Beginning Mac: Optimizing Your Display’s Color

With the release of the new MacBooks and Macbook Pros, I suspect there are many of you that have been holding out waiting to buy a new computer, and now that you have your shiny new notebooks, you need to get everything set up just how you like it. One of the most important things you can do is have a screen that you like to look at. This guide will walk you through calibrating your display to show color the way you’d like.

The first thing you want to do is set your screen brightness to the level that you think you will use the most. While the brightness won’t change much with the color, you will notice that certain color adjustments will look different when you change the brightness. Also, you can create different profiles that fit the way you use the computer. You may want to have a setting for watching movies, or editing pictures or typing documents. For this example, I will have the brightness all the way up, and I will be calibrating it for what looks good to me as I write.

Open up System Preferences and choose Displays. Your computer is probably open to “Display” but you want to select “Color.” you will notice that there are probably three profiles there already (Adobe RGB, Generic RGB, and sRGB). You can click on each to get an idea of how different the profiles are from each other. Also, if you like one more than the others, you will know what to shoot for as you calibrate your display yourself. If you want to get started from scratch, then click on “Calibrate…”

Once you get the screen calibration assistant open, you can choose to enable advanced features or leave the basic features as your defaults. The advanced features will take a little longer, but it is all worth it in the name of a beautiful display, right?

The main difference in basic and advanced is shown in the two screenshots below. The first screenshot shows the basic and allows you to choose between different white points. The advanced feature allows you to slide along a continuum of white points and choose the one best for you. The advanced route also offers a few more calibration options.

In the advanced section, you are presented with a five part test which will help you determine your display’s native response. The test reminds me of going to the eye doctor because it will ask you to move sliders until the Apple logo looks a certain way. The first test’s changes are much more drastic than the fifth test’s changes, but each test makes minor changes as you go along, which results in a much different look…that is if your screen wasn’t already suited to your tastes already.

You will need to set gamma and white points after the five-part test. According to, Gamma determines how your computer generates images. W3C defines it as the brightness of mid-level tones in an image. It basically affects the contrast of your display.

The white point calibration will allow you adjust the tint of your display. It basically ranges between yellow and blue. The yellow is typically used by graphic designers, and the blue is more similar to what you’d find on a television. The neutral white is the native white point of your display.

Once you are done calibrating, you will be ready to save your work of art. You can save as many profiles as you would like, though once you get used to one, you will probably stick with it.

Do you change profiles regularly or do you have any better suggestions for setting up your screen to display perfectly?


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