How to Calibrate Mac Displays for the Best Picture & Color
Having an external monitor hooked up to a Mac can boost productivity significantly, and most users who get a secondary screen just hook it up and start using it – it works, so why mess around, right? But to get the best picture and color representation out of your external display, you’ll want to take the time to calibrate the screen through a built-in OS X utility. In fact, you should probably calibrate every display you use with your Mac.
Calibrating a display allows you to adjust various aspects of how the screen shows images on screen, letting the user create a display profile with a set native response, brightness, contrast, luminance, gamma, white point, and red, green, and blue levels. If you’ve never heard of any of that before, don’t worry, it’s easy to configure and you just follow your eyes to calibrate the display. If you mess it up, you can just recalibrate the display again, or go back to a default, nothing is permanently changed.
For what it’s worth, this works to calibrate internal displays on the iMac and MacBook series too, but those typically ship with a good profile already set by Apple, making this less necessary than it is with a third party external display. Nonetheless, some built-in displays which look dull can benefit considerably from recalibrating.
How to Calibrate a Screen & Create a Display Profile in Mac OS X
This works with any display connected to a Mac – whether internal or external. If you use multiple screens, you’ll want to calibrate them all and create a unique profile for each display for the best results.
- Connect the display to the Mac if it isn’t connected yet (obviously not necessary for an internal display)
- Open the System Preferences from the Apple menu and go to the “Displays” preference pane
- Choose the “Color” tab
- Hold the OPTION key and click on the “Calibrate…” button (in older Mac versions just click Calibrate)
- Check the box for “Expert Mode – This turns on extra options” and choose “Continue”
- Follow the on screen instructions and adjust the options as visually appropriate – each display is unique and thus the location of the sliders will be different per display
- When finished, name the display profile and save it by choosing “Done”
The newly created display profile will be selected by default, you can see the difference by choosing the older display profile (or the default Color LCD) from the profile list, it should look considerably better. If for some reason it looks worse, you can either recalibrate the screen again and make a new profile, or just go with one of the default options like Color LCD, though they are rarely optimal for third party displays.
Remember, calibration and profiles are set on a per display basis. That means the internal display of a MacBook Pro would have a different profile than an external Thunderbolt display, and a different display from a connected TV screen or other display. Thus, if you connect a different display you’d want to re-calibrate that display as well. Additionally, if you use two or more screens, you’d want to calibrate them all for the best results.
Enjoy your newly calibrated Mac display. Make this a habit every time you get a new screen for your Mac, or hook your computer up to another display, it makes everything look much better.