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Dual monitor calibration on Windows XP PCs

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Dual monitor calibration on Windows XP PCs

Some PC monitor profiling advice

Note – this is now much easier on newer Windows systems, where a Spyder 3 Elite or i1Display Pro will offer all the support you need.

Article retained for archive purposes – hope it’s of use!

As mentioned in some of our colour management articles, we use Apple Macs, so we don’t always get to check out the detailed behaviour of software on PCs.

That said, most of the software and hardware that we have reviewed on the site works just as well on either platform.

There are a few differences that have caught people out sometimes. After some recent reviews of monitor calibration and profiling hardware, Keith was asked by several people about how to profile dual monitors on a PC.

Thanks to Serge Cashman for sending us some of the info (and the second screen shot) below. We always appreciate comments and feedback on our articles…

color applet win XP

The Microsoft Color Control Panel Applet

If you are using Windows XP SP2 then you can use a piece of Microsoft software to allow you have a monitor profile for each monitor in a multiple monitor system.

The video card needs to be configured to assign different settings to each monitor (how it’s done depends on the videocard drivers).

More importantly on a dualhead card under Windows XP one would need to download a Color Control Panel utility from Microsoft and set it to be launched on start-up (with an /L switch as stated in the Help file)  to load LUTs, plus disable other colour utilities to avoid conflicts.

Serge additionally commented:

  • –Technically only dualhead AGP card owners need to use the appet to be able to assign separate profiles. Some PCIe cards don’t need it since Windows XP sees them as two cards in the device manager (and obviously systems with  two separate cards don’t need it either). However the applet lets you see your color management in a much more organized way that makes much more sense no matter which configuration you use. It makes the adjustments much easier.
  • Another important aspect of the color applet (which can be regarded as a separate application actually) is it’s optional startup LUT loader.
  • My general suggestion for XP dualhead card users would be to replace their LUT loaders in the Startup folder (Adobe Gamma, Colorvision, Eye-One) with a shortcut to Color Control Panel Applet LUT loader. It won’t hurt in any case and  it would work with dual-monitor aware software like Spyder2 Pro without any further configuration.
  • Normally the shortcut would be to:
    “C:\Program Files\Pro Imaging Powertoys\Microsoft Color Control Panel Applet for Windows XP\WinColor.exe” /L
  • The “/L” part you can add by right-clicking on the shortcut and adding /L it in the Target field. ” —

Not all calibration software supports dual monitors, so you may have to run your system with each monitor on it’s own to get profiles that you can then select when working with both.

XP colour management control panelAmongst the features of the control panel:

  • Install and uninstall ICC colour profiles
  • Inspect, rename, and compare two different colour profiles
  • Associate colour profiles with devices such as printers, monitors, and scanners
  • Apply custom colour gamut adjustments to one or more displays on the fly
  • Set up display calibration reminders at intervals you specify
  • View a 3D graphics plot of colour profile colour gamuts

XP monitor profile gamut

Comparing gamuts

There is more information, and you can download the software from: digitalphotography/prophoto/colorcontrol.mspx

I discussed some profile editing issues in the review of the Spyder2express, where you need to rename a profile’s internal name for dual monitor support. The Applet can be used for this.

Useful discussions about this subject on the web

There are (many) more technical discussions about it on this message board (Rob Galbraith) and there has been a lengthy discussion in the ColorVision Yahoo group about using a Spyder2 for matching two monitors.

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More colour management and printing related information

For information about printers, paper reviews and profiling (colour management) see the Printing section of the main printers and printing page, or use the search box at the top of any page.
All colour management articles and reviews are indexed on the main Colour Management page - please do let Keith know if you've any questions, either via the comments or just email us?

Some specific articles that may be of interest:  

  • Why don't my prints match my screen? A short article showing why there is more to getting your prints to match your screen, than just calibrating your monitor. It's the vital first step, but you do need to consider some other factors for best results.
  • Why are my prints too dark - some basic suggestions to this common problem.

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