Calibrate Your Monitor: Always a Good Idea
Before I get into the nitty gritty of the color settings, you should start by calibrating and profiling your monitor. The easiest and cheapest way to do this is by using the Adobe Gamma utility that comes with Photoshop (see Figure 1). This is automatically installed into the Control Panels directory. In Windows, you can find it by choosing Settings, Control Panels, Adobe Gamma, or in the Program Files/Common Files /Adobe/Calibration folder on your hard drive. In the Mac OS, from the Apple menu, choose Control Panels, Adobe Gamma. A wizard or step-by-step assistant will walk you through the process.
Figure 1 Using Adobe Gamma is an easy way to calibrate your monitor.
Even if you decide that a color-managed workflow does not make sense for your situation, calibrating your monitor is always a good idea. At the very least, you will bring it into a known state with a standard representation of a total black, a dark shadow, a bright highlight, and the overall gamma or brightness/contrast of the display. The profile is created automatically for you at the end of the process, so it's pretty painless. Because monitors do change and drift as they age (as do we all), it's also a good idea to recalibrate your display on a regular basis, such as every once a month. Note that if you have hardware-based calibration software, you should use that instead of Adobe Gamma because it will produce a more accurate profile of your monitor.