Adjust brightness and contrast on TFT display

Over years I had moved from CRT display to dual-monitor and finally to TFT alone. I got used to things looking slightly different. Since I neither work or play with graphics much, it was ok to stick with budget monitors and skip precise tweaks.

Until I had got new TFT at work and suddenly there were quite a few small details on different sites I simply didn’t see at home. It was time to shake some settings.


Bad news – there is freaking mountain of color theory and good chunk of it can apply to computer screen. Parts of those tweaks won’t even work on budget display or aren’t achievable without special hardware. Other are simply too hard to understand fast without background in the field.

For color stuff it is best to hope that manufacturer bothered to provide driver with decent color profile. Rest of basic settings must be adjusted.

Brightness and contrast

These are most basic and predate computer displays. There is confusing part about how they now mean different things from what they are called. I won’t even go there.

Overall they must ensure following:

  • black color is nice and deep;
  • there are no details lost in dark or light areas;
  • between black and white there is nice spectrum of grey shades.

Simple way to adjust

I first tried adjusting display settings in on-screen menu, but it was way too stubborn and image got only worse. In the end I had to reset display to defaults and made further adjustment in Intel drivers for integrated video of my Asus P5Q-EM motherboard.

As for test image best I had found are these simple and efficient grey patterns, especially one with 16x16 squares.

From there:

  • adjusted brightness until darkest square was close to black, without blending with surrounding;
  • adjusted contrast until lightest square was close to white, again without blending;
  • tweaked it back and forth a bit so squares are clearly distinct and transition from shade to shade looks nice.


Ok, I am no closer to properly calibrated monitor. But now I see that:

  • Twitter has grey rollovers on interface elements;
  • gHacks comments alternate background;
  • WordPress dashboard looks 50% less boring;
  • tables in Opera interface are zebra-striped;
  • Wikipedia search page has light blue tint…

I will probably make few more discoveries in following days.

Do you care about proper monitor settings? Share your way to adjust them in comments!

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  • Seelenwahnsinn #

    I've been making a basic calibration periodically with Calibrize ( http://www.calibrize.com/ ), covered by Lifehacker and gHacks last year. I know how it feels to see things you didn't see. After doing my first calibration I saw an incredibly huge amount of details I've always lost because I liked my screen a little darker than it should be (the calibration process cut my headache occurrences by 25% BTW). Another software I recommend for calibration is Eizo Monitortest (I had a link here but there's a limit of only one link per comment -- what's up with that?). It comes with a few cons, requiring a painful amount of manual work and it can make you feel really miserable if you're working with budget monitors only. But at least it's portable (I know you love portable apps as much as I do). And works quite well.
  • Rarst #

    @Seelenwahnsinn Many thanks for suggestions, will check them out. And maybe I should buy something more expensive for a monitor next time. :) Sorry about number of links, I get stupid amout of link spam and this is easiest way to filter most of it. You can include "inactive" links without protocol part, filter won't complain about them.
  • Iggi #

    I was very careful about display quality from the beginning. I could see clear distinction between CRT and LCD displays and this prevented me from switching for a long time. But when the time came, I chose S-IPS-based display with good default settings and little need to calibrate. S-IPS has it's own drawbacks - they are slower, more expensive and show black color with a specific violet shade when looked from aside, but it's color reproduction in normal conditions is the best. What most important, my eyes are grateful and I can see any colors and any details clearly.
  • Rarst #

    @Iggi I am fine with TN display but I should've paid more attention to proper settings. :) btw on average notebook screen of high quality is rarely an option. I should check settings on my Dell Vostro 1310 as well...