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What is the best software for profiling color monitors?

Answered by Jay Nelson, Editor and Publisher, Design Tools Monthly

My company is thinking about buying the Spyder2 Advanced Monitor Calibration System. Do you have any thoughts on using this tool? Also, I was wondering if you could direct me to a good source for information on monitor color calibration.


Calibrating (or more correctly, profiling) your display is the first step in achieving predictable color output. Fortunately, several affordable devices can make the process painless -- even enjoyable. The least expensive option that I would recommend is Pantone's Huey ($89). This very small USB device creates an accurate color profile for your computer's display, and then stands on your desk to continuously monitor the ambient lighting in the room, adjusting the display to compensate. It looks somewhat like a very large pen. To create your initial profile, you hang it in front of your display and run some software that generates some color patterns. The Huey then reads the color patterns from your display and converts the result to a profile that describes your display's behavior.

A second excellent option is ColorVision's Spyder2Pro Studio ($299). While it doesn't continually monitor the ambient room lighting like the Huey does, it also doesn't need to be connected all the time. And while it costs more, you can use it to create profiles for multiple workstations without requiring additional licensing. It has two levels of measurement to choose from: the basic process takes about five minutes, while the advanced process takes about 30 minutes.

If you're familiar with the original Spyder, you'll be happy to hear that the Spyder2 has been completely reengineered with new light detectors that are five times as sensitive as before, and a new, patented light baffle. ColorVision also includes their DoctorPro software to help you profile your printer to match your display, and a limited edition of Nik's Color Efex Pro LE digital lens filter plug-in for Photoshop.

Either one of these tools will let you easily achieve accurate, neutral color without requiring advanced knowledge of color management. I highly recommend them.

There’s a clear, concise chapter in Jeff Gamet’s book, Designer's Guide to Mac OS X Tiger, that explains the basics of how to set up a color-managed workflow. He was assisted in it by Chris Murphy, co-author of what has become the “bible” of color management: Real World Color Management, 2nd edition. Both titles are published by Peachpit Press, and I recommend both highly.

This question was answered by Jay Nelson, Publisher & Editor, Design Tools Monthly. We love DTM's tips and advice and think you will, too. For a free sample PRINTED issue, contact Design Tools Monthly at 303-543-8400, e-mail, or go to their website:

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