How to calibrate your monitor in Windows 10

If you feel that the blacks and the other colors on your monitor don't look the way they should, you may be right. Just like any imaging device, computer monitors also have to be calibrated to produce the best image they can. Fortunately, Windows 10 include a "Display Color Calibration" wizard that can help you calibrate your monitor for the best possible color display. In this article, we show you how to use the color calibration wizard to set everything to your liking:

Why should you calibrate your monitor (gamma & color balance)?

Calibrating your monitor is essential if you want it to be able to display images and colors correctly. By correctly, we mean that the colors and images should look as close as possible to what their creators wanted you to see. A properly calibrated monitor allows you to have consistency between different devices. For example, if you're looking at a picture on your computer's monitor, it should look the same as it does on your friends' monitors or your smartphone.

A properly calibrated computer monitor

To be able to calibrate a monitor in Windows 10 and to understand what the "Display Color Calibration" wizard does, there are also two essential concepts that you need to know about:

  • Gamma can be a bit difficult to understand. Our eyes don't see things the same way that electronic devices do, so the devices need to translate what they see into something that looks natural to the human eye. This is called "gamma encoding." Monitors do gamma correction so that what we see on the screen resembles what we would see in the non-electronic world. The pixels on a monitor are made of red, green, and blue (often referred to as RGB), and their mix is what gives us the colors that we see. Monitors are more sensitive to individual RGB values, and if they were portrayed as the monitor sees them, the images on the screen would be somewhat distorted, especially at color boundaries. Gamma takes the RGB values and scales them to ensure that the monitor represents all colors appropriately. If you'd like a more thorough explanation, see this article: Understanding Gamma Correction.
  • Color Balance is an adjustment to the way the various intensities of colors are displayed on your monitor. Many of us have seen images where the color balance is not correct, resulting in a screen that appears to have too much or too little of a particular color. It is especially important to have proper color balance when you view neutral colors because you don't want your white or grey screen to look pink, for example. And if you are using special filters for your images (to give them the look of old sepia photographs, for example), you want to be sure that what you see on the screen is actually what you get with your image. Here is a Wikipedia article on Color balance that may make the concept more clear.

Having these two parameters configured correctly leads to more realistic color rendering on your monitor.

Gamma correction test image (Source: Wikipedia)

Furthermore, before running the "Display Color Calibration" wizard, illustrated in the next section of this tutorial, you should also make sure that you have the right driver and color profile for your monitor. If you need help with that, read this guide first: What is an ICM file? How to use it to install a color profile in Windows 10?

Step 1. Open the wizard that lets you calibrate your monitor in Windows 10 (Calibrate Display Color)

If you are using more than one monitor, make sure that your focus is on the monitor that you wish to calibrate. This might seem obvious, but it's best to be sure. The fastest way to open the monitor calibration wizard in Windows 10 is to use the search. Start by typing calibrate into the search box on your taskbar. Then, press Enter or click or tap on "Calibrate display color."

Searching for Calibrate display color

If you prefer, you can also use the Settings app to open the "Display Color Calibration" wizard, although this is a much lengthier way to do it. Start by launching the Settings. Then, open the System settings category, select Display on the left, and click or tap on "Advanced display settings" on the right side of the window.

The Advanced display settings link from the Display settings

Scroll down until you find the link called "Display adapter properties [...]" and click or tap on it.

The Display adapter properties link

This opens up the Properties window of your graphics adapter and monitor. Select the Color Management tab and click or tap on the button bearing the same name.

The Color Management button from the monitor's Properties window

Windows 10 now opens the Color Management window. In it, select the Advanced tab and then, at the bottom of the window, click or tap on the Calibrate display button.

The Calibrate display button from the Advanced tab of Color Management

Now let's see how to use this wizard to calibrate your monitor in Windows 10:

Step 2. How to calibrate your monitor in Windows 10, using the "Display Color Calibration" wizard

Regardless of the method you choose to follow to get to the "Calibrate Display Color" wizard, in the screenshot below, you can see what it looks like.

Welcome to Display Color Calibration

Click or tap Next to continue. You are asked to press the Menu button on your monitor. If you can't find this button, check the owner's manual. Note that a laptop, a 2-in-1 computer, or a tablet may or may not have an equivalent to a Menu button for its screen. Consult your user guide to make sure.

On this screen, there are also recommendations for using the monitor's own menu to set its properties for best results with the "Calibrate Display Color" wizard. Once you've followed those instructions, click or tap Next.

Set basic color settings in Windows 10

Next, you get a helpful explanation of gamma and why it's essential to adjust it properly. Read the information on this screen and make sure that you understand what you're looking for. It's essential that you remember the pattern that indicates good gamma. Press Next to continue.

How to adjust the gamma in Windows 10

On the left, there's a vertical slider that allows you to adjust the gamma until the graphics on the screen most closely resemble the example on the previous screen.

Take some time to play with this, because having the gamma set properly is vital to the settings that come next. Click or tap Next when you are finished.

Adjust gamma in Windows 10

On the next screen, you're given the option to "Skip brightness and contrast adjustment," but we don't recommend it. Having the brightness and contrast set properly can make a big difference in the way your graphics look. Click or tap Next to go on.

Find the brightness and contrast controls for your display

The next screen gives you the instructions for the procedure of adjusting the brightness. Read and understand them before clicking/tapping Next to move on.

How to adjust the brightness in Windows 10

To adjust the brightness and contrast, use the buttons on your monitor. What happens depends on your own hardware, so read the directions for your monitor and proceed accordingly. Since everyone's display is different, our screenshots just show the instructions and not the results. Also, take note that if you are using a laptop or a similar portable device, you may or may not be able to adjust these attributes.

Adjust the brightness of the monitor in Windows 10

The next step is to adjust the color balance, and this is a software adjustment the wizard can walk you through. Read the instructions before you press Next.

How to adjust color balance in Windows 10

You must use the sliders under the red, green, and blue elements to try to achieve a neutral shade of grey. Take your time with this and move all the sliders around until you get the best result.

Adjust color balance in Windows 10

Once you complete the color balance, you're done with the wizard. If you would like to see the changes you've made, you can toggle back and forth between your previous settings and your new ones.

The display color calibration has been finalized

NOTE: There is an option for starting the "ClearType Tuner" on the last screen, and you can read about it in this tutorial: Use the ClearType Text Tuner in Windows 10 to increase text readability.

Did you calibrate your monitor?

Displays change over time as they age, and often this happens so gradually that we don't notice it. The Calibrate Display Color wizard lets you see what has happened, and adjust your display to turn back the inevitable changes. Although it is not perfect and it does have its limitations, it's well worth going through the steps to see what kinds of improvements can be made. Have you used this wizard to adjust your monitor? Did it work as well as you hoped? Don't forget that you can use the comments section below to contact us.