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Monitor Setup

If you've ever walked into a consumer electronics store and looked at the wall of TV's, all showing the same program, and each TV picture looking different from the one next to it, you understand the problem. No two brands of computer monitors look alike. Also, different operating systems have different standards for brightness, contrast and gamma. Not that very many monitors come close to conforming to the established standards. Your monitor doesn't display images the way mine does.

To facilitate the monitor setup process, the background for this page has been set to black.  This makes it much easier to set the monitor correctly.  In particular, it is much easier to see the steps in the chart near the black end.

Contrast and Brightness

Below is a grayscale chart, surrounded by medium gray.  We will use it to adjust the contrast and brightness of your monitor.  Note:  this adjustment may not work for LCD monitors.

  1. Wait for your monitor to warm up for at least 30 minutes before proceeding.  Typically, monitors will not show black properly until warmed up.
  2. Check your monitor settings to ensure you are viewing at least thousands of colors (16 bits) or higher.  Ideal setting is 24-bit or 32-bit color (millions of colors)
  3. Adjust  room lighting so the monitor is somewhat brighter than the surrounding area.  The room should not be too dark (such that the monitor is much brighter than the room) or too bright (such that the monitor is washed out by reflections and by overall room brightness).
  4. Set the contrast of your monitor to 100% (maximum contrast).
  5. Adjust the brightness of your monitor so you can see a full range of black to white in the chart above.  You should be able to just barely distinguish all of the steps from black to white, including the steps at both ends:  Each step is the same width.  Note:  the first two or three steps on the black end will be the most difficult to distinguish, and may be impossible to distinguish on your monitor.  The black should be completely black, and the white should be completely white.  There should be no color cast to the gray.

Color Adjustment

Color adjustment is much more difficult without the use of a colorimeter.  Below are three charts of the primary colors.  Ideally, you should see a full range of steps as in the grayscale chart above.  However, they will be difficult to distinguish at the black end of the chart.  The brightness of each of the primary colors on the right side of the chart should be equal.  Each step from maximum brightness should be visible, at least until you get to the bottom third of the chart.  The falloff of brightness for each of the colors as you move right to left should be equal.  Adjustment of color is often allowed either with a control panel or directly on your monitor, using built-in controls.  Note that the gray around the color charts should not have a color cast of any type.


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