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The Spyder 5 color calibrates your PC monitor and makes it look much better

If you're involved in any kind of creative work, it'd be fair to call PC color calibration a necessity. You might think your shiny new monitor looks really nice, the colors are popping and that everything is A-OK. The sad truth is that it's probably not, or at least, not if you're looking to meet a standard for color work.

Getting it calibrated is a really simple process ... if you have the right equipment.

For the purposes of this article, we're using the Datacolor Spyder 5 Pro colorimeter (opens in new tab). It cost $139 on Amazon at the time of writing. For even more control — targeted towards professionals — there's the Spyder 5 Elite (opens in new tab), too.

Why calibrate your PC's color?

From Datacolor:

Most monitors come out of the box with the brightness set too high and with oversaturated colors – plus they degrade over time. Your display is the window into your digital image, you need to be able to trust it. Spyder5 calibrates your display to an industry color reference standard to ensure your colors are accurate for better print matching. Your image editing will be easier and faster, you'll spend less time in the 'print-edit-print' cycle, and you'll waste less ink and paper.

Essentially, the process makes sure your monitor is as close as humanly possible to market standards for color work. That way you can trust that what you're seeing on the display in front of you is accurate and will look great.

Getting it done

Spyder 5 Pro

In the box, there's not a lot to look at, just the Spyder 5 Pro and a redemption code for the companion software. The colorimeter itself consists of a plastic puck with an ambient light meter, a lens cap covering the important bits and the connected USB cable.

Getting going is as simple as plugging in and downloading the software. You simply hang the colorimeter over the top of the monitor with the sensors facing the display. This particular model has an ambient light sensor to help with finer corrections, but there's also a cheaper model that only has fixed correction profiles.

The process is straightforward, and the software from Datacolor is easy to use. You get a step-by-step guide on what you need to do before you start, and the software should be able to identify your monitor automatically. If it doesn't you can select it from a drop-down list.

It'll recommend settings for Gamma, color temperature and brightness — which is influenced by the room light, should you measure it — or you can choose your own custom options. Once you've clicked through and attached the colorimeter where instructed, it's time to sit back for a few and let it do its work.

In this instance, the procedure paused mid-way through for a brightness adjustment, but if that's not on your list you'll see a variety of colors flash up while readings are taken.

When you come out on the other side, the software will have generated a new calibration profile for your monitor. You can save this and set a reminder to do it again on a monthly basis, and you can also look at sample images with or without the profile applied. The results may surprise you.

In my case, the resulting profile was 100-percent sRGB compliant and 80 percent Adobe RGB. The Spyder 5 Pro doesn't work magic, and it can't make things look better than the monitor can physically handle, but it can make a big difference. In my case, on my HP Omen 32 gaming monitor, the overall appearance to the eye is warmer and less bright, with the added comfort of meeting the sRGB standard, which is good for web work.

If I used a monitor geared more towards creative work and less towards gaming, the effects could potentially be even greater.

If you're involved in any kind of creative work, professional or amateur, properly calibrating your monitor should be on your list of things to do. Devices such as the Spyder 5 aren't cheap at around $139, but the ease with which you can get your colors in line — and keep them in line — makes it a worthwhile investment.

The added bonus of the light sensor also made it much more pleasant to look at my PC monitor. I've been using the HP Omen 32 with the settings it came out of the box with, and the difference after running the Spyder 5 Pro is immediately noticeable and less straining. It's now set up perfectly — or as perfectly as it can be — for color and my working environment, which makes the Spyder 5 Pro money well spent.

See at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

23 Comments
  • Some lenova laptops come with a color calibration system. You close the lid and a sensor near the fingerprint reader scans the screen (running an application) and adjusts colors automatically. I guess this Spyder thing would be something similar for desktops.
  • Used in the AV world for setting up TV's.
  • its a bit expensive. I searched for calibration data for my monitor and found some options posted by other users from the world. It took me 1hour to find the best one and Iam happy with it
  • For one monitor, an hour seems reasonable.  Especially if it's free.  I would probably do the same thing if it's just me. I look at this and think, if I was in a design studio with dozens of coworkers that could benefit from calibrating, I can see how getting one and going from desk to desk could help.
  • The problem with this approach is that it assumes a uniform starting point from the factory.  Very few consumer grade monitors are pre-calibrated in any fashion, making the settings people post basically useless.  You may like it better, but that does not make it more accurate or less straining to the eyes.  Also, such calibrations do not take ambient lighting into account, which is important. I'm considering going in on one of these with a few friends.  I have fairly high quality LCD's at work and home, it would probably be worth it to properly calibrate them.  Split the cost with a couple others to reduce the impact since its not like its a device you have to keep connected.
  • This is not calibrating your monitor at all. I have 3 of the same Dell monitors at work. 24" IPS displays. They all require different calribration profiles though. Each monitor has it's own unique values and traits. Borrowing someone else's calibration data is worthless.  
  • the device will create a profile file that stays on the PC when the hardware is removed... They are sharing the divice, not the profiles...
  • OK, decent (if surprising on WC as it's a little specialist) article. Alone, however, it does lead to wasted money. Unless you're prepared to use appropriate colour matching throughout the whole process, and you are keenly aware of colour spaces, file formats and how your software handles colour matching throughout the image and document process from end to end, spending time and money on calibrating one little piece of the chain (the monitor) will not be very useful. Just tweak by eye. Also, if you have a TN panel instead of IPS then the gamma variation alone will also make this process pointless. By eye is fine. Only bother with all this if you really mean to keep track of your colour. Also, get a bunch of Pantone charts as there's nothing more certain than comparing ink to ink. Monitor light will never be precise enough to be sure of what your local print shop will produce. Good article as part of a series though. I assume I can look forward to Part 2?
  • What happened to the old "manual" calibration software routines that would step you through a series of color block tests?
  • http://www.windowscentral.com/how-calibrate-your-pcs-monitor-windows-10  
  • Funny they don't mention that... Let's be honest the only reason this article was posted was so they could post an affiliate link. Otherwise they would have referenced their OWN MATERIAL as well.
  • Why do things manually when there are these things?
  • These are still subjective; dependent on one's individual color perception. Not everyone perceives color exactly the same. .  .
  • If you're talking about the manual process, yes it is subjective. If you're using calibration software with a sensor, that is a different story (assuming you're doing it to ISF standard)
  • Since monitor "calibration" is a pretty advanced topic, I'm gonna nitpick here and say the above process isn't calibration, but rather, profiling. What the software does is it creates a profile, which is a bunch of delta values that alter the video signal (or rather, the Look Up Table, or LUT) to compensate for your monitor's deficiencies and inaccuracies. Unfortunately, this also means you lose color data and depth. So your 80% adobeRGB spec will definitely fall short of 80%. If you want to properly *calibrate* your monitor, then the profiling needs to be done inside the monitor. You need very specialized software to do this. So basically the monitor's inaccuracies are read and sent to the monitor, and then the look up table inside the monitor is modified to compensate. A professional imaging monitor will have an oversized look up table to allow for adjustments and not lose any color depth, like the NEC PA series. This allows your video card to send the 100% pure, unaltered video signal with no truncation of color depth and data.
  • Ah now I get it.
  • Is that a dead pixel in the image with the all red screen?
  • I love that screengrab from "The Accountant". The test patterns found here are also useful if you want to do it by eye. http://www.lagom.nl/lcd-test/
  • Would this thing conclude the dress is blue and black or white and gold? Hmmmmm...
  • Will this work on a multi monitor setup? I have two types, one where my image is streached on three monitors. The other is 3 indipendent monitors: 1 primary, two extended. I am also wondering since this probably just changes the settings on the software end, should I reset my monitors to default on each monitor before usinig?
  • yes, each monitor will get done and have it's own calibration file
  • Oh please...
  • As an avid photograper, calibrating your monitor is a must. I have a color monki that also calibrates my printer. If you use multiple monitors, this will also ensure that they both match.