A Datacolor calibration puck on a computer monitor.
Jason Fitzpatrick / How-To Geek
Configuring multiple monitors to match each other is tricky, but with a calibration tool or patient fine-tuning of software settings, you can color-match your monitors to each other.

Struggling to get multiple monitors properly color-matched? Whether you’re doing so just to soothe your eyes or because you need good color calibration for your hobby or job, here’s how to get the most accurate color representation on multiple monitors.

Why Calibrate Your Monitor Colors?

If you only have a single monitor, there is a good chance you’ve never thought much about the color calibration of your monitor. Outside of a monitor wildly miscalibrated (possibly thanks to your kids fiddling with the display settings) or needing precise color calibration for photography or graphic design work, most people don’t think about or fuss with the settings.

But if you’re anything like me, you love working on a big, beefy desktop PC with as many monitors as will fit on your big, beefy desk. And if you’re like me in that regard, it probably also drives you crazy when those monitors’ colors and image settings don’t match exactly.

I won’t lie: getting your monitors to match each other is a tough chore, especially if they’re from multiple manufacturers or product lines. It’s doubly difficult if you’re trying for color accuracy, a crucial component if you’re working in media production. But there are a few tips you can use to get your multiple screens as close as possible.

So whether you’re just trying to get a few monitors to look about the same or want every monitor in your setup to be perfectly calibrated for your workflow, we’re here to help.

Why Don’t My Screens Match?

There are a variety of reasons why the images on your different monitors don’t match each other. The simplest is that each monitor is different; production variables and assembly flaws can mean that even monitors with exactly the same model won’t have colors that match up perfectly.

Even if you buy identical monitors, it’s possible that they still won’t be close enough for your discerning eyes. The age and use of a monitor will affect its LCD screen, and manufacturers sometimes use multiple part suppliers for the same products—two “identical” monitors might have LCD panels that didn’t even come from the same country.

And all of that assumes that there aren’t any flaws with the specific monitor units you’re using, which is certainly possible since monitors are big, bulky items that are easily damaged when being packed or moved.

A picture of a triple montor setup.
Jason Fitzpatrick / How-To Geek

These problems are multiplied if your monitors aren’t the same model from the same manufacturer. Different types and qualities of LCD (TN, IPS, VA), backlight types and quality, brightness, connection type, contrast ratio, viewing angle, and of course, size and resolution can all affect the colors that you see on screen.

If you’re mixing and matching monitors, it’s almost impossible to get them to match perfectly. Don’t be surprised if, despite your best efforts, the pure white on one monitor never looks exactly like the pure white on the other. It’s a bummer, especially if you’re upgrading a setup over a few years and looking for deals along the way. If you’re ready to upgrade your hodge-podge mixture of monitors to something more modern, we have plenty of premium monitor and budget-friendly monitor suggestions.

Finally, there is one variable to always keep in mind. The view angle of a monitor shifts the monitor’s color, as perceived by the viewer. If you’ve, historically, only used a single monitor positioned directly in front of you may not have run into this issue. But the monitors placed to the side (and/or above) of your primary monitor will have a different angle than the main monitor.

Especially in the case of large widescreen monitors, even with calibration, the angle and the distance across the monitor panel will lead to minor inconsistencies in color.

It’s important to keep that in mind based on what your color adjustment goals are. If your goal is to make it seem like all your monitors have the same color as seen from the position you regularly sit in, then you will need to adjust the settings with that target in mind. If the goal is to have every monitor professionally tuned to an outside reference point, then you’ll need to do that instead of eyeballing it.

The Most Accurate Way: Use a Monitor Calibration Tool

If your interest in calibrating one or more monitors stems not from simply wanting them to look similar but from an actual professional need (be it a serious hobby interest or an actual job), you need to use a hardware-based calibration tool.

Unlike using settings on your computer or monitor, a hardware-based calibration tool (often called a “calibration puck” based on the shape of the device) analyzes the color as emitted by the screen.

There are a variety of calibration tools on the market, but we recommend the Datacolor Spyder X. Not only is it a great all-around color calibration tool from a company well-established in the market, but that particular model supports multiple monitors, room light monitoring, and more.

Datacolor Spyder X Elite

The Spyder X Elite is the best choice for creative professionals and hobbyists working in an environment with multiple monitors. It offers all of the regular features of the Spyder line, with monitor matching and side-by-side calibration.

For most folks, a dedicated calibration device might is a bit overkill. But we note it before digging into the other solutions because it is the only method of calibrating your monitor to a known reference point.

If you’re producing video, animation, or photography, and you want those creations to have consistent color representation when viewed elsewhere (especially when they are printed), then you should consider a dedicated calibration device.

And, we’ll be the last to judge if your professional need is actually “not having a professionally calibrated monitor makes my brain itch” because we get that. Once you know it’s possible to calibrate your monitor to a fixed reference point instead of just winging it, then it’s hard to let go of the dream of a perfectly calibrated display.

But if you’re not a professional and you’re not obsessed with perfectly calibrating your monitor, it’s OK to skip spending hundreds of dollars on a monitor calibration tool.

The Easy Way: Monitor Display Controls

You might have considered the physical buttons and on-screen display as a potential option for adjusting your display settings and discounted it. But don’t be too quick to do so as it’s a surprisingly easy and effective way to match the colors of your monitor.

(Note: With some monitors, you may also be able to adjust your screen’s brightness with an app like ScreenBright or Display Tuner, which will be much easier than using the on-panel buttons—though these apps won’t work with all monitors.)

A close up view of an on screen display on a computer monitor.
Michael Crider / How-To Geek

The most crucial bit to adjust manually is the monitor brightness. Not only does this affect color brightness and tone, it’s pretty much the only thing that can’t be adjusted via software. So use the brightness adjustment tool in the hardware settings to get all of your monitors at roughly the same level of light output—you may need to adjust some non-obvious settings like “economy mode” or “game mode” to get the closest match possible.

If you want to go for crazy precision, you’ll need a light meter (skip the “light meter” apps in the app store, they’re next to useless). Set one monitor to a blank white screen (Google for a white image then set your browser to full screen for an easy way to do this), then turn off the others. Hold your phone about six inches from one monitor, check the light level, then repeat the process with your other monitors. Match them as close as you can.

Once you have brightness matched up, adjust the rest of the color and picture values on all monitors simultaneously. A color pattern image, like the one below, can help. Move the window with the image onto each monitor as necessary, or just open it in multiple tabs and spread them out.

A color calibration chart, designed to assist people in manually calibrating their monitors.

Check the following settings, and any other options that can affect the picture contrast, brightness, and color:

  • Contrast
  • Sharpness
  • Red/Green/Blue color values
  • Color “Tone” or “Warmth”
  • Gamma Setting
  • “Display Modes” like gaming, video, etc.

This will take a while. If your monitors offer it as an option, it’s best to set the on-screen menu timeout to its maximum setting, so that the menu for one monitor won’t shut off while you’re working on another one.

The Hard Way: Operating System and Graphics Card Settings

Compared to fiddling with your monitors’ on-screen display menus, digging into the software settings for your operating system or graphics card is a bit fussier.

Adjust the Color Settings at the Operating System Level

Both Windows and macOS offer OS-level color calibration tools that can be adjusted per monitor. Here’s how to use them.

Windows: Use the Color Management Tool

In Windows, the tool is called Color Management and is found in the Control Panel. You can look there or pull it up by searching for “Color Management” with the Start Menu search box.

You’ll need to make a custom profile for each monitor: select the display from drop-down menu under Device, then click “Use my settings for this device.” Now click “Add.” You can choose from dozens of pre-set profiles. (You might even be able to find one for your monitor as a starting point.)

an image showing the monitor settings on a Windows PC.

Now select the next monitor under “Device” and repeat the process, selecting the same profile.

Click the “Advanced” tab, then the “Calibrate Display” button. This will open a wizard that will let you adjust more advanced controls for the selected profile, like the gamma, brightness, and contrast—though it’s mostly a series of reference images.

You can use this process to re-do the section above with hardware controls, checking the various color profiles available for matching and accuracy.

an image showing the contrast calibration on a Windows PC.

Once all of your monitors are using the same profile, you can go back to the first section and fine-tune your settings with the hardware controls.

macOS: Pop Into the Display Settings

In macOS, click the System Preferences icon on the dock (the grey gear on the right), Then click “Displays.” Click the “Color” setting on the right.

an image showing the display settings on a Mac computer.

You can click all of the available profiles and see how they apply to the screen immediately (or grab one for your model monitor).

When you’ve found the one you want, click “Calibrate.” Thankfully, macOS has a neat step-by-step calibration wizard that will walk you through all of the applicable settings and let you adjust them one by one.

an image showing the advanced contrast settings on a Mac computer.

Just click “Continue” and follow the process through to the “Target White Point.” Un-click the “Use native white point” option to adjust this manually, matching up with your other displays. Click “Continue” until you’re all the way through the wizard. Repeat this process for all your connected displays.

Adjust Your Graphics Adapter Settings

For more exact options on Windows, you’ll want to dive into the settings application provided by your GPU maker. For most laptops and inexpensive desktops, this will be Intel (because the graphics adapter is integrated into the CPU), though AMD machines will have something similar. All of them can be accessed from the context menu on the desktop—this right-click menu.

an image showing desktop context menu to access the NVIDIA control panel software.

Intel HD Graphic Control Panel

For Intel integrated graphics, right-click an empty area of the desktop to open the context menu, then click “Graphics properties.” The next steps will vary depending upon your model and its Intel GPU, but you’re looking for the main display menu.

an image showing Intel's HD Graphics Control Panel for adjusting integrated graphics color settings.

From here, click “Color Settings.” This screen allows you to adjust settings like brightness, contrast, gamma, and the individual RGB levels. It’ll select your main display by default—choose other screens my clicking the “Select Display” menu. Repeat the process on multiple screens, and combine with hardware controls to get the closest match you can.

NVIDIA Control Panel

If your PC has an NVIDIA GPU, right-click the desktop, then click “NVIDIA Control Panel.” (If you don’t see this option, you may need to install the correct driver for your graphics card.) In the menu on the left, click “Adjust desktop color settings.”

This screen will allow you to select your monitor at the top, then make adjustments to the picture at the bottom. Make sure the option for “Use NVIDIA settings” is enabled, then make adjustments as you like. Note that you can use the “Color channel” drop-down menu for even finer controls based on Red, Green, or Blue channels.

an image showing the NVIDA graphics settings interface.

Keep an eye on the reference image on the right. You can switch between reference images, and move the window between monitors to check your changes. Click “Apply” to save your settings for the current monitor, then select a new one and repeat the process.

AMD Radeon Settings

If your PC has an AMD GPU or APU, right-click the desktop, then click AMD Radeon Settings. If you don’t see this option, download the latest graphics card driver for your GPU and install it. In the Radeon Settings menu, click the “Display” tab, then the “Color” icon on the right.

an image showing how to select the Color menu in the AMD Radeon graphics card software.

From here, you can adjust the Color Temperature, brightness, hue, contrast, and saturation values. The controls aren’t quite as fine as NVIDIA’s, but you can still use the reference images on the right to check the colors against other displays and move the window back and forth.

an image showing the advanced color settings in the AMD Radeon graphics card software.

Click the Display button at the top of the window and repeat the process for each monitor.

By using the techniques outlined in this article you can adjust your monitors so there is no longer a discordant variation between one panel and the next. Even if you opt to skip using a physical calibration tool, simply making small adjustments across each monitor can make differences in the color output less jarring.

And, of course, if you’ve realized in the course of fiddling with your monitors that one or more of your monitors is hopeless old or out of spec, it might be the perfect time to upgrade your monitor. Even the budget computer monitors of today are lightyears ahead of older monitors in terms of color reproduction, adjustability, and other features.

The Best Budget Monitors of 2023

Dell S2721QS
Best Overall Budget Monitor
Dell S2721QS
Gigabyte M27Q
Best Budget Gaming Monitor
Gigabyte M27Q
Best Budget Ultrawide Monitor
Best Budget Curved Monitor
LG 32UN500-W
Best Budget 4K Monitor
LG 32UN500-W
Dell S2722QC
Best Budget Mac Monitor
Dell S2722QC
Profile Photo for Michael Crider Michael Crider
Michael Crider is a veteran technology journalist with a decade of experience. He spent five years writing for Android Police and his work has appeared on Digital Trends and Lifehacker. He’s covered industry events like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Mobile World Congress in person.
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Profile Photo for Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Senior Smart Home Editor at How-To Geek. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at How-To Geek, Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker's Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek.
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