So why would it be absolutely necessary to have a wide gamut monitor hence a screen that displays more or less 100% of Adobe RGB 98?

Against a belief about Adobe RGB 98...

Even if, globally, the color space Adobe RGB 98 is broader than sRGB, it is fundamental to have in mind that is essentially towards green and only a little towards reds. This Adobe RGB 98 indeed enables to "see" more shades than sRGB but only in the most saturated greens and reds. So let's agree on the fact that we're strictly talking about the most saturated colors because, of course, all the others are completely identical to the ones seen with sRGB! Yes indeed. If you're under the impression that "Adobe RGB 98" monitors are more saturated for all colors hence globally, it's only due to the fact that operating systems like Windows 8/10 don't manage colors so well and thus display images outside of Photoshop with a "wrong" ICC profile since, actually and to make it short, the monitor's gamut. Colors seem very saturated and give the illusion that Adobe RGB 98 is much broader than sRGB. It's only due to a mistake!!!
It is the same problem with certain images explorers that don't manage colors either and that will display your colors over-saturated, unlike Lightroom or Bridge. On a PC, you could thus have images displayed with very saturated colors in Windows Explorer or in some programs and "normal" colors in Lightroom, Bridge or Photoshop.


Actually, it's only interesting IF you're working on colors even more saturated that the so-called "small" sRGB or especially if you want to be sure that sRGB can be fully displayed by your screen. Indeed, if you often shoot pictures of blue, green or red dresses with the flash, of poppies in the sun (and even in this case...), of the intense blue of the Caribbean sea or also of green grass in macrophotography after the rain in full sunshine, to make big format prints on glossy paper, then we'll agree on the fact that you HAVE to choose a wide gamut screen if you want to edit your colors - and see what you're doing - because you're going to shoot very saturated colors out of the range of sRGB in green areas (not so much though) and you'll be certain that it really contains sRGB.
In these particular cases, because they're not so common, you're taking the risk of not seeing on your screen hence of not being able to anticipate when you're converting your files towards your printer, you'll change the superb drape of your dress or the poppy petals into a shapeless, shadeless stain and lose a bit of the saturation at the display.

In most common cases... I've been working on a Quato with a gamut of more or less the sRGB space for five years! The real revolution would be monitors displaying ProPhoto but really, Adobe RGB 98 isn't that big in comparison to sRGB. It brings a slight asset but don't mistake it for a huge difference. Never forget that it doesn't make them more printable if your printer can't print them. Maybe that's what you should be starting by checking...



"Bad" surprises of wide gamut screens

Dégradé de gris dans PhotoshopA new generation of screens is thus appearing: wide gamut screens. These monitors reproduce at least 98% of Adobe RGB 98 and can go up to 110%. But we have our habits on screens "only" displaying sRGB and yet, not always 100% of it.

Almost all the colors of your icons will appear very saturated in the tasks bar before and after calibration. Windows can't manage colors. You will only enjoy the benefits of calibration on wide gamut screens with MAC OS (checked with Maverick) and in programs that manage colors like Photoshop or Lightroom. Your images will look good in Photoshop and saturated and contrasted in Windows Explorer for instance...

As for the web, it will depend a lot on the browser you're using. A real mess even in 2016 but I'm going more into details in my new page dedicated to color management on the web suivre (Updated in July 2016).


My recommendation!
The sentence "Adobe is broader hence better" irritates me.
It depends on the use, the operating system, the photos you're shooting and the gamut of your printer. To the point that I recommend to someone broadcasting his images essentially on the web to stay in sRGB for more comfort, especially if he's working on a PC. Indeed, he won't face any bad surprises of color display in his photos and the photos of the others will always be displayed correctly, even if there's a color management problem. Better can sometimes be worse than good in color management!s !

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7 - Should you be using a visor?

If you can, of course you should! You will thus avoid most part of the reflections on your screen in order to keep as much contrast as possible in your images. Moreover, you have to know that the eye sees colors differently depending on the ambient light in its environment. If it perceives colors outside of the space of the screen, it will see the colors displayed on your screen "differently". Some photo editors also take care of repainting the wall behind their screen in a neutral grey, as I did in my office (photo below).

 

The wall behind my monitors has been painted in a neutral grey, close to the Kodak 18% grey.

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8 - And the subsidiary question...

What brand should you choose? Important remarks...

As always, two brands are standing out - EIZO and NEC - even under $800, but I absolutely want to make clear that it doesn't keep you from any problem either.
I'm lucky enough to hear all the rumors, especially about after sales services, and I can assure you that problem is not so simple. So if you're being criticized because you didn't pick the "right" brand, sleep on your two ears, it doesn't exist!

At very modest prices, Samsung, Iiyama, Philips, Viewsonic, Asus or also Dell and HP make nice affordable products which, once calibrated, are more than correct (with the reservation of getting a good serial number) and especially if you choose monitors with an IPS panel.

Example: with its Ultrasharp screens, DELL offers very good value for money: for less than $800, you can treat yourself to a 27" monitor with hardware calibration, on 10 bits, with LED lightning and wide gamut.

It's still true though that the two brands Eizo and Nec offer excellent products when you can afford them... which have the added asset of being very easy to calibrate.

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To be remembered!

Come what may, always choose an IPS technology because it is the only one guranteeing you to buy a screen which display won't change depending on the orientation of your head. I really consider it an important point for any photographer, even if you don't wan't to burn all your savings into a monitor. Many screens, even laptop screens, even the iPad's screen, even for less than $200, feature an IPS panel.

Don't hesitate to consider a solution with two or three monitors, so convenient and rather economic in the end.

LED lightning isn't a key point according to me and, a priori, not a criterion of choice. With that said, that's the technology for top-range screens in 2016.

The screen HP 23 Cw with IPS panel and matte screen for less than $200 that I consider as entry level already seems very correct if you're an amateur or just not a professional editor. All the people who followed my advice and bought it kept it! I own two and I'm pleasantly surprised by their value for money, even if I work on a high-end screen. I note that the difference isn't tremendous and that low-end screens with IPS panel have made lots of progress.

I think that many screens are at least very correct once calibrated nowadays, given that they use the IPS technology.

A professional editor will always have to choose the best possible monitors, certified, because he works for other people and needs to offer accuracy guarantees to his clients. Fortunately, between EIZO and NEC, he has a broad choice!

Don't bother with 10 bits graphic cards. It is not very useful if you treat yourself to a good screen.

Come what may, calibrate your screen with the current best sensors. My purchasing guide for sensors


My 2016 Monitors Buying Guide

- Which monitors for less than $800 ? suivre

- Which monitors for more than $950 ? suivre


Pointilles


   
 

 

 
 

 

$199.00

  Buy the best colorimeter : the i1Display Pro !
Read my full review Suivre
 
 

 

From $120,00
to
$4,500.00

 

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Shim
Summary > Choose your monitor 2/4
shim

 

 
 
 

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