I have previously only used the build-in monitors of my MacBook or iMac, which I have calibrated with a ColorMunki Display. They only had one parameter, brightness, for which the calibration software kindly suggested the right setting.

But now I've purchased an external LG monitor which has a lot more settings for RGB, color temperature, gamma, brightness, contrast, sharpness, etc.

I imagine that I would have the most accurate color representation if I could set up the monitor to be as neutral as possible before calibration. E.g. if the monitor is setup to create very bright images, I imagine it would have difficulty showing details in the shadow areas.

How do I find the best neutral settings? Or is this unnecessary?

For my particular use case, my primary focus good looking prints rather than web use.

  • After your edit - 'good looking prints' doesn't depend so much on your display calibration as the profile translation to the specific printer & stock. If you start with well-calibrated displays, the rest becomes actually 'a separate job'. – Tetsujin Aug 1 '20 at 8:15
  • I know, and I've had great looking prints in the past. I mostly added that because of your phrase "Stick to Adobe or sRGB, especially if you are working to web" in your answer, so I just wanted to point out that the web is not my primary focus. – Pete Aug 1 '20 at 8:19
  • My workflow is photo to print too. My outsource printer uses sRGB profiles on a big commercial Epson, onto canvases. I work at Adobe RGB right until final export to sRGB & I do get back from the printer "what I sent" within a very reasonable margin. – Tetsujin Aug 1 '20 at 8:22
  • What software are you using with your ColorMunki device? Does it not start out by having you adjust your monitor as closely as possible using the monitor's controls before it measures and generates a profile? – Michael C Aug 1 '20 at 23:57

I've never actually tried this, so it's a bit of guesswork. I only thought of it after I had my displays set up [& don't want to mess anything up now;)

First, switch off anything that claims to be "smart" or "self-adjusting" in the display's controls. I've never used an LG monitor, but their TVs have so much "user-friendly" going on they're a nightmare.

Use the built-in Display Calibrator Assistant - but do it without modifying anything other than the external display's own controls; so the profile you get at the end doesn't interplay [you can discard it once you're done].

System Prefs > Display > Colour
Hold Opt as you click Calibrate… & you get more options once you check 'Expert Mode'

Going into this mode disables any existing profile, so if you see that it looks odd on any already-calibrated monitor, ignore that for now.
You may only be able to do anything useful with the first screen, the brightness/contrast, & the last couple, for gamma & white point, but it might put you in the ballpark before you run the colorimeter over it.
Of course, as soon as you leave this Assistant, the system will re-apply your existing profile - but you can ignore that too, as you're about to replace it with a calibrated one.

This may not really gain you anything, as it will be the first step once you run the X-Rite calibrator, but it might just reduce time needed to get settled values. I always tend to run my calibration a few time to make sure it 'feels' the same each time. I've known things to wander on occasion. If you have the option in the X-Rite app - I know there are different parts licensed for different 'spending' on X-Rite - but if you can get to it use the large colour patch 480 or so colours, not the simple 118 patch version. It is considerably better.

Further thoughts - depending on your intended usage & the actual capability of the display, you may need to set the hardware to P3, ProRes, Adobe RGB or sRBG before doing this basic brightness/contrast. I'd be very wary of P3 or ProRes, because I doubt the ColorMunki can handle it. Stick to Adobe or sRGB, especially if you are working to web.
When I first set mine up I experimented to see which felt more portable across to other managed displays [just in case I was fooling myself] & ended up with Adobe RGB, as the screens handle it well, that's what my camera likes, & it also seem to handle export to sRGB nicely.

Late edit, after comments.
It apears the latest ColorMunki is the same hardware as the i1Display Pro, only the software is different. Mine was the older hockey-puck model, marketed as ColorMunki Smile. In which case it would be worth extracting the most out of it by giving DisplayCAL a try as well as X-Rite's own calibration software.

  • "I'd be very wary of P3 or ProRes, because I doubt the ColorMunki can handle it" That statement makes it sound as if the ColorMunki is less capable than the X-Rite. Is that the case, or am I misinterpreting your statement? – Pete Aug 1 '20 at 8:16
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    Empirically, yes. I started with a Huey Pro, then a ColorMunki & now have the i1Display Pro - each was twice the price of the last & each was a significant improvement. – Tetsujin Aug 1 '20 at 8:19
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    Good to know. Not that I'll go out and get another device because of that - but when it needs a replacement. – Pete Aug 1 '20 at 8:21
  • With X-Rite, the difference in price is for the varying levels of software. The device for all of the X-Rite products is actually exactly the same hardware. – Michael C Aug 1 '20 at 23:59
  • @MichaelC - Good point; I had to look it up. My ColorMunki is actually the older one, the hockey-puck, marketed as ColorMunki Smile. I was unaware they'd updated the hardware since. In that case DisplayCal ought to be able to treat them both the same. – Tetsujin Aug 2 '20 at 7:37

Ideally, yes.

You should calibrate the monitor as closely as possible using the monitor's own "custom" adjustments that allow you to adjust the contrast, R, G, and B channel levels, and brightness independently while measuring the results with your colorimeter. Once you've got as closely as you can using the monitor's controls, then use the colorimeter to do detailed measurements of multiple colors at multiple brightnesses in order to generate a monitor profile for your computer to use when outputting to that monitor.

Most calibration software includes this in the guided process. For the X-Rite system I use the order of adjustment is contrast, RGB, and then brightness. One should note that how each of those things is adjusted will affect the others. If things are more than a bit off, I'll go through that sequence a couple of times until each stays dialed in when moving from one to the next. Only then do I go on to the step where the device and software automatically generate a color profile for the monitor.

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