test pattern

Modern desktop operating systems like Windows and Mac OS X offer built-in tools for calibrating your display‘s brightness, contrast, gamma, and color levels. This can help make text more readable and give images and videos more accurate colors.

Sure, digital photography professionals will want to use colorimeters to do this. But, if you don’t have such a tool and just want to make some quick adjustments, you can just do it with your eye.

Before performing any of these steps, ensure you’re using your display’s native resolution.

Use Your Monitor’s On-Screen Controls

RELATED: Improve Digital Photography by Calibrating Your Monitor

If you have a monitor with on-screen controls, you can do this just by pressing those buttons. But it’s hard to adjust options without anything to go by. Use the Lagom LCD monitor test pages (or a similar online tool) and you’ll have on-screen test patterns that you can look at while calibrating the various settings. Go through the pages one by one and they’ll explain what you need to look for when adjusting the various settings on your monitor.

If you don’t have such on-screen buttons — let’s say you have a laptop, for example — you can also use the tools built into Windows and Mac OS X.

Windows 10, 8.1, 8, and 7

Windows has had a built-in display-calibration tool since Windows 7. To open it, launch the Control Panel. On Windows 10 or 8.1, you can do this by right-clicking the Start button and selecting “Control Panel”.

Click “Hardware and Sound” in the Control Panel window, click “Display”, and then click the “Calibrate color” link at the left side of the Display control panel.

You can also open the Start menu, type “calibrate” into the search box, and click the “Calibrate display color” shortcut that appears to launch the calibration tool directly.

The Display Color Calibration tool will appear. This tool will walk you through adjusting the various options — gamma, brightness, contrast, and color balance — explaining what option means and what you’re looking for when adjusting each option. Windows does a good job of explaining what you need to know, so just read along as you go through the wizard.

Mac OS X

Mac OS X has its own display calibration tool built-in. To open it, click the Apple menu on the menu bar at the top of your screen and select “System Preferences”. Click the “Displays” option in the list.

Click the “Color” tab at the top of the window, and then click the “Calibrate” button.

This opens the Apple Display Calibrator Assistant. It will walk you through calibrating the display’s various settings, explaining what you need to know and how to select the ideal option on the way. Different settings may be available on different displays. The assistant will explain what you need to know and what you should look for when adjusting various settings.

Modern Linux desktop environments may have display-and-color calibration built into their control panels, too. Of course, if you’re using a Linux desktop, you can also just load the color calibration web pages and adjust the settings on your monitor itself.

Chromebooks and Chromeboxes don’t have any built-in tools for this as it’s just not integrated into Chrome OS. If you’re using a Chromebook with an external monitor or a Chromebox, however, you can use the above web pages and adjust the settings using the buttons on the monitor itself.

Image Credit: Denelson83 at Wikipedia

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Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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