Adjusting Hardware Controls on an LCD Display

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What do we mean by visual calibration? If you don't purchase at least a low-cost hardware calibration device, such as those discussed in the preceding section, or you need to quickly color correct some photos of the family reunion before your device arrives, you can use a software utility already available on your computer.

On the Macintosh, the Mac OS X software Preferences provides you with a calibration utility called the Display Calibrator Assistant. On Windows, Adobe provides you with the Adobe Gamma control panel when you install Photoshop Elements. These software tools allow you to make visual monitor settings as you work through steps in a wizard window.

Before you can use the visual calibration tools on a Windows machine or a Mac, you need to do a little work making some hardware adjustments. Without making some hardware corrections, your software calibration tools won't get your monitor to closely match your printed output for color and brightness.

LCD monitor controls vary a great deal. Some LCDs have full control of brightness, contrast, white point, and color balance (using individual red, green, and blue controls). Others have some combination of these controls, and some offer only color-balance presets for the red, green, and blue controls. In the following sections, we try to explain the best methods to use when making hardware adjustments, in spite of the lack of consistency among LCD-monitor makers.

We ran across a couple of Dell LCDs with just preset and RGB-slider controls (that is, sliders that adjust the levels of red, green, and blue). Because a Dell monitor of this type is a popular brand, we'll start here. Many other LCD monitors are limited to just these controls, too, so try to apply our example of adjusting a Dell monitor to your brand. Here are the steps to follow:

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1. Open the hardware adjustment controls on your monitor, and you're presented with something like you see in Figure 3-2.

The monitor has no brightness or contrast controls! Developers continually rely on auto-brightness and -contrast adjustments, and many are eliminating these manual controls on LCD displays.

2. On the Dell monitor, navigate to the Color Settings option and open the adjustment settings.

You find options like those you see in Figure 3-3.

On an LCD, you may have to navigate through the controls on your remote control device or on the monitor.

Figure 3-2: You can adjust settings on a Dell monitor by using these hardware controls.

Color Settings

Normal Preset

Blue Preset Red Preset User Preset Exit

Red Green

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Figure 3-3: You can make adjustments to the Color Settings on a Dell monitor.

The Color adjustment contains a limited series of presets and a user preset with RGB controls. You don't have a Color Temperature option on this monitor. (For an introduction to color temperature, see Chapter 2.)

The Normal Preset monitor setting is a generic setting that seems to adjust for the normal blue color bias of an LCD monitor.

3. Make note of the settings and close the Color Settings panel.

To get close to a proper gray balance, we need to mix less blue than green and less green than red. Our monitor has a slight blue cast and is much too bright at the default settings.

4. In Photoshop Elements, open the MonitorCalibrationFile.tif file (shown in Figure 3-4) in Standard Edit mode.

We provide this monitor calibration file, MonitorCalibrationFile.tif, in the Chapter 3 folder on the Wiley companion Web site for you to download. (See the Introduction for details about the Web site.)

5. Size the image to about one-fourth of your monitor size by pressing Ctrl+- (minus) to zoom out.

You want to make it easy to see but small enough to move around as needed.

Figure 3-4: You can use our Monitor Calibration File to get your monitor looking just right.

6. Open the monitor Color Settings control (one of the LCD monitor control buttons).

7. Select User Preset and reduce the Red output to 75 percent.

We start with this setting because we need to cut overall brightness to make sure the monitor's appearance matches images you print from your computer.

8. Using only the Green and Blue sliders, adjust the color settings to obtain the best neutral gray that you can on the test file and Photoshop Elements' neutral gray background.

Placing a standard photographic gray card next to the monitor can really help you determine a true neutral gray.

After you have the best gray, you're now ready to use the visual software calibration tool. If you have a PC, see the following section, "Using Adobe Gamma." If you're using a Mac, jump to the section "Calibrating with just RGB controls on a Mac," later in this chapter, instead.

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