Accessing “Expert Mode” Screen Color Calibrator in Mac OS X (Sierra & El Capitan)

Oct 14, 2015 - 35 Comments

Expert Mode Display color calibrator in OS X

Mac users are likely familiar with the process of using display calibration to get the best color and picture quality for a specific monitor or screen used with a computer, and to get the most out of the calibrator tool you’ll want to run the utility in Expert Mode. While Expert Mode used to be immediately visible in the Display Calibrator Assistant, it’s now hidden by default in the newest versions of macOS and OS X. This has led some Mac users to think the Expert Mode advanced color calibration options are missing in Mac OS X now, but in fact it just requires an additional step to access.


From OS X El Capitan (10.11) onward, including macOS Sierra 10.12, to access the Expert Mode of Display Calibrator, including support for adjusting Native Gamma and Target Gamma, you’ll need to use a simple trick to reveal the additional options.

How to Calibrate Screen Color in Mac OS

  1. Open System Preferences if you haven’t don’t so already and go to the “Display” preference panel, then go to the “Color” tab as usual
  2. Hold down the OPTION key and click on “Calibrate” to access the Expert Mode options in Display Calibrator
  3. Proceed through the screen color calibration process as usual in Mac OS X

Access expert mode in Display Calibrator of Mac OS X

You must hold the OPTION key when clicking Calibrate to access the Expert Mode advanced color calibration tools, without holding down Option the expert option will not appear.

Expert Mode in Display Color calibrator mac OS X

If you haven’t done so yet, adjusting screen calibration can be a helpful way to improve the appearance of any display a Mac connects to. I always calibrate my displays, even the built-in display panel on a MacBook Pro, since I find the default gamma to often be too bright, whereas some users may find it not bright enough. It can also offer a great way to correct a display that is either too cool or warm looking.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

35 Comments

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  1. Ed Gonzalez says:

    Oh my god. This was driving me crazy as the profile definitely changed after upgrading to El Cap. Thanks so much.

  2. mark says:

    Anyone really interested in colour profiles wont be using this bit of software to guess what it should look like., but using a hardware colour calibration device.

  3. Jason says:

    It didn’t work for me. When I held the option key down it showed a button that says “Detect Displays”

    • Rob says:

      You must hold the OPTION key when clicking Calibrate to access the Expert Mode advanced color calibration tools, without holding down Option the expert option will not appear.

      • Terry Stanford says:

        This was so helpful. I couldn’t figure out how to find the expert mode, but holding down the option key while clicking calibrate worked. Why couldn’t they just put that in the options to begin with? That was so helpful, yet it’s hidden unless you get a tip from someone. Thanks for the tip.

  4. benji888578 says:

    While what mark says is true, for the sake of better color for those of us without a hardware color calibrator, it was unnerving to see washed out color on my older MBP monitor. I figured out on my own the option key, but, at first was not happy I couldn’t calibrate.

    I’m guessing that this is hidden because calibration is automatic on Apple’s newer Macs with built in monitors? My mid 2010 MBP certainly needs calibration, otherwise the white has a blue hue to it, colors are off, but, perhaps iMac/Mac laptop retina screens don’t need calibration?

  5. Fabio says:

    Unfortunally in my case, after update my Macbook Pro (MID 2010), when do this passeges, not appear the the Expert Mode like explain you here in the top!!!

  6. Jr says:

    Thanks so much for posting this, I had called apple tech support, they connected to my screen remotely , told me to go into Accessibility and told me that basically all I could change under El capital was the monitors contrast and that apple had that feature shut off because too many people were frying their video cards or something . So I googled some more and came upon this 😍. PROBLEM SOLVED , Thank you !

  7. Paul says:

    Didn’t work for me …

  8. aiyagari says:

    The confusing part is that the “Calibrate…” button doesn’t change when the Option key is held down. This is very different from the normal conventions of using the Option key to access hidden features. This one is totally hidden. I don’t know why they did that because it is absolutely necessary to keep my display from being washed out.

  9. shamurti says:

    Holding down the OPTION key while clicking the “Calibrate” button does not work anymore. I have tested this a 10.11.1 MacBook Pro with a Dell monitor. It used to work; perhaps prior to 10.11.1

    Has anyone discovered a new way?

    • Ron says:

      Yes Calibrate Expert Mode works in all versions of OS X El Capitan, doesn’t matter which, this is how you enter the Expert mode for calibrate. 10.11.2 etc, you are not following the instructions.

      I just did it myself 2 minutes ago. So, that means you specifically are doing something wrong.

  10. fad says:

    Thank you very much, save my eyes greatly since el capitan change my calibrated display

  11. rod macdonald says:

    Interesting!

    Many thanks for the tip. First time I Option-clicked on Calibrate, I got the Display Calibrator Assistant screen, with Expert Mode checked, and the correct sequence of steps listed on the left. However the Assistant didn’t actually lead me through all the steps: it just took me through the shorter list of the standard calibration routine. So I quit the Assistant and tried again – and this time it worked! :-D

  12. rod macdonald says:

    And another thing…

    My second monitor, on which I do all my photographic editing, is a Benq G2420HDBL LED. If I follow the first instruction in the Display Calibrator Assistant, to set the contrast control to ‘the highest setting’, I get a screen which is so very contrasty that the rest of the set-up procedure becomes impossible. So, rather embarassingly, I set the contrast by eye, which rather takes away the whole purpose of calibration.

    This happens, I beleive, because of the higher contrast ratios that LED screens are capable of, compared to CRTs. So isn’t it time that the Display Calibrator Assistant took the capabilities of LED screens into account?

  13. Satendra Vishwakarma says:

    After many reading reviews, I got iMac 5K Retina 2014 edition, the color combination is really boring no matter what I do. I find Android / Windows based monitors even at low pixels are far better than this crap iMac. What a total waste of money and time.

  14. Tobia says:

    The advanced but user-friendly color calibration assistant was one of the few things where Mac OS X was still better than competing systems. Ditto for full-line coloured Finder labels.

    It’s really sad to see things being removed or hidden away that people loved about this system. This has been going on for too long. It’s sad, but my next computer won’t be an Apple anymore.

    Thank you for this article though.

  15. Thank you so much for this hint. I almost gave up, thinking there had been a bug in the installation.

  16. JMphoto says:

    thanks for the tip-i wish there were preset color calibrations to try out.. you can go a little crazy with this tool.
    my colors are totally washed out with the upgraded video card and an $800 EIZO monitor. i think i need a real color calibrator tool. any recommendations for Mac Pro/Eizo monitor-i am a professional photographer and going nuts with these new Macs. for $4k i expect better!

  17. JMphoto says:

    thanks for the tip- you can go a little crazy with this tool.
    my colors are totally washed out with the upgraded video card and an $800 EIZO monitor. i think i need a real color calibrator tool. any recommendations for Mac Pro/Eizo monitor-i am a professional photographer and going nuts with these new Macs. for $4k i expect better!

  18. Duboiz says:

    Works for me. But why hiding it?

    El Capital start to look like Windows OS that you have to guess or know what to click to get somewhere.

  19. M says:

    Thank you so much for the advice !!! It worked!

  20. Margaret says:

    Thank you so much! It makes a big difference to me.

  21. Mandeep says:

    Has helped calibrate an old AOC 22″ connected via VGA adapter. Lol

  22. Rafael says:

    Thank You!!

  23. Laure says:

    Oh osXdaily, I don’t know how many times you’ve improved my life! Thanks so much!

  24. Stephen says:

    Thanks. But why all the charades Apple?

  25. Richard says:

    Thank goodness for this information. I used the instructions above and got terrific results. Saved me having to buy a color calibration tool. Now with my profiles for my specialty papers, my prints come out looking just like my monitor. Thank you.

  26. Paul says:

    was great until the last step. “An error occurred. Teh new calibrated display profile could not be created or set to be the current profile for this display.” thanks sierra.

    • Mike says:

      Same issue as Paul on Sierra (10.12). The monitor adjusted fine during the calibration but then wouldn’t use the profile and reverted to the uncalibrated settings. Same error: “An error occurred. The new calibrated display profile could not be created or set to be the current profile for this display.”

  27. Gene says:

    Thanks for this tip. Picked up a mid 2010 MBP on the cheap and the screen just about looked washed out. The expert mode muted the colors and warmed them up a bit from the default.

    OSX 10.11.6

  28. Ross Clarke says:

    Thanks for this, was struggling for a while.

    Alot of games are too dark on Mac and the games sliders do nothing.

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