Posted on March 25, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Pretty Correct Colors!

First off lets go back about a week in time…

I am NOT a GUI guy, photo guy, etc.  I traditionally have been a systems administrator, lately I’ve gone more whole hog into web application development.  But I still don’t do UI.  So color has never really felt that important to me.  I know my display isn’t right, and it bothers me a bit but it doesn’t cripple me.  Sometimes the grays wash out, they turn blue, colors just aren’t quite right.

My editor displays little gray pips for spaces, they show up well on my 21″ (Sun GDM-5010PT) Sony Trinitron monitor w/ built in color correction/calibrations.  On my (cheap) ASUS G50vt laptop (the same one that the integrated keyboard has a horribly broken debounce to the point it misses keystrokes and words constantly), they’re almost invisible.  The color rendition is quite frankly, just plain bad.  I figure there’s nothing that can fix it.  But being an adventurous soul, I decide to plop down about $230 on a color calibration dongle and software.  If nothing else the Trinitron will probably look better, and I can quantify how bad the laptop is…Figuring worst case I’m out $230 and then won’t be tempted again.  But I’m still definitely as skeptic.

Flash forward a week….

Device arrives, I hook it up, download software from the manufacturers web site and install it.  The device came with a CD but as we all know, they’re always out of date, this one was from ~2007, there is rather quite a bit more up to date software available on the website from the manufacturer.

The software asks a few basic questions about the display, and it’s adjustment capabilities.  Advising on how they should be set, presumably to achieve correct calibration.

After answering the software’s questions which are basic, despite reviews to the contrary.  I hang the dongle over my laptops display as directed and tell it to go to work.  It displays black/white/red/green/blue and samples many levels of each.  After it’s done it applies the profile to the OS’s color calibration system (Windows 7 Ultimate x64 in this case).

Immediately I notice the display color is, overall, a bit warmer, that’s expected, since this display was always on the cool/cold side anyway.  I finish out the utility, and fire up my editor.

I can see the little gray pips that indicate spaces now…the gray title bars show up much more clearly now…

I fire up my web browser and go to newegg.com, which has this light manila background that never really showed up before.  It pops, just like it’s supposed to.  I go hit php.net, which I know has quite a lot of fairly subtle greys, blues, and purples.  Amazing, they all show up now. I spend a few minutes visiting some web sites, and am amazed at the details that now appear, and were so washed out before.  Even my WordPress admin area on this blog looks better, easier to read, as it was intended!

Now, like I said, not a GUI/graphics guy, but I know how to adjust my contrast, brightness, and backlight settings to correct black or white aliasing, simple issues.  But that’s nowhere near enough to fix an overall color rendering or temperature problem.  I can fiddle in the nVidia (or ATI) control panel applets and get it better, but never have I gotten it good, much less great, especially on this particular laptop display.

At this point I have to say wow.  My laptop display looks better than my 21″ Trinitron tube….I can’t wait to try it on that!  I’m definitely *sold*.

The specific device I grabbed was a Datacolor Spyder 3 w/ the Elite software because I figured if I like it or use it at all I’ll need multiple monitors, and multiple machines.

I’ve always said that if you’re doing any sort of graphics development,  you need color calibration.  I now would go so far as to say if you’ve ever been irritated by your laptop, or other display, you need color calibration.  If you’re doing ANY sort of UI work, at all, you need color calibration.  It is WELL worth it.

I wish I could show the difference, unfortunately I can’t, but it really is night and day.

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2 Responses to “Pretty Correct Colors!”

  1. flickr.com/photos/lanc… on March 25th, 2010 at 14:32 says:

    I picked up a Spyder 2 a couple years ago because I bought two identical Samsung monitors and they had noticeably different color rendering. It helped quite a bit, but it’s been a while since I’ve used it. It’s kind of a pain actually. In the future when I buy monitors, I’ll be looking for ones with good color calibration built in.

  2. SysOp on March 25th, 2010 at 14:36 says:

    I don’t know how different the process is with the Spyder 3 versus the 2, but the “assistant” based calibration process was simple and quick. I think it took me maybe 15 minutes from unbox to done. But there again, I also know where to go to disable the control panel tweaks, and I also do know my display capabilities (this one ONLY has backlight control)

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