This is my first time calibrating my monitor and I’m a bit stumped by some of the settings. Specifically, luminance levels. I usually keep my monitor on the lowest brightness level possible anyway, even before doing any calibration. So my question is: when it says that the ideal LCD luminance setting is 110 or 120 or 90, my question is: at what brightness?
Here’s my problem: I’m designing a print piece that has a large 2-tone gray shape on a pitch black background, on top of which bright colored text will appear. On the screen, it all looks great. The gray shape is visible enough to detach from the black background and for the gradations to be seen while at the same time remaining muted and dark enough to let the colored text pop. I have that shape at 35% opacity.
But in print this gray shape is barely visible – it bleeds into the black. So I upped the opacity to 45%, at which point the grays become more visible and closer to the appearance described above (but the picture on the screen becomes much too bright). If i up the opacity, will it print too bright at the press?
Here’s where the monitor calibration comes in:
I purchased the i1 Dispaly 2 so as to solve this quandary, but I’m no closer now than i was before.
My first calibration: 5000K, 2.2, luminance 85.7 (gray shape is barely visible in print)
My second calibration: 5000K, 2.2, luminance 90.6 (this is even worse: the shape is even darker, practically not there).
Prior to calibration, I got slightly better results, maybe because I always keep the monitor at a very low brightness level. It’s an Apple so no hard numbers, just a slider with bars, so let’s say I keep it at just 1 or 2 bars. After much trial and error, I discovered that this was the only way to avoid overly dark printouts. Again, this is prior to actual monitor calibration, just eye-balling.
When I ran the calibration software, I thought, hmmm, I bet these things weren’t meant to be used with brightness set so low. So I upped the bars to 4 for the 2nd calibration attempt and that’s how I got the 90.6 luminance. Which proves my point, kind of, because the printout using that profile was way too dark.
So what’s the right way to calibrate? Leave the brightness level at the low setting I’ve been using all along? Seems to me that if I have to make that decision myself – essentially eyeballing, as I’ve been doing all along – then what good is the monitor calibration hardware? I thought the device would figure out the optimal settings based on the readings it took off my screen.
Anyway, I’m very confused about all of this and totally frustrated by my inabilty to reproduce the lightness levels (or maybe it’s contrast?) of that gray on black shape in print.
Maybe this isn’t even a realistic expectation. Maybe it’s to be expected that this will require a much lighter version for it to appear in print. I don’t know. I just don’t want to err on the bright side and ruin this piece.
I would greatly appreciate input and some help in understanding these issues, especially with regard to luminance vs monitor brightness levels. I haven’t seen this part of the process explained anywhere. How bright do I set my monitor to get the right luminance level? How likely is it that I can translate the brightness levels on my screen into equivalent brightness in print? Mind you, I’m not even talking about color, it’s just grays and blacks.
I hope this isn’t too confusing. I know I’m combining a few different issues here, but they’re all related to color management and the desire for a high quality outcome in print.
Many thanks in advance!