Apple iMac Colour Calibration

Apple iMacs are well known for having clear and sharp displays but the latest generation of flat screen iMacs appear to have little or no calibration options. That is, not unless you know how.

Firstly, when you take your iMac out of the box, switch it on and are dazzled by the sharpness and clarity of the screen – trust me, it’s an illusion and the screen is likely to be far from ideal for working with colour in processing applications such as Photoshop. Yes, there’s a screen calibration facility built into the System Preferences > Displays > Color tab but good results are difficult to achieve.

Here’s a quick and easy way to get very respectable results:

1) Turn down the brightness either by using the keyboard top row buttons, or in the Display Preferences tab – the iMac comes shipped with the brightness set very near to the top of the scale which enhances the appearance of clarity but also reduces the life expectancy of your screen. A good starting point for the brightness setting should be between 40-50% but this will vary depending on the ambient light in your room and the age of the display.

2) Turn down the contrast to it’s lowest (normal) setting. The strange thing with the latest version of Mac OS (version 10.6 Snow Leopard) is that the contrast control slider is not in the Display preferences pane. You’ll find it in System Preferences > Universal Access > Seeing tab. By default it will be set at about 25% – turn it right down to the left.

3) Visit www.bergdesign.com/supercal/ and download SuperCal. It’s a little shareware application that’s free to download and if you like it, you’re encouraged to make a modest donation to the developers. Move the SuperCal application into your Applications folder and launch it. The software is really easy to use and is self explanatory, and it will guide you through creating bespoke and accurate Red, Green and Blue profiles as well as setting the gamma point.

Tip – when setting the gamma, tick the box that says ‘Native’. Modern iMac displays use a setting of 2.2 as opposed to the older iMac screens that worked on 1.8

4) Once you’ve been through the SuperCal routine, you’ll be prompted to save the profile that you’ve created and the screen should automatically default to this profile – give it a sensible name like ‘Supercal1′ or something.

5) If you now go back to the Displays option in System Preferences and look at the list of available screen colour profiles, your new Supercal1 will be listed. You can play with and try different profiles, but the one that you have created is likely to be the most appropriate one for your computer in your environment.

6) Repeat this short process every time you make any significant changes to your computer setup including moving the machine, redecorating the room or fitting new bulbs or light fittings. Also make a habit of recalibrating every month or so if you’re serious about colour representation.

That’s it. The whole process takes a few minutes and the results are excellent. You’ll immediately find pale blues and light greys on your screen in web browsers and finder windows which were never there before, and your desktop picture is likely to come alive with detail that had previously been lost in dark over-contrasted shadows.

Using SuperCal gives much better results and is easier to use than Apple’s in-built calibration system.

Credit for this excellent tutorial goes to

“Steve – not a pro, just trying make the best of what I’ve got.”,

my thanks for the excellent addition to the website

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2 Responses to Apple iMac Colour Calibration

  1. Johnny Extra says:

    This is exceptional. I’m so grateful that I’m now aware of SuperCal… It’s easily worth the $19 they suggest as a donation and I’d recommend everyone reading this post to go try it out.

  2. Thanks, thanks and thanks again for enabling me to discover this great piece of software !!
    At last an efficient solution to calibrate my different screens (iMac 24″, Cinema Display 24″ LED and MBP 15″ HD Matte). Far more efficient than my hardware i1 Display 2 which fails because of the lack of hardware RGB setup (through buttons) …

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