How to Tweak ClearType in Windows for Better Screen Readability

By Matthew Guay on January 5th, 2017

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ClearType is font-smoothing technology built into Windows to help make text more readable on LCD monitors. If your text is looking a little blurry, tweaking your ClearType settings can definitely help.

There are a few issues that can cause slight blurriness. For starters, you should always use your monitor’s native resolution. Windows uses the native resolution by default, but some games and other apps can lower it and then not reset it properly when they’re done. Also, Windows doesn’t always handle high-DPI displays well without a little tweaking. If neither of those are the cause of your blurry font troubles, the chances are that tweaking your ClearType settings will help.

The instructions in this article apply to Windows 7, 8, and 10, where the ClearType tuner is built in. If you’re still using Windows XP or Vista, you’ll need to download the ClearType Tuner PowerToy for XP (which also works in Vista) and follow the the instructions in this guide. It works very similarly to the built in tuner we’re discussing here.

What Is ClearType?

ClearType is a font smoothing technology first introduced with Windows XP. It is designed to smooth the fonts on your screen with subpixel rendering so that they are more readable on LCD displays. Fonts can easily look jagged and pixelated on LCD screens since they have fixed pixels. This was not a problem with earlier CRT screens, which do not have fixed pixels.

ClearType uses multiple color shading on text to make it look more readable, whereas traditional text rendering only shows only black pixels that can often appear jagged on an LCD display. So, at 500% magnification, standard text rendering looks like this:

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When you enable ClearType, text rendering look like this. Notice the color shading around the characters, which gives the fonts a much smoother look on LCD screens.

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When you bump down the zoom to normal levels, you can see the difference in readability when ClearType is turned off (on the left) and turned on (on the right).

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How to Turn ClearType On or Off

ClearType is enabled by default in Windows 7, 8, and 10. To turn ClearType on or off, you’ll need to launch the ClearType Text Tuner. Hit Start, type “cleartype,” and then select “Adjust ClearType text.”

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To turn ClearType on or off, just select or clear the “Turn on ClearType” option and then click “Next.”

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If you’re turning ClearType off, the wizard will act like it’s going to run you through the ClearType tuning process, but then will give you the opportunity to finish and save your settings. If you’re turning ClearType on—or just want to leave ClearType on and tune it—the wizard will step you through the tuning process (which we’ll cover next).

Tune ClearType for Your Display

In the ClearType Text Tuner, when the “Turn on ClearType” option is enabled and you click “Next,” you’ll get the opportunity to tune ClearType for your display. If you have more than one monitor, you’ll get the the choice of whether to tune all your monitors in turn or just the one you select. We’re just going to tune one in this example, because all the tuner does is run you through all the same steps again for each monitor you have. If you only have one monitor, you won’t see this screen.

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The first thing the tuner will do is make sure the display is set to its native resolution. If it isn’t, you’ll need to change this first. If you’re unsure how, read through our guide to using your monitor’s native resolution.

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Next, you’ll be taken through 4 or 5 screens (depending on your version of Windows) where you’re asked to choose the text that looks best to you out of several examples. The highlighted selection is your current setting, but you can click the example that looks best on each screen and then click “Next.” Just use your best judgment and pick the one that feels right to you.

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When you’re done, click “Finish.” If you have more than one monitor and elected to tune them all, you’ll be taken through the same tuning steps for the next monitor. Otherwise, you’re done and the tuner will close.

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Tuning ClearType can definitely help you get the best looking text on your display. Even if you’re not having issues with blurriness, you might want to run through the tuning options just to see whether you optimize your onscreen reading experience.

Matthew digs up tasty bytes about Windows, Virtualization, and the cloud, and serves them up for all to enjoy!


Walter Glenn is a long time computer geek and tech writer. Though he's mostly a Windows and gadget guy, he has a fondness for anything tech. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Published 01/5/17

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