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?



It is essential to sort this if you are in any way serious about design screen/print! I had a desktop PC and my macbook side by side when doing took an hour or so to figure out how to get rid of the awful cold blue tint in every calibration test. Using the standard apple calibrator as seen above what solved it for me was in “expert mode” to set the “target white point” at D50 instead of the default D65, obviously follow the steps before this to suit you!

John Merrick

I work as graphic designer and got an ES-1000 calibrator from EFI. I did the professional calibration and also this one that you described here. Both are quite similar.
I take lot of time to move all the adjustments, from heavy differences to small ones to make my brain get used to those changes. I also put my glasses off, in this case “being almost blind :P” helps you a lot to blur the “apple” and do a better adjustment.
I set my computer to automatically “wake up” one hour before I arrive my Job place so the colour and bright is more stable.
At the end I print my design (in a Digital professional printing) and check the result of calibration, compare both and decide if this works or not. Normally always work fine with the integrated Apple Colour Sync Tool.

…And yes, try to have always the same ambient light around, otherwise it’s impossible to see the same day by day.

Richard Earney

Find a friend who has a calibration device – if you use the built in ‘by eye’ method it so depends on your quality of vision.

For photographic/retouching work it is next to useless.

Adam Stevenson

A lot depends on the ambient light when you do the calibration, too. When I was using my old iBook I had a job where I sat next to a large window. Calibrated on a sunny day everything looked fine. On a cloudy day, or when I took the iBook home, the colors would be off, usually much too cool (blue-green). I set up 3 profiles in the end, “work sunny” “work cloudy” and “home”. In the case of this particular computer, “work cloudy” was essentially the default, “home” was very close to default, “work sunny” was a fairly big change from default.

Something else worth noting, the MacBook I have in my office today is connected to an Acer monitor. By calibrating each screen, I have finally ended up with consistent color across both monitors.


Yes, I also get a heavy bluish green tint on my screen after calibrating. I just go with the sRGB.


I just did the same thing and the result is heavy toward blue. I immediately set it back to default.


I’ve gone through that calibration before (on a previous MBP) and got the same results: a much cooler profile than the default, and I prefer the default. I’m curious if others have been put off by noticeable shifts in color temperature.

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