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Monitor Madness - Going Nuts in a Nut Shell

Recently I spent hours and hours trying to figure out if my computer monitor was giving me an accurate color image.  I am going nuts!!!.

Nutshell copy

This is the problem in a nut shell.  Every single computer and computer monitor show images differently.  I am not kidding!!!!!!!! and it is driving me NUTS! 

Pencil installation about the impact of standardized testing on education by Harriete Estel BermanaI want the mages of my art and craft to be presented accurately with the right colors, brightness, contrast and saturation. Doesn't everybody?

Reality -- Your audience will be looking at your artwork through a different filter than yours.  Their particular combination of computer and monitor will likely show your images somewhat differently.

I've also found that most calibration web sites focus on matching your monitor to the printed image coming from your printer. The tutorials assume you want to print your images.  I rarely print my images. Most of my audience will be viewing my images on their desktop monitors, laptops, tablets, or phone.

More problems .....
If it is so easy for anyone's computer and monitor to be set slightly "off" when color correcting images of art and craft, then the images posted to websites may be off as well.

Books and magazine covers
Books and Magazines
Photo Credit: Emiko Oye

What about when you submit images to a book, exhibition, show or magazine? How do you know that you created the best quality images on your computer? How will your images look on the jurors' monitor? No wonder book publishers insist that artists DO NOT Photoshop their images!!!!!

MonitorsetupAt this point the only absolute answer is to buy high priced equipment beyond most of our budgets.  In the meantime, you should check to see if your monitor is giving you a full range of whites, blacks and appropriately saturated colors.

I found a few web sites that help to evaluate monitors.  You may be able to fine tune some adjustments.  At a minimum, these evaluations will alert you that your monitor may not be showing all there is to see.  In addition, it seems that the computer graphics card and the type of monitor have a lot to do with how your images look.

Test your computer by looking at this sample PDF from monitorsetup.com. It has a very easy to evaluate gray scale from black to white.  Try to adjust your monitor to give you the best appearance.  [Don't use the picture here on ASK Harriete, go to the site.]

MonitorWhiteCalCheckReady for a slightly finer evaluation? Try going to Imaging-Resource.com. They have two charts, one in a white scale image and one in black (below.)

Here is another site with detailed instructions for adjusting your computer and monitor.

This whole issue started because I thought my monitor was getting dim....monitors do age you know. How could I create great images if my monitor isn't correct? If I create images that look great only on my monitor, and don't look the same on other people's computers, what then?!!!!

MonitorBlackCalCheck Well guess what!!!!!?  BAD NEWS, there is no normal. I have discovered that every monitor is different. I mean really different!!!!!!!

LCD-MonitorHB  

Here is the rest of the story.  To replace my old monitor, my husband bought a new LED wide monitor....we were so excited. He purchased the monitor with the most adjustment buttons so I could fine tune the image. The LED's are brighter and save a lot of energy.  The wide monitor would allow me to have lots of windows open, and we could even download a movie to view on the larger screen.

BAD NEWS! The factory settings on the monitor are all artificially intense. The "scenic" mode and "theater" mode both super saturate the colors. The other options were only slightly better. With hours invested in fine tuning the adjustments, it got better but remained unsatisfactory. Something was very wrong with the colors. The white and black scales shown above were not showing the appropriate gradations.

Whole lot of cords After hours of adjusting and experimenting we hook up my old monitor to his laptop. Well his laptop and the old monitor together work quite well, even better than on my computer, but each presented a slightly different image. It became obvious that each combination of computer and monitor produced a different image. 

To end this story, we put the monitor back in the box and I returned it. My next computer I bought the best quality graphics card available.

This should not be the end of the story for you.   Using the evaluation websites above, adjust your monitor as well as you can and create the best images you can.  Then check your images or web site on other computers, mobile phones, and tablet devices.  At least you will be aware of any undesirable shifts and perhaps go back and adjust accordingly.

Harriete

Computer image came from Flickr portfolio of MR-Hands.

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