Color Calibration Challenges




December 29, 2005 at 9:25 am

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I’m now in the process of trying to figure out how to color calibrate across my dual 17″ LCDs.

We have a

(supports CRTs -and- LCDs) and both monitors have been run through the “standard” (rather than “precision”) calibration mode… at night… with no ambient light (including any other monitors) in the room during calibration.

And yet, my new LCD (which sits directly in front of me) has a noticably greenish color cast — most noticable when I let a window or photo span across both monitors — and my original 17″ LCD (which sits directly beside the primary, slightly angled a few degrees towards me) is slightly darker/higher contrast in appearance. To further complicate the situation, whites on my primary (new) LCD seem pure/white-er, while the secondary has a faint reddish color cast imbued to its white. This all holds true even when I put myself in a direct visual line from the secondary monitor, thereby confirming that the difference I’m perceiving isn’t due to the secondary monitor sitting at a slight angle from my normal computing position.

I know consumer grade LCDs are considered sub-optimal by many photo/graphics professionals, particularly those where a print is the final output, but there’s the rub.

We used to do all of our photo editing on a (Spyder) color calibrated CRT, but now our office contains three LCDs and no CRTs. We do still have a CRT in our posession, but LCDs are pervasive now and many people (portraiture clients, some stock photo clients, and a large segment of our website’s audience) who view our photos will have an LCD.

I’ve been doing a little reading and am getting mixed messages.

behaves as though I can assign independent (based on Spyder color calibration) color profiles for each monitor on a single system/video card. However, a


If you have a single card for dual monitors, you usually can calibrate only one or the other, since there is a single driver for both.

The difference between the two monitors is noticable to the naked eye, though not obvious until a single image is allowed to span both monitors, allowing a direct comparison.

I still need to try this advice from Colorvision, however: ….

I also probably need to do another (”precision” mode) calibration run on both monitors, after calibrating each based on its own .

Of course, the above paragraph is a moot point if the posting is accurate — in that case,the best I could do is calibrate the primary 17″ LCD on my computer with the 20″ LCD on Justin’s computer.

Color calibration. I hate it. I really, really, really hate it.

And the most frustrating thing? As professional photographers, that’s only half the problem — outputting to a printer or photolab involves a whole different set of hoops to jump through!

If I have any “Eureka!” moments, I’ll post a follow-up. This all reminds me why we need to keep at least one CRT around… only problem is, neither of us wants one on our desks anymore!

More reading:





December 29, 2005


Sorry to hear the calibration is coming along anything but smoothly.

One thing to note is that DVI and Analog signals can look very different.

I’ve not heard of it affecting color specifically, but it certainly can.

Are both monitors getting the same input, both DVI or both Analog?

You can get a mid-to-low end PCI graphics card with another DVI jack for faily cheap.

This might be one solution to consider.

Good luck!

December 29, 2005


Thanks for the insightful feedback, T!

Just before we left for dinner this evening, I played around with the color temperature settings and at least got the new (primary) monitor to look less offensively green. I’ll save the whole precision mode calibration run for another day, and keep your card suggestion in mind if I can’t get the level of control I need to ensure our photos-to-print workflow is sound.

I still LOVE dual monitors and have that, “Why didn’t I do this *so* much sooner!?” epiphany everytime I sit down at my desk now!


– Sis

December 30, 2005



My current video card (Radeon 9600) has one DVI input and one analog input, so currently one monitor is connected via DVI and the other is analog.

I already swapped cables on them to see if, as an example, the analog signal was causing the color shift/drift/whatever.

But regardless of which monitor is connected via which method (analog vs. DVI), my new monitor has the same color issues as reported in my entry.

I’ve also swapped them in order of precedence, eg. making the new monitor the secondary and the old monitor the primary. No changes in color cast issues result.

Yesterday evening, I did get some of the most egregious green color cast to disappear from my new monitor by resetting it to factory defaults (via its built-in controls) and then playing with color temperatures in Windows’ display panel.

However, just because that makes it look better doesn’t mean much. The whole point of having the colorimeter (the Colorvision Spyder) is to remove the human eyeball/preference and perception from the equation and produce repeatable, dependable color calibration results.

I’ll figure it out… or report this new 17″ as defective and have Dell ship out a new one. So far, though, I’m not convinced the monitor’s bad … just different. I thought calibration would be easy since both monitors are nearly identical… one’s a (1+ year old) Dell Ultrasharp 1703FP and the other’s a (brand new) Dell Ultrasharp 1704FP.

Right now, the old monitor has perfect color — same as it did when it was my only monitor. It’s the new monitor I’m having ‘fun’ with.

December 30, 2005



Per ColorVision’s website (the makers of our colorimeter, the Spyder Pro), their color calibration software — called OptiCAL — does not allow Windows users to calibrate two monitors separately. Twin monitors on a Mac – no problem. On Windows – nope” (quoted from )

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