After we published our article on 10 bit per channel workflow, our readers requested to provide information on how to calibrate monitors with a built-in Look-Up Table (LUT). Specifically, a number of our readers asked to provide a detailed guide on how to properly calibrate the Dell U2413, U2713H and U3014 monitors, which we have recommended a number of times before due to their affordable price, attractive features and superb color reproduction for photography needs. Historically, true 10-bit and higher monitors with hardware LUT capabilities were extremely expensive, making them only attractive to those with large budgets. With the introduction of sub-$500 monitors featuring professional-grade IPS panels (read our article here to understand IPS terminology), those with tighter budgets are now seriously considering such monitors for photography work. Unfortunately, many end up even more confused after acquiring such tools due to questions related to proper monitor calibration.
1) Software vs Hardware Calibration
There are two types of calibrations available for monitors – software and hardware. Software calibration works by modifying the colors via the computer graphics card and loading those colors every time the operating system boots. Software calibration is usually performed on monitors that do not have the LUT capability (very few do). Thus, most monitors on the market today would be calibrated via software. During the calibration process, calibration software will usually ask to adjust brightness, contrast and color levels on the monitor, if such options are available.
Hardware calibration, on the other hand, generates a Look Up Table that is written into the monitor to map all the colors. Brightness, contrast and color levels are automatically adjusted by the monitor through calibration software. Compared to software, hardware calibration is much more accurate and there is no need to modify color output through the graphics card. Depending on the monitor type / model, several combinations of color calibration are possible. With the Dell U2413, for example, one can calibrate two separate user-selectable preset modes: CAL1 and CAL2. This allows calibrating the U2413 for several color spaces such as AdobeRGB and sRGB. Please note that the factory-calibrated AdobeRGB and sRGB profiles are different and might not be as accurate, especially after several months of use.
2) Calibration Hardware and Software
The Dell U2413 / U2713H and U3014 monitors have a very specific process for hardware calibration using the LUT. They require the X-Rite i1 Display Pro hardware and specific Dell UltraSharp Color Calibration software. Unfortunately, you cannot use any other hardware or software for true hardware LUT calibration. Even using X-Rite’s calibration software will not work, only giving you options for software calibration, since only the Dell calibration software contains specific drivers for these Dell monitors.
Once you get the X-Rite i1 Display Pro Colorimeter, it is time to download the Dell UltraSharp Calibration Solution. As of 07/16/2014, the latest version is 1.5.3 and it can be downloaded directly from Dell’s support page. Go ahead and download the software.
3) Software Installation Preparation
Before installing the software, absolutely make sure that you uninstall all existing color calibration software and profiles. If you have previously installed X-Rite’s calibration software, go ahead and uninstall it completely and reboot the computer. Next, open up “Color Management” in Control Panel and make sure to get rid of all existing color profiles that you have previously created. When the window opens up, check “Use my settings for this device”, then select every ICC profile and click the “Remove” button:
Make sure to do this for every monitor you have. Once you get to the last profile, your computer will complain that the color profile is default. Click “Continue” and delete the default profile as well. After you delete all profiles, reboot the computer one more time.
After the computer is rebooted, go back to Color Management and make sure that all custom profiles are deleted under the “All Profiles” tab. Do not delete any of the default ICC profiles – only delete the ones that you specifically created for your monitor(s) before.
4) Software Installation
Now that your system is clean, go ahead and install the Dell UltraSharp Calibration Solution. The process is pretty self-explanatory – just click Next until the software starts installing. Once the installation is complete, you should have a monitor icon on your desktop that says “Dell UltraSharp Calibration Solution”. Go ahead and double click it to start the calibration software.
5) Reset to Factory Defaults
At this point, you should reset your monitor to factory default settings. This will wipe out existing LUT data and return the monitor to the “clean” state for proper calibration. Resetting to factory defaults is easy – press the navigation button on the side of the monitor, then go to Menu -> Other Settings -> Factory Reset. Only start the calibration process after all monitors are fully reset.
6) Hardware LUT Calibration Process
Before starting the calibration process, you will have to decide what “RGB primary”, or color space to emulate. The software will give you the following options:
- Rec. 601
- DCI-P3 Emulation
Out of all the modes listed above, the “Native” mode will give you the most number of colors, so I would recommend to start with that one. Both AdobeRGB and sRGB will limit the color space to a smaller number, with sRGB stripping out most of the color gamut. Therefore, my recommendation would be to calibrate the “CAL 1” preset to “Native” color space for the most colors and “CAL 2” to “sRGB”. This way, you would normally be looking at the most number of colors in “CAL 1” Preset and if you need to fall back to less colors for images that you are publishing to the web or perhaps printing in sRGB color space, you could change to “CAL 2” Preset. If you do a lot of printing and your printer / printing company can work with AdobeRGB color space, then set “CAL 2” to AdobeRGB instead. Basically, set up these color profiles to color space you will be using the most. Personally, I set up mine to “Native” and “sRGB”, with “Native” staying as default preset most of the time.
When the software launches, you will be presented with the home screen that has a number of options to the left of the screen such as “Display Profiling”, “Projector Profiling”, “Printer Profiling” and “Scanner Profiling”. Go ahead and click on “Display Profiling”. On the next page, you will be presented with Display Settings. This screen will show the RGB Primary referenced above and the Luminance level. Go ahead and pick “Native” and “120 cd/m2“.
Click Next and you will be presented with the “Measurement” screen. Make sure to pick “Calibration 1” and now do the same on your monitor by going to Preset Modes -> Color Space -> CAL 1. Once there, click the “Start Measurement” button:
Now the software will ask you to hang the colorimeter on the center of the monitor to start the calibration process. First, the software will determine the brightness and contrast levels and after that, it will start measuring all the colors. The whole process will take between 5 to 10 minutes to complete. Once the calibration is complete, you will be presented with a screen to save the profile name. I saved mine as “DELL U2413 (Left).icm” for the left screen and “DELL U2413 (Right).icm” for the right screen.
Please note that the current version of Dell UltraSharp Calibration Solution has a problem when calibrating the second screen – the software might not recognize the LUT hardware. If you do not see the above-mentioned color spaces and if the “Selected calibration matrix” is not “RG Phosphor / GB-LED”, then you will have to run calibration through a workaround until Dell addresses the issue in the next release. The workaround is simple – all you have to do is turn off the primary display, close the software and relaunch it. In single monitor mode, the software will recognize the hardware and let you calibrate the screen. After calibration is finished, turn the primary display back on and you will be good to go.
If you want to set up CAL 2 for sRGB, repeat the same process, except this time change the “RGB primary” setting to sRGB. Make sure to pick CAL 2 on your monitor before you start the calibration process, or you will end up overwriting the CAL 1 preset.
That’s really it as far as calibration is concerned! Please let me know if you have any questions!
NOTE: This guide can also be used to calibrate the new Dell 4K monitors: UP2414Q and UP3214Q.