I just finished re-calibrating my display using ArgyllCMS and my Pantone Huey, and I would like to validate somehow that I've done it correctly. How can I do so simply, without buying more stuff?

(I've done some Googling, which reveals tons of test images and instructions, and I'm having a hard time cutting through the pile.)

I don't have a printer and use online services for printing.

Edit: I'm not looking for anything terribly precise, just a sanity check. For example, one test image says something like "you should be able to distinguish all the blacks down to number N".

Another way of expressing the question might be: is it worthwhile to download one of those test images, and if so, which one?

  • Could you be more specific on how you calibrated your monitor?
    – Alan
    Jan 9 '11 at 23:52
  • 1
    @Alan, sure; question edited.
    – Reid
    Jan 10 '11 at 0:11
  • I've got to admit, I don't think you can be entirely sure without something in hand and that's probably going to be a buck or two... :)
    – Joanne C
    Jan 10 '11 at 4:28
  • What you actually want to accomplish with color calibration is predictable end result. Therefore, you should check against the end result, which, for a prosumer level, is generally a high-end inkjet printer output. Check multiple labs in your area, if there are such, compare them, and establish good relationship with the one you can really trust. You should aim for talking directly to the guy/girl in the lab who is going to feed your files to the printer. Color management is not simple and you probably need a few rounds to get it really right.
    – user1774
    Jan 10 '11 at 15:33

One way is to have a test image printed by a reputable lab that supports ICC color profiles. When you receive the prints, compare the image to your monitor. If your monitor is correctly calibrated, then your print color should match.

The secondary benefit of checking using this method is that you are also verifying that your images will print correctly using your preferred printer.

  • 1
    this smells good; do you have suggestions for a good test image? Or should I ask a new question?
    – Reid
    Jan 11 '11 at 23:55
  • 1
    I went with WHCC when I went through this... And I used the image here northlight-images.co.uk/article_pages/… and 4 other images of my own that I am picky about the color of. (WHCC gives you 5 free test prints when you get setup)
    – chills42
    Jan 12 '11 at 1:45
  • Would using a regular ol' gray card work as a start?
    – SailorCire
    Nov 20 '15 at 14:07

It's impossible to validate your color calibration without a 'real world' calibration source... Literally something that you're able to hold up to your monitor and saying 'yep, those colors on the screen are matching what I'm holding in my hand.' If you don't have a (reliable) printer in order to check your calibration, you can buy a calibrated color checker card such as the X-Rite ColorChecker Classic. After you take a picture of the card you'll be able to hold the card up to the screen and verify whether or not the colors are correct...

Edit: I realize that this doesn't fulfill your requirement of 'not buying something,' but short of a printer to generate that real-world source for you, you're probably stuck shelling out some $$$.

  • 1
    I have to agree with Jay. Without a quality printer that you can trust to produce a valid print, you'll need to buy something with known colors to compare with. A color checker card is probably going to be far cheaper than a professional printer. I use the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport myself. Its small, $100, and has three sets of color swatches: a gray card, the standard color checker patches, and a set of white balance color patches (for using something like the Lightroom white balance picker on.) Its a VERY useful buy, and will also serve to validate your calibration.
    – jrista
    Jan 10 '11 at 2:57
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    That's the card I use too. Unlike some of the 'peripheral' stuff I've bought for my cameras over the years, the Passport has been money very well spent for me... Jan 10 '11 at 3:03

For me, the best way to determine if I had properly calibrated my monitor was to print something.

If you have a printer that's been properly calibrated, or isn't too far off from what the manufacturer expects, then you should be able to 'just print', and the print should look like the monitor screen (at least, in the same light that you calibrated the monitor).

If you don't want to calibrate your printer, you're kind of shooting in the dark here, so to speak, and hoping that your printer is properly calibrated, such that the print looks like the monitor screen.

Another way to do this is to look on the same print on multiple different monitors all calibrated with the same tool. Again, they should look very similar, although different monitors may display different gamuts and therefore lead to different appearances, despite all being calibrated by the same device.

  • +1. In my particular case unfortunately, I'm not 100% confident in that, since I rely on others to print, and a print that doesn't match could have had color problems at many places along the way.
    – Reid
    Jan 10 '11 at 0:13
  • 1
    Yes, once someone else is doing the printing, you really can't know exactly what they're doing. Having said that, I've found that the more reputable labs will give you the option to print using the exact color profile you give them with the image, rather than making their own adjustments. Take a look here for the adjustments labs can make: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/6453/…
    – mmr
    Jan 10 '11 at 0:36

I think you could just take a picture of something, making sure to calibrate the camera first using a white sheet of paper or something, and make sure the color looked right. If it looks the same on the monitor that it does in real life, it should be pretty closely calibrated. Short of that, well, I really don't know what you could do...

  • 2
    "White" is about as subjective as it gets. ;P I could probably string off 20 different variations of white right here and now...
    – jrista
    Jan 10 '11 at 2:44
  • Yeah, I know... Something like printer paper, or something like that might work well... Without buying anything... Well, it's a tall order. Jan 10 '11 at 4:57

The online printing service that you use may be able to provide a calibration print.

For example, Photobox provides a sample image which they tend to give free with your first order. I suspect any good printing shop would be happy to send you a calibration print for free or for postal costs.

When you have this, just compare the print with the online version and try to adjust your monitor / colour settings appropriately.


Would something like X-Rite ColorChecker Passport do it for you?

It probably (my research is underway) comes with test images. (If not, take a picture of it yourself) load the test image up on the screen - see if it matches what's in your hand?


Do you have Windows 7? If so, it has a color calibration like "set X until you distinguish the black lines", etc.

Control Panel\Appearance and Personalization\Display


Remember there's a difference between monitor calibration and printer calibration. I am not too clear on the specifics, so please correct me if I am wrong.

The way I understand it is you want to edit the file on a calibrated monitor. Then when it's the way you want it, add the printer's ICC profile to the file and send that to the printer.

Most labs will provided you with an ICC file. Most Costco's in the US are helpfully kept online and recent here. If everything is working correctly, then the printed output should match what you see on the monitor. See here and here for info on soft proofing and how to do it in Photoshop.

  • Actually printers seem to emphasize that you should not add the printer's profile to the image; rather, the printer profile should be used for soft-proofing and the image should be left in the working space or set to a specific profile (usually sRGB).
    – Reid
    Jan 11 '11 at 23:56
  • @Reid, you are correct. Edited my original answer.
    – AngerClown
    Jan 12 '11 at 3:00

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