It’s incredible to witness how proper calibration can transform the image quality of your PC monitor.
Many people have their displays on the default settings, often set to be overly bright or with unnatural colour. Getting those colours in balance, coupled with a sensible and more accurate luminance level, makes working at that screen a far more comfortable experience.
And for photographers and design professionals who need to work with accurate images, not calibrating the monitor isn'tt even an option.
Calibration shouldn’t be the preserve of print-production monitors though. It works across the board, from cheap TN budget screens to high-end designer IPS and PVA panels.
With the ColorMunki Display from calibration specialist X-Rite, the process is now easier than ever. It’s also a doddle to keep that display in good colour trim over time.
The ColorMunki Display serves two purposes: it can set colour and brightness levels during a five-minute calibration process on Windows and Macintosh computers. And thereafter, still connected to the PC, it acts as a room brightness gauge, optionally tweaking the monitor’s brightness level to better track changes in ambient lighting through the day.
The ColorMunki Display device is well made, a lightweight plastic construction 65mm tall, with a long USB-terminated cable stretching from its side.
In order to serve its dual-role as calibrator and ambient light monitor, it has a neat swivel action to bring around a light diffuser on top.
With the internal light sensor facing downwards, it’s ready to be levelled against a screen for measurement. Swivelled around 180º, the sensor faces upwards through the white plastic diffuser, and it measures in-room light levels.
How to use the ColorMunki Display
You must install X-Rite’s software first, then connect the ColorMunki Display device to a USB port on the same computer. The software installs easily, with no need for serial codes, although it does demand admin privileges.
Choose from Easy or Advanced modes. Silent QuickTime video clips are available from most pages of the setup wizards, and provide good pictorial demonstrations of any steps you must follow.
ColorMunki Display: Easy mode
In Easy mode, you first measures the room’s current ambient light level. In our first run through, our figure was 419 lux, for example.
You’re then prompted to reverse the diffusing lens in order to calibrate the screen. Munki will flash his white LEDs each side to help get your attention at this point. Those LEDs also flash whenever the device is undergoing calibration, and whenever its running its scheduled ambient light checks too.
Before you launch into the actual measurement, a prompt comes up on-screen, to remind you to check that Munki is tight against the screen. You can balance Munki at the right height in the centre of your panel, using a sliding counterweight on the cable that sits at the back of the screen.
The software then cycles through a number of single-colour images as ColorMunki measures the display’s output. This process takes around five minutes.
All done, you just name your calibration profile, using a suggested name from the software.
When you save it, you’re given an option (already ticked) to be reminded to re-calibrate in a week’s time.
ColorMunki Display: Advanced mode
If instead you opt for the Advanced setup, you get a few more options to play with. It adds a choice of white point other than default D65. Options for colour temperature here are D50, D55, or native.
There’s also a white luminance choice, to set display luminance to your own value. The default is 120cd/m2, or you can choose from 80, 90, 100, 110, 130, 140 or native.
Alternatively it can automatically determine optimum luminance based on the ambient light conditions where you may view printed materials. This is recommended for display-to-print matching.
As well as Ambient Light Smart Control, which adjusts the screen’s brightness through the day, you can add Flare Correct. This is to dynamically adjust the contrast ratio and ‘color capabilities’ of your display. It’s said to improve the overall colour accuracy of the display.
Part way through the Advanced setup, you’re asked to adjust the display’s brightness using its own controls, to match the figure you specified at the beginning of the wizard, for example, 120cd/m2.
At the end of either setup process, you can view a selection of useful colour and black-and-white images, with ‘before’ and ‘after’ buttons to spot differences.
Annoyingly, just a gentle touch on the sensitive top of an Apple Magic Mouse would start a high-speed scroll through these images that was difficult to halt. Worse, on another computer we couldn’t even switch images at all, and were left with just one picture to rate changes from.
When you’re finished, a green icon sits in the menu bar to show that all is well with your screen setup. You can click this to see status of ambient light monitoring, for example, or to launch the calibration app again.
As well as flat-panel monitor calibration, the ColorMunki can also take on projector calibration. To help you point it at the screen, you can tilt the sensor in its U-shape housing to match; or the device can be mounted on a camera tripod, with the help of a standard screw mount on its base.
The results we saw when calibrating screens were excellent. Skin tones would typically soften and appear more tanned on LED-backlit screens.
Some test images with bouquets of flowers let us see the individual colouring of the bunch, where before only certain blooms had been discernible at all. And output luminance – screen brightness – would be brought down to natural and sensible levels.