Thursday, May 8, 2008

Massively Useful Software: Adobe Gamma

Adobe Gamma is one of those massively useful programs that many people already have installed but don't actually use. If you've installed Photoshop, it's running on your computer right now. If you haven't actually calibrated your monitor with it, you should do it right away.

At one of the places I used the work at, we used the Spyder2 colorimeter to calibrate all of our monitors to have a perfect white point and gamma. Having a calibrated monitor makes a huge difference. The colors on the screen looked more vibrant, the contrast was perfect so you could see all the colors without them being clipped to white or black, the blue tint was gone, and the colors on the screen actually matched the colors that were printed. It was such an improvement that I decided that there's no point in buying an expensive screen if you are not going to callibrate it using a Spyder or something similar. Even our inexpensive LCDs looked like high-end $800 monitors once calibrated.

Unfortunetly I have no such display calibration system at home, so I had to resort to doing the best I could with my monitor's settings. That was until I discovered what Adobe Gamma actually does. It is a calibration system for your monitor. If you are one of those people who already have it installed in windows, just go to Control Panel > Adobe Gamma, and go follow the steps; just make sure that when you do, to adjust the gamma for each channel individually as shown in the image above.

Comparing the experience I've had with the Spyder and now Adobe Gamma, I'm actually quite impressed with the results of having a software-only assisted display calibration system. I know that I'm not going to get as accurate results without the Spyder, but what I'm seeing on my screen is so close to what I've experienced with the Spyder that it's a good alternative if you don't want to spend US$169 for a Spyder3Pro. And the great thing is that if you are a graphic designer or illustrator you probably already have it running; you just need to configure it first.

Alternatives to Adobe Gamma
It's worth noting that nVidia has a pretty good Display Optimization Wizard that gave me identical results to Adobe Gamma. So if you have an nVidia card but no Adobe Gamma then the Display Optimization Wizard will work just fine. It's also worth noting that the color correction does not work in video games, so if that's your only reason to calibrate then you may not want to bother; just use the test patterns to adjust your monitor's settings the best you can.