How to Calibrate Your Mac’s Display for Better Brightness and Color Accuracy

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While the majority of Apple users won’t ever need to touch the display settings, there are times you’ll need to create something custom. For example, if you work with digital color regularly, you’ll need to calibrate your Mac’s display.

In this post, you’ll learn how to calibrate your display using built-in functionality within macOS. Before addressing that, let’s clear up the concept of display calibration.

What “Calibrating Your Mac’s Display” Means

In a nutshell, display calibration is the process of making your screen render colors with greater accuracy. You can also set a host of other options depending on your chosen tool.

If you’ve never considered how brightness or colors are rendered on your screen, it may be something you don’t need. However, if you work in digital visual industries, such as graphic design, videography, or photography, you’ll likely see a benefit even from simple calibration.

For the uninitiated, a monitor renders “luminance” and “chrominance” based on a specific “profile.” This can be set at a system level.

The built-in color profiles.

There are a number of different profiles with varying “gamuts.” In other words, while some profiles will focus on accurate color rendition, others will look to display as many colors as possible. Usually, the “sRGB color profile” is set as standard, as this is a good middle ground for most users.

However, this doesn’t take into account your unique situation, such as viewing location, ambient lighting, and post-processing workflow.

How to Prepare to Calibrate Your Mac’s Display

Before you begin the calibration process, there are a few external factors to consider. Once optimized, you’ll be able to calibrate your Mac’s display (and view it) with greater accuracy:

  • Your default brightness levels. Having your monitor at maximum brightness will let you calibrate your Mac’s display optimally yet also hit the “sweet” spot when it comes to efficiency. You’ll also want to make sure Night Shift or any TrueTone options are disabled.
  • Your viewing location. The natural colors around your chosen room will affect how you see the display. For a real-world example, take a picture of someone sitting on grass and notice how the green reflects onto their skin.
  • The ambient lighting in your room. Large windows that bring in sunlight will affect how you perceive the brightness of your display, and potentially, saturation and contrast levels, too.

Once you have these set, you can calibrate your Mac’s display, safe in the knowledge that your environment won’t have a negative impact on the result.

How to Calibrate Your Mac’s Display For Better Brightness and Color Accuracy

To begin, head to “System Preferences -> Displays” within macOS. On this screen, hold the Option key to access the advanced settings and click the “Calibrate” button. Next, you’ll be given an introduction to the tool and the steps you’ll go through.

The Display Calibrator Assistant's introductory screen.

The great thing about the Display Calibrator Assistant is that it automates aspects of the process and guides you if you’re unsure.

Setting the white point within the Display Calibrator Assistant.

From here, click Continue and follow the instructions for each step. You’ll first have to line up points to set your native “gamma” (or brightness).

Setting the native gamma within the Display Calibrator Assistant.

Then select your target gamma. (It’s usually best to stick with the default.)

Setting the target gamma within the Display Calibrator Assistant.

And set your white point. Once you’re done, all that’s left is to give your profile a name and set your user permissions. At this point, your new color profile will be ready to use.

Alternatives to the macOS Calibration Tool

If you find the built-in macOS display calibration tool lacking, there are other solutions available, too. For example, Photo Friday’s Monitor Calibration works well, and Lagom’s LCD Monitor Test Pages are in depth and detailed.

The Photo Friday calibration tool.

If you’re a professional digital visual creative (or aspiring to be one), you may want to purchase a premium tool such as the Datacolor Spyder. This clips to your monitor and runs through diagnostics to calibrate your Mac’s display.

In Summary

If you’re questioning whether you need to calibrate your Mac’s display, the likelihood is you don’t. However, in some industries – such as photography and digital design niches – accurate color and brightness rendition is essential. Fortunately, the Mac’s built-in calibration tool is simple to use and lets you generate a better monitor profile for viewing your work.

If you’re a PC user, our guide on free PC monitor calibration is going to be essential reading for you. Are you considering calibrating your Mac’s display? Share your experiences in the comments section below!

Tom Rankin Tom Rankin

Tom Rankin is a quality content writer for WordPress, tech, and small businesses. When he's not putting fingers to keyboard, he can be found taking photographs, writing music, playing computer games, and talking in the third-person.

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