Many people spend a lot of time using computers, but a lot fewer of us stop to consider whether the colors in our display are actually accurate.
Color accuracy is important if you like to view or edit photographs, or if you work in design. Ensuring that colors and black levels are as they should be will ensure that your final productions are uniform, and that what you’re seeing is true and consistent.
Color calibration hardware is one of the best options for ensuring color accuracy, and there are some great tools on the market to cover every requirement, skill-level, and budget.
How to get the most out of your color calibrator:
- Switch on your display 30 minutes before calibration to ensure that it’s warmed up to its regular operating temperature and settings.
- Ensure that your monitor’s resolution is set to its native screen resolution or default settings.
- Avoid any lighting extremes in the room you’re calibrating in. You don’t need complete darkness but aim for ambient light over any direct lighting or color casting.
X-Rite vs. Datacolor
You’ll notice that two brands dominate our list of best color calibration tools: X-Rite and Datacolor. These two companies don’t have any notable competitors in the market, and each of them offers a superb range of products for novices all the way up to experts.
Here are the best monitor color calibrators on the market right now.
As the name suggests, X-Rite’s ColorMunki Design is aimed at designers and is packed with features that art professionals will love.
- Endless design possibilities with access to every color in the visible spectrum.
- Create your own color palettes and synchronize them to your design software
- Calibrate printers and projectors as well as laptop and desktop displays
This all-in-one spectrophotometer allows you to design using every color of the visible spectrum. You can select colors from X-Rite’s trademarked Pantone Matching System and Pantone Goe libraries, as well as image libraries and capture spot colors.
Once you’ve accessed all the colors you need, you can create your own color palettes to refer back to. And, each palette can be synchronized to Adobe Photoshop CC, InDesign CC, QuarkXpress, and other programs to maintain color consistency.
This tool has the capabilities to calibrate laptops and desktops, and also projectors and RGB and CMYK printers. And, for added peace of mind, you can preview your colors before going into production with X-Rite’s unique verification tools.
Using technology developed by X-Rite, Wacom’s Color Manager delivers pro-level color calibration for film editors, designers, and photographers.
- Manual color control with infinite settings that can be saved and shared
- Compatible with mobile software for Apple and Android calibration
- Automatic display quality checks keep color calibration accurate over time
This is a fantastic color calibration tool for professionals that prefer manual adjustment over their settings. With infinite control of luminance, contrast ratio, gamma, and white point you can get your settings just as you want them. And, you can also save, share and reuse them in the future.
Intelligent interactive profiling measures and analyzes the color capabilities of your screen to ensure complete color accuracy at all times. The broadcast video standard correction is a nice touch for all users and a must-have for editors working on TV content.
People with multi-display setups will love the fact that you can calibrate multiple monitors to deliver the color consistency required by professionals. And, the hardware is also compatible with X-Rite ColorTRUE mobile app if you need that consistency on your Apple or Android phone, too.
And you can work with confidence knowing that automatic display quality checks will keep colors properly calibrated over time, even if the lighting of your environment changes.
With the Spyder5PRO, Datacolor has created what is arguably the best monitor calibration for photographers looking for a simple color correction tool.
- Fast and simple calibration with 16 settings to choose from
- Room light monitoring ensures accuracy in shadows and details
- Before and after calibration evaluation provides a useful reference point
Spyder5PRO is the first of three Datacolor calibrators on our list, and this easy-to-use bit of kit is a brilliant introduction to the brand.
There are 16 color calibration settings to choose from and it takes just five minutes to fully calibrate your laptop or desktop screen. Datacolor’s room light monitoring technology determines exactly how bright your monitors should be in relation to your room, and chooses from one of five ambient light settings to ensure proper representation of the shadows and highlights in your images.
Once your settings are ready you can use your own photos to see a before and after calibration, which is a useful reference point for future calibrations.
This calibrator doesn’t have the manual tweaking power that the next model up has, but it’s still a solid tool for serious creatives who care about color accuracy.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use calibrator that won’t break the bank, X-Rite’s ColorMunki Smile is a great choice.
- Cheap, fast, and easy to use
- Compatible with Apple iOS devices
- See before and after images to check color changes
Created for photography and design hobbyists, this color calibrator couldn’t be easier to use. You don’t need any color science knowledge at all: simply place the hardware on your computer screen, plug it in, follow the on-screen settings.
Despite its easy-to-use format the Smile still has some of the higher-end features that the Design calibrator uses.
You can calibrate multiple monitors to create a consistent workspace, and you can also compare the before and after colors which will serve as a useful reference point for future calibrations.
This color calibrator is compatible with Apple iOS devices as well as your desktop and laptop monitors, via the X-Rite ColorTRUE app. This is great news for anyone who likes to edit on their iPad or iPhone.
If you’re looking for an entry-level calibrator, Datacolor’s Spyder5EXPRESS is the best hardware for the job.
- An easy-to-use product at a great price
- Choose from two fixed calibration settings
- Interactive help guides new users through the calibration process
Two fixed calibration settings are plenty for non-professional photographers and designers, and both can be used on your desktop and laptop displays.
The four-step process couldn’t be easier, and if you do get stuck there’s a great interactive help feature that will guide you through the process.
The before and after calibration evaluation feature seen in the PRO version is still present, but it can only be done with the standard image provided by Datacolor.
If you’re a professional you’d probably be disappointed with the capabilities of this calibrator, but for hobbyists and anyone who’s new to calibration, Spyder5EXPRESS can’t be beaten.
2. X-Rite i1
X-Rite’s i1 is pricy, but you get what you pay for and professionals will love the huge amount of features and options on offer.
- Advanced mode offers unlimited settings for customizable calibration
- Works with the world’s most referenced color management system
- Calibrate mobile devices and projectors as well as computer screens
A basic mode makes calibration quick and simple, but if you prefer to go manual the advanced mode offers unlimited settings.
And, once you’ve set your color profiles, you can use them across multiple screens on the same machine or network for consistency. You can even assess the ambient light of your workspace to determine the best setup for your screens.
The Pantone spot color optimization tool is a great feature for designers, printers, and manufacturers, as you can optimize your color profile to match what’s one of the most used color management systems. Flare Correct is another great feature which adjusts your screen profile to reduce contrast ratios caused by glare on your display.
Mobile device setting capabilities mean that you can calibrate your Apple or Android phone as well as your laptop and desktop screens. You can even calibrate projectors for complete consistency across all your device.
If you’re a professional photographer looking for an expert color calibration solution, Spyder5ELITE from Datacolor is our pick for best monitor calibrator.
- Pro hardware designed for professional photographers
- Expert Console delivers limitless calibration options
- Advanced multiple display matching delivers spectacular consistency
This full-spectrum, seven-color sensor works with laptops, desktops, and projectors, and ensures that your edited images will be printed exactly as you see them on the screen.
For a pro-tool, calibration is surprisingly easy and only takes five minutes for full-color accuracy. The step-by-step Wizard Mode is simple to use, but if you’re a computer pro you might prefer manually tweaking your settings in the Expert Console, which is ultimately the feature you’re paying extra for when compared to Spyder5PRO.
Calibration settings are unlimited and include features such as gray-balancing, luminance, and white point. And, if you have multiple displays you can calibrate them all to a single target, which is a must for designers and photographers who need color consistency across their entire workspace.
Spyder5ELITE doesn’t just focus on color, either. As with the PRO version, this hardware also features room light monitoring but chooses from five ambient light settings rather than just three.
This really is the best monitor color calibrator for photographers and designers.
As per our list, you’ll find yourself choosing between Datacolor and X-Rite technology when looking for a color calibrator for your computer screens. Each brand has a great range of tools to suit different requirements, so whether you’re a professional designer or a hobbyist photographer, there’s a color calibration tool out there for you.
Which is your favorite color calibration tool? Let us know in the comments.