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ColorEyes Display ProColorEyes Display Pro

Review of ColorEyes Display Pro monitor calibration software

So you have a monitor calibrator package, and the software that came with it.

Why would you want to spend money on a new software package to do the same thing?

Keith has been looking at ColorEyes Display Pro from 'Integrated Color Corporation' and finding out just what it does differently and why you might well want to buy such a package.

  • Note - this review first published in 2007. The current software supports many more monitors and newer measuring devices. For a more up to date review of top end monitor calibration, see Keith's BasICColor Discus review.

The software is currently Mac only, however a Windows version is due shortly (see the ICC site for latest info)

Monitor calibration and profiling

How do you know that a particular colour red on your monitor is correct?

If you send me a picture, then how do I know I'm seeing what you did?

If you've read any of the other colour management reviews and articles on this site, then you'll know that an essential first step is to get your monitor profiled and calibrated.

  • If you are completely new to colour management you might also want to look at the very short 'What is Colour Management' article I've written.

I've reviewed several calibration packages and the one feature they all have is that they tend to come with a hardware calibration device, and software to use it.

It's worth remembering that you are actually measuring the whole monitor/display card combination, since some aspects of monitor display can depend on the capabilities of your video card.

There are actually quite a few ways that the data from the screen measurement device can be used to build a profile, and each manufacturer will have their own techniques.

The Color Eyes software can actually use any of the most popular reading devices to create profiles - I tried it with a GretagMacbeth Eye One Display, a ColorVision Spyder2 and a GretagMacbeth Eye One Pro. The first two are colorimeters specifically intended for monitor calibration, while the later is a spectrophotometer that you can use for printer profiling as well.

What do you get?

The product is a software package - so you will need your own measurement device. Integrated Color will sell you the XRite DTP-94, although this particular product will eventually be phased out as part of the XRite-GMB merger (It's a fine device - I just didn't happen to have one to test in my big box of colour management devices :-)

Using the ColorEyes Display Pro monitor calibration software

Installing the software is pretty straightforward and provides an application to launch for calibration.

The Application grabs the whole screen and shows what settings it proposes to use (these are remembered from last time you used it)

Opening the application

Opening the application

The information needed to run the software is shown in a clear fashion (note that I've not yet selected a sensor to use)

Application settings

Application settings

The red 'light' at the bottom of the picture shows that not everything has yet been set up to enable profiling.

At any point you can switch to the guided tour for more information on what you can do and what needs to be chosen.

Help and assistance

Help and assistance

Note that all 'lights' are now green since the profiling device has been chosen.

The sensor is selected from several popular types

Device selection

Device selection

An EyeOne Display2

i1 display 2

i1 display 2

Or an EyeOne Pro spectrophotometer

i1 pro

i1 pro

or a Spyder 2

Spyder 2

Spyder 2

Note that I only had those particular three devices available for this test...

There are lots of different types of monitors available to choose

Monitor types

Monitor types

I'm using an Apple 23" display

Setting for monitor with only brightness adjustment

Setting for monitor with only brightness adjustment

The particular monitor I was trying has very few adjustments that you can make - others may require more alteration of settings.

Black point setting is a difficult area for some monitors and measuring devices, fortunately there are a number of different options

Black point target

Black point target

I'd suggest that if you are not sure about settings and the help system doesn't answer your needs, then you stick with default choices.

The application also has links to web based resources (such as a discussion forum) that you might like to check. There is also an on-line video feature, however this wasn't yet fully functional when I checked.

Black calibration

Black calibration

The EyeOne Display2 (and the Pro) need a black calibration first.

Next you can choose a Gamma setting.

Although the default L* produced very nice looking shadow detail, when I looked at the profiling results in more detail, there was a bit too much banding in other areas of greys - for my monitor - the setting of 2.2 produced slightly better results. Yours may well be different (see more on this in the conclusions later)

Gamma selection

Gamma selection

D65 is a pretty standard setting for whitepoint. I used to use native settings, but as my monitor has aged, D65 gives more consistent results

White point selection

White point selection

The program defaults to 16bit LUT based profiles - your monitor and video card may give smoother results with other settings - as ever I thought it best to start with the defaults.

Profile type

Profile type

All lights green, so on with profiling

Ready to profile

Ready to profile

The software displays various grey and coloured patches which are measured by the sensor.

The picture below, shows near the end of the process (a few minutes) where you can see the curves that are being loaded into the video card

Measuring

Measuring

My Apple monitor doesn't have a LUT (look up table) of its own so that box is empty.

The software can remind you to make a new profile

Profile reminder

Profile reminder

The default setting of daily is a little more than I'd choose ;-)

Validating your results

It's well worth checking immediately after calibration to see if the results are OK - you can check a few days later too and see how much your monitor drifts (don't forget to have it switched on for an hour or so before calibration/validation)

Validate calibration

Validate calibration

The validation results are displayed as a graph.

Very nice, however I would have appreciated a little more detail in the help system in interpreting what these figures mean, and if I should be happy or concerned with the numbers...

Validation results

Validation results

The validation measurements can be recorded over time and displayed. This helps show up rogue sets of data and also chart the slow decline of your monitor with use :-)

The overall luminance of your monitor can also be tracked, another good indicator of when to consider retiring it.

You also have the option of seeing how well your monitor handles well defined 'standard' colour charts, such as the GMB ColorChecker

Evaluate a profile

Evaluate a profile

The picture below shows one of the ColorChecker colours being measured

Checking colours

Checking colours

The chart below shows how well your profile manages the colours

Results of evaluation

Results of evaluation

In addition you can check a coloured target against a printer profile to see just how well your soft proofing might work with your particular monitor. This is quite a complex area and you will need to understand what profiles are doing to actually get useful information out of this procedure.

Check against a profile

Check against a profile

If you are having problems with grey linearity, then you can add in more measurement points. Just remember that creating profiles always requires trade-offs, so adding additional grey points -may- not make things better at all.

More grey test points

More grey test points

There are several other features built into the software - more than enough to keep those of you seriously into colour management happy. Just remember that with all the precision, monitor profiling involve quite a few subjective choices and that there may be no 'best' profile for your particular monitor, just one that matches what you want to use it for.

Preferences

Preferences

Conclusions

The question that anyone would ask is "Why buy extra software, when my existing package works fine"

It was certainly my view at the start - but now, well I'd be tempted. My main Apple 23" monitor looks better and I'd feel more confident in sending colour corrected work to clients.

The software is easy to use and has helpful information available, although I had problems in getting the included video links working.

I'd have liked to see a bit more explanation as to the reasons behind choosing various options in the software -- for example L* is listed as "recommended" in the Gamma choices, but there is no explanation as to why? The software provides direct links to technical support and the manufacturers have a forum for users - even so, I'd personally like to see additional 'educational' resources directly included.

As was pointed out in some comments I've seen about ColorEyes Pro "you don't always use the raw software that came with your camera", true but camera manufacturers do exhibit some serious failings when it comes to good software design. Other calibration software I've looked at is usually pretty easy to use.

You need to decide how important -very- accurate colour is to you.

The question that kept nagging away at me after I'd tried different calibration devices and found that the profiles all looked very subtly different, was "which is correct?"

The verification tool in ColorEyes Pro is very useful to get an idea of how well your monitor can softproof via various profiles, but even with the measurements, there is still a slightly subjective feel.

How good is your profile?

The results of the profiling led me to do a bit of asking around and some further research into the whole area of monitor profiles.

Several people mentioned their tests of profiling equipment and the variation between different devices being easily visible. Not major differences, but perceptible. It's important to realise that even with these slight variations you can get perfectly good profiles (smooth and neutral greyscales for example). If you want absolute precision, then you need to pay for it - and then you need to get your equipment regularly re-calibrated.

As with many things colour management related I also found some interesting answers in 'Real World Color Management' (see info in books section) including advice on how to evaluate just how good your calibration and profiling setup is. It may not be what you want to hear but I'd say, get the book and read it, if you are really serious about colour management :-)

ColorEyes Pro has that very useful ability to display and measure test patches through printer profiles, which helps in deciding some aspects of profile quality, but you -do- need to understand just what is actually going on to make best use of it...

I'll not go into all the details, but there is some excellent information about calibration, profile quality and gamma at Norman Koren's site that may be of interest.

After a load of profiling, lots of cups of tea and looking at grey wedges in Photoshop I decided that my particular monitor gave slightly better results at a Gamma of 2.2 and a colour temperature of 6500K (When new, it used to give very good results at native WP, but has gone a little 'pink' overall)

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Better monitors

That said, my Apple monitor is certainly not up to the exacting standards required by UGRA (the Swiss Centre of Competence for Media and Printing Technology) for proofing work.

They have produced a testing tool -- UDACT (Ugra's Display Analysis and Certification Tool) to allow you to see if your monitor is up to their (very harsh) standards for proofing. Very few monitors will pass -- getting labelled "suitable for creative work only" (it's what I do ;-)

Actually I tried a demo version of the UDACT tool on my monitor and it was rated as merely good enough for 'Layout use' - Ouch :-) I'm hoping to write up some coverage of some more advanced colour management software tools in the near future.

If that level of performance is vital to you (be serious now!) then you should already know a lot on profile evaluation and be prepared to spend a lot of money on your monitors and equipment.

I did look at the Eizo CG210 recently - excellent quality and far more likely to give better profiling results than my 23" Apple display.

For those of us where accurate colour is pretty important, ColorEyes Pro has helped me be more confident in submitting work to critical clients. Fortunately much of my work is not -that- critical, so the 23" stays for the time being :-)

Just remember that increasingly accurate colour comes at an increasingly high cost in required expertise and equipment.

The software, at $175, is a good next step in improving the quality and consistency of your colour work - why not try the demo?

Summary

Software that really can help get the best out of your current calibration device for your monitor.

Easy to use, and offering features not found on any of the 'standard' software that comes with monitor calibration packages.

But, be prepared to realise that your monitor is perhaps not so good as perhaps you thought :-)

If you have an existing compatible measurement device, then give the demo version a good try.

More Info

The views in this article represent those of Keith Cooper.
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