In this post, we will cover the topic of monitor calibration for most CG / VFX artists.
This is a practice where many, including myself, had avoided for several years. So if you have been avoiding it because of the “hassle” and “expense” of getting a color calibration device, this is the post for you.
We will cover:
- Why calibrate your monitor?
- What is the most bang-for-buck device and software you should get, and
- How to calibrate your monitor?
- ⚡i1Display Studio – $169 (Recommended. This is what I bought and use myself.)
- i1Display Pro – $259 (Use this if you calibrate monitors frequently. Otherwise, save yourself some money and get the i1Display Studio.)
- i1Display Pro Plus – $299 (Use for HDR monitors capable of 1000-2000 nits brightness)
- ⚡ DisplayCAL – Open Source Color Profiling Software (You are getting a lot for free here, so consider donating.)
This post isn’t sponsored. I share what I have found to be useful for myself to save you time in researching so you can spend more of it creating.
If times are hard to purchase an i1Display studio, try pooling resources with a couple of CG friends to share one. You can also borrow the colorimeter from someone or possibly your school. If you school does not have one, request that the IT/Tech lab purchase one. It’s a pretty basic piece of hardware that any animation/CG school must have.
So in today’s video, we will be talking about color calibration.
A quick caveat, the art and science of color calibration and color management is a very deep one in the area of CG and visual effects. And there are dedicated professionals who do this full-time and that is all that they do. This post is really about getting color calibration working for most CG/VFX artists, especially if you’re working from home.
Why calibrate your monitor?
So why is color calibration important to CG artists? Let me give you a couple of reasons. Firstly, because we as CG artists work on the visual medium, it’s just like how professional photographers also color calibrate their monitors, to ensure that when they are working on those edits on the photos, that it reproduces accurately in those color printouts for their clients in the same way, it is extremely important for us as CG artists to be working with accurate colors.
So as CG artists, we invest heavily in good graphics cards, good computers, as well as good monitors that are able to represent a whole gamut of colors, as well as lots of pixels. Now it would be a shame really to have a good monitor, but not have that monitor actually display accurate color because we have not color calibrated our monitor.
Now some of you may have gotten some really good monitors that come factory calibrated, and we’re wondering, why would you need to calibrate your. Well, monitors go off calibration every three to six months. So you actually need to calibrate your monitor every three to six months. Now that varies depending on the monitor hardware
and you will, as you calibrate it often, you will get a sense of how often you actually need to calibrate. But a good rule of thumb is anywhere from three to six months.
Now many of us work with more than one monitor more than one display device that we actually view from. So it’s very important that we color calibrate our display devices so that they give us consistent color reproduction, and that we are looking at things consistently. Now. True that you cannot get a hundred percent color match on most of our monitors that we use.
And even on some of the, even more expensive high-end monitors, but it does give you a good enough consistency for you to judge color by. So it’s actually really important. If you have more than one monitor is good for you to calibrate them.
Now a lot of us are working freelance or working from home right now where we no longer have the luxury of a studio where the monitors are color calibrated. So it’s actually even more important for us. Now, if you’re working from home, right, you’re working on personal projects as well, that you have a color accurate monitor that is color calibrated.
If you are a CG VFX artist, who’s attempting to cut your first effects, demo reel. Please remember to check out my free effects, demo reel guide, which I’ll include in the description below. It’s a 10 page PDF that has lots of information on the. That you should avoid as well as the things that you should do in order to get a demo reel that gets you notice gets you interviews and finally gets you the job.
So let’s jump in on how to get our monitors color calibrated.
What hardware will you need?
What are you going to need to color calibrate your monitor? Well, besides a monitor, you are going to need a color calibration device and they are several on the market. You may have heard of some of them, this spyders, there is x-rite Pantone, and the one that I’ve found to give me fairly accurate color calibration and give me a good match across monitors has generally been from display by x-rite pantone.
Now they make several flavors of this. The one that I’m going to recommend is actually the i1Display Studio, and this is one of their basic range. Color calibration device. This is about $169 on Amazon. And I will attach the link below. If you’re interested to get this, this is a pretty good color calibration device that you can use for your laptops, for your desktop monitors.
And it connects via USB and they come with a software that you can use, but we’re going to use some other piece of software that we’ll talk about later.
There is a i1Display Pro flavor of it. So not the studio, but the pro version. And that is about $260 on Amazon. So I think that the cheaper studio is worth the price.
But if you are a small studio or if you have to do this very often for many, many monitors, then you really want to consider the pro because feature set wise, it’s pretty much the same, but it just calibrates faster. So that would be a big plus if you’re having to calibrate lots of monitors in a studio.
There’s also the, i1Display Pro Plus, and really the, i1Display Pro Plus main feature that sets it apart from the pro is that it allows you to calibrate monitors up to 2000 nits in brightness. So if you are having to color calibrate a HDR capable monitor, you’re going to need the i1Display pro plus.
Most monitors, including mine, which is a BenQ PD2700Q I think that I have, only supports up to 350 nits. And so it’s not an HDR capable monitor. And HDR capable monitors – they’re extremely expensive. So most of you won’t need the i1display pro plus.
Any case, I’ve included the links to the Pro and the Pro Plus if you’re interested to get them.
What software will you need?
Once you’ve got your colorimeter, you’re going to need a piece of color profiling software. And what this software does is it talks with your colorimeter, as it is analyzing your monitor. Then it generates a bunch of settings, which is called an ICC profile.
What this profile does is it allows your computer to know what sort of color adjustments it needs to make. It then makes those adjustments to the signal for your monitor in order to produce more accurate colors.
The piece of colorimeter that you have purchased usually comes with a default piece of software. In our situation, I’m going to download an open source software called DisplayCAL. DisplayCAL lets you to use community-made correction presets that match your brand and model of monitor and colorimeter better. This gives you better color match than the default software from x-rite.
So the first steps is to go to the DisplayCAL website and download the DisplayCAL software.
Once downloaded, you’re going to install it with the default settings and the default settings will work for most situations.
The only particular setting I want to highlight is to let DisplayCAL handle your color management and not Windows. Windows, doesn’t do such a great job. That’s the default setting. So you don’t have to change anything.
After installing DisplayCAL, start it up. It’s going to ask you to install the color engine. Go ahead and say yes. Download and install the color engine so that it works with DisplayCAL.
How to calibrate your monitor
Preparing your monitor
Make sure that your monitor is at least running for about 30 minutes. This is so that your monitor is warmed up and the color calibration can be as accurate as possible.
You’ll want to then proceed to reset your monitor to factory default settings. I found that to be the easiest way to ensure you don’t have any “off-the-chart” settings.
Then you want to turn off any sort of dynamic contrast or post-processing on your monitors. Go through all of the settings and make sure that you aren’t using any sort of post-processing settings or any sort of dynamic adjustment settings that will attempt to make your monitor “look good”. You really don’t want any of that.
If your monitor allows, you’ll want to have it so you’re able to adjust the color in RGB or Kelvins. If you have a more advanced monitor, they may provide you settings by Kelvins. So make sure you enable that.
Next, make sure that you set your brightness levels to whatever your preferences are before you proceed with calibration.
I recommend calibrating in as dark a room as is possible. This is so that your color settings are as accurate as possible. And whenever you want to see really accurate color, you can always deem down the darkness of your room. If you can’t do that, isn’t such a big deal.
Just calibrate with what would be your most usual setting that you would use your monitor.
Finally, it’s time to plug in your i1 display colorimeter into the USB port on your desktop. I recommend that you plug that USB directly into the back of your desktop. Not to some other USB port or hub.
Begin color profiling
All right now, let’s start our display Cal software. Once you have started it, you should see this screen here and you should see a dropdown under display, select the display that you would like to calibrate. In this case, I’m going to calibrate my Dell E2414H monitor under instruments you should see, and I want display pro comma color munki display.
As the one that is selected, if you are using an display studio now, like I said, hardware wise, they’re essentially the same that i1 display studio is just a little bit slower. Next, under mode, if you are calibrating an LCD screen, ensure that it is under lCD. Now this is the one that I. Would also encourage you to, by default this settings, you can just set that to S R G B.
And this is just a good default setting when you haven’t have anything calibrated to. Finally, and most importantly under correction, you want to click on this little globe over here. And it should now start to look for the different color emitter corrections that people have submitted. So you can select either one.
It will probably be fine. Either matrix or spectrum, they are essentially the same. So just choose one that suits you and hit. Okay. And now you are basically. Ready to start to calibrate and profile. So you can just click this and you can begin calibrating and profiling.
If you don’t find your color correction profile available, when you click the colorimeter database, you can select just the generic spectral LCD white family. I’ve found that this is fairly accurate as well.
Tuning your color temperature
Now we’re ready to hit calibrate and profile. So click that button and you should see your measurement area. Come up here. What you want to do is move your eye display. Colorimeter over this gray area and hit stop.
Now it might take a second, but now you should start to see the instrument being set up.
Once you see the start measurement, button. ungrey out, you’ll want to click on start measurement.
Next, make sure you have access to the RGB values of your monitor. You can now begin to adjust those colors.
The goal of this is to get those R, G and B(the red, green, and blue) bars to line up at the center mark. Once those bars pretty much line up, you want to hit stop measurement.
Once you’ve adjusted and calibrated your display’s color temperature level. You want to click on, continue on to calibration.
At this stage, your monitor will continue to display different samples of colors that your colorimeter will then take images of and be able to use that to generate an ICC profile. This can run anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour. So we’ll just wait for this process to be over and we’ll come back.
Once your calibration and profiling is complete, you should see this. And you will be able to see the results. If you uncheck preview calibration, that will be what your monitor colors were before. When you check it on, this is what it is after calibration. It does tell you that this monitor covers about 94.7% of sRGB gamut, and 66.6% of Adobe RGB and 70.1 DCI-P3.
Now this isn’t a fantastic monitor that I’m producing this calibration on. And so it’s only able to cover about 95% of sRGB. If you have a better monitor, you should be able to cover about 100% of sRGB and some higher value of DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB. So once you complete, you can go ahead and select install profile as system default.
And this will be the default on all users and say, install, profile. And hit “yes”, if it requires permission and then you should see that the profile has been installed and activated. Hit “Okay”. And now you should have a color calibrated display.
If you have been holding back on color calibrating your monitor. I hope this video has been helpful to you. If you’re a CG artists or VFX artists or anyone who works with visuals on a computer, it is absolutely critical that you are able to rely on your monitor to give you accurate color feedback as you’re doing your work.
So this process I hope has shown you that it does not have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to be complicated either. So if you liked this video, please remember to hit the like button. And if you want to hear more from me, remember to hit the subscribe button as well as the bell to get notified when future content arrives.
Finally, let me know in the comments below, if you currently work on a monitor that is already color calibrated or not, and if you don’t, well,, let me know what your concerns are. And if there are any questions about today’s video, please remember to put them in the comments below. I will do my best to answer them.
All right. So with that, I’ll see you guys next week.
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