Matching Monitor and Environment Color Temperature
Monitor Calibration with QPcard 102
This is not a complete instruction on how to calibrate your monitor. The best way to succeed with monitor calibration is to use a dedicated calibration software together with its' measuring device. This instruction covers how to adjust the color temperature of the monitor to harmonize with the color temperature of the ambient light surrounding your workplace - an often neglected but very important part of color calibration of monitors.
For the serious photographer correct colors is essential; not only in the image file, but also for the monitor. In order to get correct colors with the monitor, you need: 1) A good monitor - preferably with a big color gamut and hardware calibration possibility. 2) Color profiling software and a color measuring device. 3) A color managed system with a customized monitor profile.
The goal is a monitor that displays the image colors as natural and perfect as possible. Many photographers are happy when they have reached this goal. However, there are some more important details to consider before you can lean back in front of your monitor, confident about the colors in your pictures. You have to color calibrate your eyes and the environment! You have to make sure that your eyes actually experience the colors displayed on your monitor correctly. There are three details to consider:
1) The ambient light near and around your monitor
The light should be the same all the time and not differ over the hours of the day. This means you need to replace day-light with an artificial light source near your monitor. The perfect lamp has a color temperature near 5000K (or D50) and a high rendering index (smooth distribution of the different colors of the visible spectrum). But, 5000K is not absolutely necessary, as long as you adjust the color temperature of the monitor to the color temperature of the ambient lighting.
2) Colors surrounding the picture on your monitor screen
The desktop of your monitor screen should be gray! No color images of your last holiday trip, your favorite pet or your girlfriend! You may choose one of your favorite pictures, but convert it to gray-scale before you put it on the desktop. No colored Post-It notes on your monitor frame! Neutral gray paint on the surrounding walls.
3) Fine-tuning the monitor's color temperature
QPcard 102 is the perfect tool for fine-tuning your monitor's color temperature. You need the physical card and a digital image of the card (To down-load image, right-click and "save as" here) displayed on your monitor using a color managed system like Adobe Photoshop. Place the QPcard 102 near your monitor. Make sure it is lit by the ambient light around your monitor. Open the digital version of QPcard 102 in Photoshop (or other color managed application). Compare the two and adjust the color temperature of your monitor until the two look the same with no visual color difference between them.
Now you can start editing your important color pictures, being confident that not only are the displayed colors on your monitor correct, your eyes are also seeing the colors in a correct way.
Questions and answers
Q) Doesn't deviation from 5000K on the monitor affect the image color quality?
A) No. The way the monitor displays your images doesn't affect the colors in your images files at all. The difference is the way your eyes experiences the colors.The color perception of your eyes is influenced by the actual colors in the environment. That is the color of objects in the environment (like walls, desktop and Post-It notes), and the color of the ambient light. Your eyes are struggling to make everything neutral. A yellowish wall will enhance your eyes perception of blue. A perfectly neutral gray part of an image on your monitor will look bluish.
Q) Do I really have to re-paint my walls, close out the daylight and get a new lamp in order to experience the colors of my pictures correct?
A) If you are serious about color fidelity of pictures and don't want to feel insecure - yes! And you have to adjust the color temperature of your monitor to make it match the color temperature of your environment around the monitor.
Q) Why not just put a white paper next to the monitor and adjust the color temperature on the monitor displaying a white surface?
A) Most white papers contain whitening agents resulting in low precision adjustment. Depending on both the paper quality and the spectral components of the light, you will get different results. Using QPcard 102 without whitening agents is a guarantee for perfect calibration in almost any light. Furthermore you have four different shades of neutral tones on the physical and the digital QPcard 102, from white to almost black, making adjustment much easier.