Why should I calibrate my screen?

As both a web and print designer, I have never seen the need to calibrate my displays. Especially for web design, I wonder why I should spend several hundred euros to calibrate when I can instead test my colour choices on multiple uncalibrated displays in different lighting conditions. Only a handful of users are going to look at my colour choices on an accurately calibrated screen while under the same lighting as I had when I stuck my ColorMunki to my screen.

For print design, I understand that you can calibrate your screen to display an RGB approximation of CMYK as accurately as possible. But it’s still going to be an approximation—it’s never going to be perfect because of the fundamental differences between the two colour models. After some initial surprises in my beginner period, I have gotten a gut feeling for how my work is going to come out. Especially after a test print on my desktop printer. So why calibrate?

I know that I am asking a rather fundamental question here, which many of you will want to answer with “But of course you must! Everybody does it!” Call me a rebel, but by default, I am genuinely unconvinced of doing anything that people say “everybody does it” about. Therefore, I am looking for objective reasons and arguments. Forget the feelings and the tradition, just tell me why.

Even though this question looks like it’s asking what I am, it only goes into finding an affordable way, and not the why..


First we have to make a very clear distinction. Seeing exactly what you expect is not required for the vast majority of work. Especially as a professional designer where changes are going to be minimal. What I mean is even if I, or likely any professional designer, works on a display that isn’t calibrated I can still know pretty close what my colors are. I know that if it says CMYK (0, 20, 50, 10) it’s going to be an almost gold-like color. I know this because I understand that I’ve added some Magenta to Yellow and then darkened it a bit.

If I see it as Bright Blue then I know my display or my brain is seriously screwed up. Because the Color Wheel never lies. RGB (255, 255, 0) is always going to be yellow, no matter how I perceive it.

Now let us say we’re working on a website and print materials for a makeup company. They, being the client, send us a sample of a few lipsticks. We’re going to use various tools such as a colorimeter or colorchecker passport, etc to find out what best represents that exact lipstick. Often in these cases the client will even tell you. It then makes little difference if my display is showing it correctly; as long as I sample the color and see the values are correct. To put another way, if my client tells me to use Pantone Red; I’m going to use Pantone Red. If it looks a little orange on one of my displays and a little magenta on another, I don’t care. It’s Pantone Red.

The more important thing is Contrast and Gamut. Ensuring that none of your colors fall outside of the color range the end product will be in, that your blacks and whites are where they need to be, and ensuring that banding isn’t going to occur. This has nothing to do with color accuracy and everything to do with a wide gamut display with excellent contrast.

So then why should you calibrate? Well if you want to be a perfectionist its a lot easier to do when things are accurate. That’s really it. Especially if you’re working on high end print campaigns for fashion or makeup companies; or a client that has a very specific brand color. The other usage is mostly in cinema where you want to ensure the film is going to look identical in theaters as it does on the standard TV. That means color grading it for both.

You can absolutely get by as a photographer or a designer without ever calibrating a monitor. Do you have to do it? No. Does it help? It can. If you’re going to spend money on something do a high end display first though otherwise you’re just wasting your money trying to calibrate a low end display.

Source : Link , Question Author : Vincent , Answer Author : Ryan

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