Comparing Monitor Color Gamut

During my recent upgrade of my MBP, I somehow lost the color profiles for my monitors (as far as I know, that’s all I lost… 🙂 ).  As I went through the process of creating new color profiles with my Eye-One Display 2, I happened to take a screen shot of the graphical profile that Eye-One Match software gives you once it has created the new profile.  As I compared the two side by side, it was amazing to see the difference between my two monitors (see below).

Color Gamut for MacBook Pro 15 inch Screen

Color Gamut for MacBook Pro 15 inch Screen

Color Gamut of NEC 2690WUXi

Color Gamut of NEC 2690WUXi

Back in February I upgraded my old CRT to the NEC MultiSync LCD monitor.  So while I’m working in my home office, I have the NEC setup as my primary monitor with the MBP’s screen being used as a second monitor sitting off the side.  (This setup is extremely useful in Photoshop to keep my tools pallets visible and in Lightroom to always have a larger view of any photo I select in the library.)  The reason I selected this NEC monitor was for the wider color gamut (more colors that it could display), which is represented by the black triangle in the color gamut graph on the right.  So all of my photo editing occurs on the NEC monitor so I have the most accurate representation of the colors in the photo.

Not only is the NEC monitor showing more colors, but also displays them more accurately.  The graph on the left displays the shifting that occurs on each monitor within each major color of the spectrum (Red, Green, Blue).  When the monitor has no shifting, the line is straight as in the NEC graph. When the lines bow, as in the Apple screen, the colors are not being displayed accurately by default. Luckily, this is where the color profile comes into play to correct the monitor’s display tendencies and keeping it as accurate as possible.  This is also why you should update your color profile with a colorimeter at least weekly if not every time you work on photos; in general the older the monitor the more frequently you should do this.

It still surprises me how many photographers rave about the quality of the screens on the MacBook Pro laptops.  Sure they are great screens for a laptop, but they don’t show that much of the color gamut (even the Apple external monitors don’t display that much of the color gamut — try asking someone at the apple store and see if they can even tell you the percentage of the aRGB gamut that the monitors display…). To really highlight the difference, the composite graph below is the color gamut of the MacBook Pro 15 inch screen (smaller black triangle) with the NEC 2690WUXi LCD monitor (larger black triangle).

Color Gamut Camparison

Color Gamut Comparison

As you can see, my NEC monitor shows considerably more shades of green, red, and blue and significantly more shades of yellow, orange, and magenta.  I noticed this right away when I installed the monitor based upon the abstract background image I was using on my desktop, there was more detail in the orange shading within the image.  And, since I use the NEC as my primary monitor for doing all most all my work while in the home office (hard to give up the large screen…) I really noticed the difference once I started visiting photographers’ websites.  One rather prolific photographer on twitter (who shall remain nameless) had a website with a green background that became so bright and hard to read on the NEC that I question whether this photographer had ever used a wide color gamut monitor.

The lesson to be learned here is don’t short your photographs by using a poor quality monitor.

If you are doing any printing from your digital dark room on a high quality printer or marketing your photos for stock/print publications, make sure you have an adequate monitor to know how the colors will look.

2 Replies to “Comparing Monitor Color Gamut”

  1. Hey Greg, was it lost during an upgrade to Snow Leopard? I have read about a lot of people having that issue.

    Good illustration of the shortcomings of laptop screens – even the “higher gamut” new MBP’s. (I just recently got the 13 inch). While it is leaps and bounds better than a Dell that I use at work, it still doesn’t compare well even to my older Apple Cinema 23″. Great reason to do critical editing on a larger, better monitor.


    latoga Reply:

    Mark, the color profiles weren’t lost during the SL upgrade, rather during the hard drive cloning process when I upgraded to my new 500 Gig HD. The cloning software I used, SuperDuper, stated that they don’t copy all files, they skip files that Apple indicates shouldn’t be copied. Guess the profiles were one of them. I really should have figured out how to tell SuperDuper to copy all files, but was short on time.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Human Test * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.