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How do I calibrate my monitor color bars?

Calibrating your monitor is an important step in ensuring color accuracy for design work, photo editing, and other tasks where color representation matters. The color bars displayed on your monitor allow you to adjust the monitor’s colors to standard reference points. Here is a step-by-step guide to properly calibrating your monitor using the built-in color bars.

Check your monitor’s OSD settings

The first step is to bring up your monitor’s on-screen display (OSD) settings menu. The specifics will vary depending on your monitor brand and model, but there should be a way to access the OSD using the buttons on your monitor. Look for a “Menu” or “Settings” button to bring up the options.

Within the OSD, find the reset option to reset your monitor to its default color settings. This gives you a clean starting point before calibration. Also disable any eco modes or power saving settings which could affect brightness and cause inaccurate colors.

Display the color bars

Next you need to bring up the monitor’s built-in color bars. There should be an option for this in the OSD settings. Enable the color bars to display on your screen. The bars will show basic colors at different brightness levels from dark to light.

Set brightness and contrast

With the color bars displayed, you can now adjust the monitor’s brightness (black level) and contrast (white level) settings. The goal is to be able to clearly distinguish each color bar while making sure the darkest black is just visible and the brightest white is not overly bright:

  • Adjust brightness so the darkest black bar is just barely visible.
  • Adjust contrast so the brightest white bar is vivid but not glaring.

Getting the ideal brightness and contrast balance takes some trial and error. The settings will interact with each other. Adjust each, then toggle back and forth to get the right balance. The bars should transition smoothly from black to white.

Adjust individual R, G, B color settings

Once you have the brightness and contrast balanced, you can fine tune the individual red, green, and blue color channels. Most monitors let you adjust each channel’s gain (intensity) and position (brightness).

Make sure the color bars are still enabled. Adjust the R, G, and B channels one at a time using these steps:

  1. Adjust gain to make an individual color vivid without being oversaturated.
  2. Adjust position to shift the brightness of an individual color up or down until it matches the brightness of other colors.

Toggling between the color channels, tweak each one until all the colors appear balanced. The color bars should transition smoothly from one shade to the next.

Confirm colors with test images

The color bars will get your monitor calibrated to standard red, green, and blue. To check that colors are accurately displayed in real-world content, test with some sample images. Display photos with natural color like landscapes or portraits. See if the colors look natural and realistic.

Also check skin tones on photos of people to see if they appear accurate. Look for issues like skin appearing too orange or green. If so, go back and make further adjustments to the R, G, B channels to correct the color balance.

Use a colorimeter for precise calibration

For the most accurate monitor calibration, you can use a dedicated calibration device called a colorimeter. This attaches to your screen and takes precise color readings from color bars and test images. Based on the measurements, it guides you through adjusting the monitor perfectly calibrated for color and brightness.

Using a colorimeter with included software, the calibration process is automated. The device takes readings, then the software prompts you to adjust your monitor accordingly until it’s calibrated. This achieves greater color accuracy than manual calibration.

Some recommended colorimeters include:

Device Price
Datacolor SpyderX $129
X-Rite i1Display Pro $249
NEC Display Solutions NP04 $280

Recalibrate regularly

Calibration optimal color accuracy that dims over the monitor’s lifespan. Most monitors should be recalibrated every 1-2 months with moderate use. If you do color-critical work daily, calibrate every 4-6 weeks instead.

Recalibrating is quick since you simply follow the steps above to realign the colors. Your monitor may also have a built-in color re-calibration function using the color bars. Consult your monitor’s user manual for details.

Check for proper driver and OS setup

In addition to hardware calibration, check whether your monitor driver and operating system are optimized for color management:

  • Use the latest monitor driver from the manufacturer to ensure proper settings control.
  • Enable color management in your OS if supported. In Windows, this is under Display Settings > Color Profile.
  • Set your monitor to the native or optimal resolution noted by the manufacturer.

With the right software and resolution settings, your OS can send accurate color profiles to the monitor for better rendering.


Calibrating your monitor using the built-in color bars is essential for color-critical work. Adjust brightness, contrast, and R, G, B channels to align colors to standard bars. Test with real images to fine-tune further. Use a colorimeter for the most accurate automated calibration. Recalibrate every 1-2 months to maintain color precision. With a calibrated monitor, you can trust the colors you see on screen match real-world objects for perfectly edited images and designs.