Calibrating Apple Cinema Display-- 1st time -- i1 Display2


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!

Wow. Great questions, and I totally understand your confusion.

You didn’t actually say this, I’m wondering if you are under the impression that your monitor calibration has a direct effect on your print output? While the monitor calibration is very important (and often overlooked) when trying to match a printer to a screen - it does not actually change how light or dark your prints come out.

Since you haven’t said much about your printer setup, I’d want to know more about that. Have you printed other images that match your screen successfully? So do you have some confidence that your printer and printer profile do a good job? If not you might need a custom profile. How do you know the gray shape is barely visible in print? What light are you using to judge it? If you bring it into a brighter light is the detail there?

Also do you have a means of soft-proofing? Photoshop has a feature under View > Proof Setup > Custom that allow you to view your image through the same profile that you will use to print. It’s really the only way to know ahead of time what your image will look like when it gets printed.

Rendering intent: The kind of shadow detail you are looking for will best be reproduced by printing with Perceptual, or by clicking the blackpoint compensation checkbox in Photoshop.

Before you answer all these questions, read this article: (and also the companion article:

  • especially the sections on the soft-proofing, Lighting, and the White Paper Test. These will go a long way toward answering your questions.

First, thanks so much for your reply and apologies for taking so long to respond. I had tight deadlines to work through, and only now do I have a breather to try to make sense of this issue again.

I thought that by obtaining a calibration device such as the i1 Display2 I’d be achieving a quick once-and-for-all solution whereas I now see that I’m delving into an ever more complicated morrass of color issues. But I do want to get to the bottom of this, if such a thing is possible… so here goes…

I’m going to respond to your questions, item by item:

  1. Yes, I was (am) under the impression that monitor calibration has a direct effect on print output. Is this not the case? In the sense that what I see on the screen is what gets translated to my printer, if that device is also properly calibrated, and then show up on my printout. If this isn’t the case, then I don’t know what to think… and what would be the point of calibration?

  2. My printer setup: I use an Epson Pro 3800, and am pretty sure that it’s reasonably calibrated, even though I’ve used only canned profiles (from Epson and RedRiver). The reason for my thinking is that I recently had an opportunity to compare my printouts with proofs I received from my service bureau, and the colors came very close. (I did this by printing their pdfs on my printer and comparing the colors–the numbers–in Photoshop).

  3. As to the gray-on-black shape – the origin of this whole issue --you ask how I know that the gray shape is barely visible in print. I know based on my own printing of that file. My printouts always showed the gray shape as barely visible, even though on the screen it was very visible. I viewed my printouts in different lights. I printed on different papers. And I always soft-proof, although I’m not very well versed in Rendering intent. I usually use Relative Colorimetric with Blackpoint Compensation selected.

In the end, because I had to deliver the job and was not able to arrive at a conclusion, I sent 2 files to the client’s printer, each with a different opacity for the gray shape. They were kind enough to allow me to consult with them on the phone as to which one looked better, and we went w/ the lighter (higher opacity) version. I have yet to see the printed ad (it doesn’t come out until later this month) and am keeping my fingers crossed.

  1. Obviously, I’d rather not go this route again which is why I’m circling back to my initial questions:

At what luminance should I calibrate my monitor?

How far down should I dial the brightness setting of my monitor before I calibrate my monitor?

  1. One other possibility has occurred to me, concerning the matte papers I’ve been using. Is it possible that even though my Epson Pro 3800 is using the right profiles for these papers (Archival Matte, Photo Quality Matte, etc.) the black ink spreads, or bleeds, more than it should thus overwhelming the gray or non-black areas?

  2. Finally, what would I need to do to get a custom profile? What’s entailed in that? How useful would this be with regard to this one particular issue?

Many thanks in advance for your insights, and all best.

A monitor calibration does not directly change how your prints come out. I just point this out because some people think that if they calibrate their display to be lighter, then their prints will come out lighter as a consequence (which is not true.)

Check the links above for information on how to set your luminance level. That’s what the “white paper test” is all about. It’s impossible to suggest a specific number to you without actually being there. You need to take the brightness of your print illuminant or ambient light into consideration. For darker rooms, the recommended luminance is in the area of 80 cd/m2. For brighter rooms, you could go up to 120 cd/m2 or so.

That’s generally how the procedure works. The calibration software has you dial down the brightness of the monitor in the early steps as part of the profiling process. And then you go through the rest of the process where it reads all the colors.

It is certainly possible that the right custom profile will improve your shadow detail. When Chromix builds custom profiles in our ColorValet Print service, we automatically use a polarizing filter when measuring targets on matte papers. We find that this draws more shadow detail, more differentiation between dark levels in an image, and matte papers need all the help they can get in that area. It’s not a big difference but it’s there. To get a custom profile, go to the ColorValet section of our website and download the ColorValet Client program. You sign up for an account and the software walks you through the steps of printing out a profiling target. Ship the target to us, and we make a profile for you that is (almost) automatically downloaded into your computer.

I am french and don’t speak a very good english. Sorry for that.
I have one question and hopes you can help me. :smiley:
We have a Intel Macmini with a Apple cinema display. We want to calibrate the display with an Optix XR but after all reboot the calibration is not good. It is really bad because when we make a gradient from black to white, we get a black band and a
white stripe with a gradient of gray in between. There should be only a gradient. On Windows XP we have never this problem.
Is this the MacMini that creates this problem? :question:

Welcome! We’re glad to hear your question.

If you have an Optix XR, are you using the Optix software with it? The latest version is V. 2.0.3 - and it works well on the Mac Mini we have tested it on. The Mac Mini is also on the latest upgrade (10.6.3).

Have you checked the display section of System Preferences to see if the new monitor profile is still in place there as the profile for your Cinema display?

The Mac Mini should not be a problem by itself, but there maybe some operating system bugs that would cause this.

The new monitor profil is in place on the Display section of the System preference.
During calibration, the software asks you to set the brightness of the screen. But at this time it seems as if something disrupts the settings. Indeed, if we must drop the display light, the Optix XR registers a drop in brightness, but after one or two seconds the light intensity seems to be automatically increased and the sensor records the increase. It is impossible to adjust the lighting properly. That is certainly what the problem. We have also used a Huey and perhaps it is not properly uninstalled?
It’s very annoying!

That does sound annoying, and very strange. Some displays have an ambient light sensor that will automatically adjust and cause problems like you described - but your Cinema display would not have one of those. The Huey would certainly attempt to correct for the ambient light on your system if it is plugged in. If you unplug it, there should not be a problem. You might look into what processes are running in the Activity Monitor. There may be a Huey code still running in the background.
Other ideas:

  • Are you allowing 30 minutes or so for the display to warm up before calibration?
  • Go into System Preferences, Universal Access, and make sure enhance contrast is all the way to the left (“Normal”). This can sometimes cause problems with some software if it is set to anything else.

i will reinstall the huey software and post after. Hopes it is the problem :slight_smile:

ok it was just a problem in the setting of OS X
This setting is for acces for more contrast. But this setting is very bad for Photoshop. We find this setting and go bake to the standard value.

Now it is fine. Our screen is saved of destruction :smiley: