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You Have to Calibrate Your Monitor Before You Go Any Further

To get what comes out of your color inkjet printer to match what you see onscreen, you have to calibrate your monitor in one of two ways: (1) buy a hardware calibration sensor that calibrates your monitor precisely; or (2) use free software calibration, which is better than nothing, but not by much since you’re just “eyeing” it. Hardware calibration is definitely the preferred method (in fact, I don’t know of a single pro using freebie software). With hardware calibration, it’s measuring your actual monitor and building an accurate profile for the exact monitor you’re using, and yes—it makes that big a difference.

  • Step One:

    To find the free software that comes with Windows 10, in the Settings panel click on System, then click on Display, and go to the Advanced Display Settings. Click on the Display Adapter Properties for Display 1 link (the number may be different if you have multiple monitors set up), then click on the Color Management tab, and then click Color Management. Now, click on the Advanced tab, and then, finally, click on Calibrate Display. In Mac OS X, in the System Preferences dialog, click on Displays, then click on the Color tab to find it. I use Datacolor’s Spyder5ELITE hardware color calibrator (around $200 street price), because it’s simple, affordable, and a lot of the pros I know have moved over to it. So, I’m going to use it as an example here, but it’s not necessary to get this same one, because they all work fairly similarly. You start by installing the software that comes with the Spyder5ELITE. Then, plug the Spyder5ELITE sensor into your computer’s USB port and launch the software, which brings up the main window (seen here). You follow the “wizard,” which asks you a couple of simple questions, and then it does the rest.

  • Step Two:

    Start by clicking the Next button in the bottom right, and the window you see here will appear. If you’re new to calibrating your monitor, I recommend using the Step-by-Step Assistant (which is already selected by default), so at this point just click the Next button again.

  • Step Three:

    The next screen asks you which type of calibration you want to do. Are you going to update an older calibration you did previously with the Spyder5ELITE (then you would click the ReCAL radio button), or do you just want to check to see how accurate your current calibration is (Check-CAL), or are you doing this for the first time (which you are, so you’d click the FullCAL radio button, as shown here)? Then, just click the Next button, because you’re going to leave all the pop-up menus here at their default recommended settings.

  • Step Four:

    The next screen asks you to put the Spyder unit on your monitor, which means you drape the sensor over your monitor so it sits flat against it and the cord hangs over the back. It shows you exactly where to place it (the two blue arrows you see beside its outline actually flash on/off, so you can’t possibly miss where it goes). The sensor comes with a counterweight you can attach to the cord, so you can position the sensor approximately in the center of your screen without it slipping down. Once the sensor is in position over your screen, click the Next button, sit back, and relax. You’ll see the software conduct a series of onscreen tests, using gray, white, and various color swatches, as shown here.

  • Step Five:

    This testing only goes on for a few minutes (at least, that’s all it took for my desktop), and then it’s done. It asks you to name your profile (it puts a default name in place for you), so enter a name, and then click the Save button. Below that is a pop-up menu where you can choose when you want an automatic reminder to “Recalibrate your monitor” to pop up on your screen. The default choice is 2 Weeks (so please don’t tell anyone that I actually set mine to 1 Month). Make your choice and then click the Next button.

  • Step Six:

    Now you get to see the usually shocking before/after. Click on the Switch button at the bottom right and you can switch back and forth between your now fully calibrated monitor and your uncalibrated monitor. It’s at that moment you say, ”Ohhhhhh…that’s why my prints never match my screen.” Well, it’s certainly one part of the puzzle, but without this one critical piece in place, you don’t have a chance with the rest, so you did the right thing. Click Next one last time, and then click the Quit button in the Profile Overview screen.

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