How to Test and Adjust a Monitor's Settings

Get the best picture by calibrating the settings

If you're a graphic designer, video editor, or someone who watches videos on your computer, your computer monitor must be crisp and clear. Over time, a monitor can start to look dull, fuzzy, or too bright. Often, adjusting the monitor's settings will help you get a better picture and improve your viewing experience.

Here's how to test your monitor and adjust the display settings to ensure it's properly calibrated for optimum viewing.

Information in this article applies broadly to different types of PC monitors. Consult your device's manual or the manufacturer's website for further guidance.

Graphic artist looking at a laptop and desktop computer while adjusting monitor settings
Maskot / Getty Images

Common Monitor Terms Explained

Some monitor terms you may encounter can be confusing or redundant. Here's an explanation of common monitor settings:

  • Color: Increasing or decreasing the color setting affects the color saturation, or how deep and bold the colors appear.
  • Brightness: Changing the brightness makes the screen darker or lighter. Try it when the surroundings are dark and well-lit to make sure the screen is optimized for both conditions.
  • Sharpness: Increasing sharpness makes the edges of the picture darker and more defined. Setting this too low results in a soft, hazy picture.
  • Tint: The tint setting varies based on the manufacturer. On some displays, it can affect the color and the dimness.

Capabilities vary according to monitor type. For example, the maximum screen quality differs for CRT and LCD displays. There's also a noticeable quality difference between IPS LCD and TFT LCD monitors.

Manual Monitor Adjustments

Most monitors have manual adjustment settings. If you want a simple tweak, adjust the screen's color and brightness settings using the monitor's physical buttons. Some displays also have a menu button that presents more options on the screen. Laptops often have buttons on the keyboard for controlling brightness and contrast.

Familiarize yourself with the capabilities and limitations of your monitor before you make adjustments.

On Windows PCs, control the screen orientation, default text size, dual monitor setup, and other settings in the Control Panel.

How to Calibrate Your Monitor

Macs and Windows PCs have built-in, free monitor-calibration tools that are a great first step to testing a monitor's settings. For more advanced help, online monitor-calibration tools provide in-depth analysis and setting guidance.

Use Your Mac's Monitor Calibration Tools

The macOS built-in Display Calibrator Assistant adjusts a monitor so that the display images closely match the original versions. This is particularly important for graphic designers and anyone who works with images. Here's how it works:

  1. Go to the Apple menu and choose System Preferences.

    The Apple Menu on a Mac with the System Preferences command highlighted
  2. Open Displays.

    Displays in System Preferences
  3. Select the Color tab.

    The Color tab in Display preferences
  4. Select Calibrate to launch the Display Calibrator Assistant.

    The Calibrate button
  5. Select Continue.

    Select Calibrate to launch the Display Calibrator Assistant
  6. The Display Calibrator Assistant walks you through the process of adjusting the display. Follow the on-screen instructions.

  7. When finished, the Display Calibrator Assistant creates a calibrated color profile and automatically assigns it as the display's color profile.

    The number of adjustments in the calibration process varies depending on the type of display. Some displays have additional built-in color accuracy and calibration features. See your display's documentation.

Use the Windows 10 Color Calibration Tool

The Windows 10 Display Color Calibration utility adjusts different aspects of the display, including color, brightness, and saturation. Here's how to use it:

  1. Open the Windows 10 Settings app and select System.

    The System heading in Windows 10 settings
  2. Choose the Display tab if it isn't open.

    The Display tab of System settings
  3. Scroll down and choose Advanced display settings.

    Advanced display settings in Display
  4. Select Display adapter properties for the display you want to calibrate.

    The Display adapter properties command
  5. Go to the Color Management tab.

    The Color Management tab
  6. Select Color Management.

    The Color Management button
  7. Go to the Advanced tab.

    The Advanced tab
  8. Select Calibrate Display.

    The Calibrate Display button
  9. Follow the on-screen instructions to go through the calibration process.

Calibrate Your Monitor With a Free Online Tool

If you use your monitor for professional purposes, you may want to take some extra measures to ensure perfect video and image quality. Free online monitor-testing tools such as Lagom and Eizo Monitor Test can help you tweak the settings using objective source material such as color diagrams and test patterns.

Lagom Online Monitor-Testing Tool

Lagom helps you adjust your LCD monitor's settings to ensure the best picture quality.

  1. Go to the Lagom website and read the instructions on monitor calibration.

    Lagom online monitor-testing tool intro page
  2. From the top drop-down menu, select the tests you want to run, including Contrast, Sharpness, Gamma Calibration, and more.

    Lagom's monitor calibration tests

    The tools at Lagom.nl are available for download so that you can use the tools when you don't have an internet connection.

EIZO Online Monitor-Testing Tool

EIZO's functionality is similar to the Lagom tool.

  1. Go to the EIZO website and view the available tests, including Color Distances, Gradients, Defective Pixels, and more.

  2. Choose the tests you want to perform, then select Start Test.

    Eizo online monitor test tool
  3. Perform any or all of the monitor tests to adjust the settings.

    EIZO uniformity monitor test

Professional Monitor Calibration Tools

If you're looking for more in-depth monitor calibration, there are paid professional monitor-testing programs, many of which offer a free trial version.

The Passmark MonitorTest software gives a full-screen view of various tests. It generates 35 test patterns and covers touchscreens and HDR while offering support for all available resolutions and color depths. MonitorTest works with all resolutions as well as multiple monitor setups. It also supports looped testing.

DisplayMate is another professional monitor-calibration tool that aims to improve the image and picture quality of mobile displays, computer and video monitors, projectors, and TVs.