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my head is spinning

(and apologies to the vast majority of the world to whom this is completely boring)

So for the past week, instead of finishing up any of the FIVE SIX blog entries in draft mode, or getting a proposal in for a project I had a shot at, or getting any of a number of things done, I have been spending all my non-toddler time fighting with my monitors. As some of you know, we do full-color work for print pretty regularly, and this requires me to be able to work in CMYK and know that what I'm looking at will print correctly. I've worked for years (really, years, like eight I think) on a Sony Trinitron which I have loved, but it started getting wonky from age a little while back. Trinitrons are no longer being made, and everyone seems to use an LCD these days so I decided to finally give it a try, after being encouraged to do so by several people. Bad idea.

Come to find out, "consumer-grade" LCD monitors (i.e. affordable ones) do not reproduce colors accurately for print (for various reasons I won't go into here but, wow, do I know more about this subject than I ever wanted to or thought I'd need to). I mean, inaccurate as in a failing eight-or-so-year old Trinitron is more accurate. (Although, if you don't need to color match accurately, wow is a nice big LCD easier on the eyes and beautiful for web/writing/general use.)

"Pro-grade" LCDs are out there, but are really not in the budget right now. LED-based LCDs are coming out now and are allegedly super-accurate but my bankbook says no early adoption for me on this one. Trinitrons, as I noted, have been phased out since people don't buy CRTs anymore. So where does that leave me? I'm not sure. At the moment, we're getting ready to re-install the Trinitron and see if it'll hang on long enough to finish our current big illo job. After that, I'm considering dual-monitors to use the LCD for everyday use and the Trinitron for coloring until it finally goes. At which point I have no idea what I'll do.

So that's all I've been doing. Anyone out there do pre-press work (or know someone who does) and have a monitor to recommend? (Or warn me against?) All input is very welcome. And now, back to my headache....

What did you say?

sarah -- i can't recommend anything but i can kvetch for you! i hate it when stuff gets discontinued for no good reason, only to be replaced with stuff that will never, ever work right. grrrrrr. that one was for you.

Do you use any sort of calibration tools? The really good ones are rather pricey, but recently Pantone came out with a pen-sized thing called the Huey:


It's not quite as good as the pro calibrators, but it costs $80 as opposed to $500 and it's a snap to use. Even when you're not doing a calibration, it's measuring the light in the room and adjusting the monitor to keep the color and brightness consistent from morning to night.

Nothing can truly take the place of $2300 in pro gear, but the Huey will probably get you pretty damned close. I first tried it on a rather ancient Dell notebook and after ten minutes I discovered that nope, it wasn't just the age of the display...it was quickly looking as good as my new iMac.

I actually had a (an inconclusive) conversation with my friend about monitor calibration not half an hour ago.

I have an LCD monitor that I can't calibrate for the life of me. But I keep looking at Spyders (http://www.colorvision.com/index_us.php) and wonder if one would really help or not.

If you try one, please to share?

BTW, wandered over from Mr. Dorkin's LJ.

Hi, Sarah! I had problems like this in the past with LCD's and the only solution I could find was to borrow a Pantone book (I was at Nickelodeon at the time) and match the numbers in the book to Photoshop's Pantone Color Picker. It's not the best solution, of course, but it will get you through a few projects as long as the colors are flat. Hope that's helpful.


Jeez, I just re-read what I wrote and now I don't make any sense even to me. I meant "match the colors one-by-one an a color-by-color basis to each separate color in the Pantone book to the individual colors in Photopshop Color Picker." Oh, God. That probably sounds even more horrible. I quit now.

Have you decided that trying to calibrate your new monitor will not work? You can get calibrators that will work for LCD monitors. This seems like a good survey review of them. I honestly don't have any experience with these, but you could at least investigate them.

Alternately, you could hook up your old failing Trinitron as a second monitor on your computer and just use it for color matching while using the nice new LCD for everything else.

Uh, it looks like it would help if I actually read all the way to the bottom of your post, huh?

I would use the calibration wizard in System preference's Display section, if you used a Mac.

Hit Craigslist in your area and, under For Sale/Computers, see if someone is offering a decent CRT monitor. Or check eBay. I've seen nice flat-screen CRTs for $100 or less. I still have my CRT, and I'm not sure I would choose an LCD willingly, as I do a lot of work on this machine.

Hi Sarah,

Consumer LCD monitors are notoriously bad at color reproduction, and if it's at all possible, I would recommend that you get ahold of an inexpensive CRT to do color work.

Otherwise, you might have some luck with color-correction software, depending on the operating system and graphics software you are using to do your coloring and the type of LCD monitor you have...

Personally, I use Adobe Gamma (which is installed automatically with Photoshop) to color correct my LCDs under Windows, but it is still an imperfect solution and has to be reset every now and then. There are other free and/or inexpesive programs for LCD monitors out there that might do the job as well.

Good luck!

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Hi, comments are closed on all archived entries at this site now. I've moved to my new site, Colorkitten, and taken all my entries along with me! Feel free to find this entry there and comment; comment on a newer entry; or, email me. Thanks for stopping by!