Poor man’s screen calibration

I knew I forgot something…

The whole thingie about monitor calibration was based on using a hardware tool (Spyder from Colorvision, in my case) to generate a Monitor ICC profile. A measurement tool is necessary since our eyes, though very good at seeing differences in direct comparison, are not so good in “absolute terms measurement” (what we are interested in here).

Enhancing monitor rendition with software only

However, there is a way to get a “decent” (or at least to enhance) monitor rendition by using our eyes and a (very simple) software. The idea is that you adjust the monitor’s gamma to a default value of 2.2. Now it is not as precise and good as “proper” (read with hardware device) calibration, but it is better than nothing. If you want, it is like a very simplified and rough xcalib – not as precise and without the ICC profile to load in Cinepaint (or The Gimp or Scribus…)

The principle of the software is to match a average grey zone with another one mixing black and white. You slide a cursor to adjust the monitor gamma – modifying the grey area until it matches the black and white pattern. In case your monitor has a color cast, you have the same possibility with red, green and blue.

The most famous version is Adobe Gamma, but on Linux, there is Kgamma (for KDE, indeed), Monica (based on fltk) and GAMMApage (same author as Monica, GTK Python based).

Here is a screenshot from Monica’s website:


One last word

So many times did I try to “make do” in photography, thinking that I would just “adapt” and “find a way through” and save some money. Believe me, this never works. You end up in frustration, loss of time and money. The first guy who introduced me to photography in his black and white lab in the washroom said to me:

“If you want to progress in photography, you cannot be mean with material”

Well, that doesn’t mean you need to sell a kidney (especially if it is the second one…) to change your professional digital camera every six months, but still: if you are serious about photography, buy the tools that you need to do a serious job. No need to spend $500 on a monitor calibration device, but $80 for a Spyder or a Pantone Huey is a well worth investment.

This will get you a trustworthy screen (that is, if you monitor is not a first generation flat screen) so you know what you do with your colors. And remember than monitor calibration is just one part of a Color Management System. The printing is the other one and we will get to into it really soon 🙂


42 Responses to Poor man’s screen calibration

  1. skimmas says:

    I also fond another software in the ubuntu repositories. http://www.linuks.mine.nu/displaycalibrator/

  2. jcornuz says:

    Hi Skimmas,

    Thanks for sharing. It is a GNUStep version of the poor man’s calibration…
    The freshmeat link would be http://freshmeat.net/projects/displaycalibrator/

    Take care,

  3. glantucan says:


    I thought that loading with xcalib a lprof generated coarse profile would help a lot in this Poor man’s calibration, but after a day of trial and error i found that xcalib refuses to load it,… No, sorry, it says nothing, but no changes. I tested xcalib with a windows generated one and it worked. What’s wrong?

    Thanks in advance


    P.D.: By the way I posted this problem on ubuntu forums too (http://ubuntuforums.org/showpost.php?p=6326297&postcount=5)

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