Image Editing Monitors – Selection Considerations

Summary – Computer monitor choices abound. However, not all are good choices for image editing. What’s important?

This post describes

What is important in a monitor

Used for image editing

Unless good is good enough for your images

Choosing a quality monitor

Is as important as your camera & lens choice

28_DSC7717_nx a plain_resize

The Boss’s Monitor circa 2007 – now 30″


Your monitor’s role in making quality images

Image making has three steps –

1. Capture (camera or scan)

2. Processing (developing)

3. Display (print or electronic)

Your monitor is the most important device in step 2

In fact, it’s the only device (the rest is software)

The monitor (properly calibrated & profiled) shows –

What was captured (the result of step 1)

Adjustments to the captured image (step 2)

What will be printed (the outcome of step 3)

If the monitor isn’t suitable in terms of display quality

Even though it’s properly calibrated & profiled

The game is lost since you can’t accurately see –

1. What you captured

2. How you’ve adjusted (developed) the capture, nor

3. What will be printed

What use is your $$expensive$$ photo gear if

You skimp on the monitor?

Penny-wise & pound-foolish comes to mind 😦


Image Editing Monitor Selection Considerations

Assumes LCD, not CRT

Assumes main criteria is image display quality

Panel Technology –

The types in order of increasing quality

TN – avoid; mostly in inexpensive monitors


IPS or PLS (either is a good choice)

You will have to check the specs to find out

Which of these technologies a monitor uses

If not stated – stay away from it

If you want details, Google the four acronyms

Resolution –

At least 1920 x 1080 pixels (high-definition)

Larger (30″) monitors need 2560×1600

Check your computer’s graphics card FIRST!!!

To ensure it handles higher resolutions

Backlight –

Uniform illumination from edge to edge is important

LED backlights often provide

more even illumination than CCFL backlights

Once again, Google for unfamiliar terminology

Contrast Ratio –

Ratio of the luminance of the brightest white to that of the darkest black

Higher ratios  show more tonal gradations

Look for an 800:1 spec ratio (or greater)

Spec ratio should be static contrast ratio, not dynamic

Bit Depth –

Bit (color) depth tells how many colors can be displayed.

Look for at least 8-bit color depth (some monitors offer 10)

An 8-bit monitor displays 16.7 million colors

 10 bits increases that to over 1 billion

Avoid 6-bit monitors (like the plague)

Many inexpensive monitors are 6-bit

Bit depth directly affects the color gamut of your monitor

That is, the range of colors you can see

You’d like this to be as large as possible

Screen surface –

Glossy and matte screens; personal choice; I prefer matte

Viewing Angle –

Not a major concern if you are the sole viewer and

You’re seated in front of the monitor

To me, an interesting but mostly irrelevant consideration

For my personal use

Convenience factors:

Connection ports (USB, HDMI, etc.) , audio, swivel & such –

These don’t directly affect image quality

Size & Cost –

Typically 17″ to 30″ (I’d choose 24″ or larger)

$100 to over $3000 ($100-$200 won’t buy the needed quality)


Some of the better monitor review sites

You’ll need to dig out the relevant data described above

Here are some sites that can help

AND – As always, Google search is your friend 😉,2806,2355089,00.asp


The 1st site listed above contains most of the needed tech data

This contrast ratio chart is an example

8-20-2013 5-40-14 PM


Another example is this illustration of monitor color gamut size

The ones with color gamut near the size of AdobeRGB 1998

Are the so-called Wide Gamut Monitors

8-20-2013 5-45-51 PM


This post is based on a reader’s question. If you have questions you’d like answered, leave a comment any time. You’ll be doing me a favor as coming up with daily topics is difficult.


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2 thoughts on “Image Editing Monitors – Selection Considerations

  1. You got me thinking there. While I kept profiling my display diligently, I never before looked at the results. So today I plotted my colors gamut vs Adobe RGB and sRGB. Well, could’ve saved AdobeRGB. Even against sRGB it looks bad. Well, maybe time to invest in an external monitor for my laptop… Maybe that could make a post; how to compare profiles yourself to justify a new investment 😉

    • I have a post already written (scheduled for a week or so from now) that talks about profile comparisons and their implications. I doubt that there are many (if any at all) *laptop monitors* whose gamut is much larger than sRGB. This is where soft proofing plays a key role.

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