The most important piece of equipment ensuring that you are getting proper online color chips is right in front of you – your computer display. For reasons mentioned elsewhere on this site (see here for more information), you must always consider how your monitor displays color.
First the basics. Be sure your display is configured for 24-bit or 32-bit color. A display with 16-bit color may not offer enough color depth (meaning the ability to differentiate between similar but different shades of the same color) to reflect sometimes subtle differences between chips in the FS Color Server database.
24-bit or higher color capability is often referred to as Truecolor (giving 16.7 million color shades). Most modern displays support 32-bit color. 16-bit color color setting is also called Highcolor. Giving 65 thousands distinct color shades, this setting may be considered sufficient for viewing color photographs, but may impair the perception of images where minor differences in shade matter.
Checking your display
This test procedure applies to computers running Windows. To check if your display adapter is configured for 24 or 32 bit color you need to enter the Display Properties dialog box. Right-click on the Windows wallpaper (the background outside any open windows), then click on Properties, Settings.
On an ideal monitor, black would be black, white would be white and picture-prefect Neutral Grey would be the 50% of white. In real life this is usually not true, an issue often referred to as gamma correction problem.
If a 50% grey is displayed darker than the 50% average between black and white, then the gamma is "low", if it is other way it is "high". A sad fact of life is that all Cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors for the PC have low gamma, meaning that for example Neutral Grey is in fact displayed significantly darker than it should be. If you are a Macintosh user, you haven’t got the same problem – the Mac has built-in gamma correction which makes the color luminance on the monitor appear as it should to the human eye.
Reverse the above statement and you will see that the same scanned image of Neutral Grey will appear lighter on a Mac than the very same image on the PC monitor!
How is it with modern plasma displays? You guessed it – different technology, different situation. The newest plasma displays often facilitate good to excellent color reproduction, but many of the older ones did not have enough color depth to be seriously considered a match for an analogue CRT display. Moreover, the gamma of a plasma display may differ depending on the viewing angle!
The noticeable consequence of bad gamma is that mid-tones appear distorted, usually too dark if you have a PC. Speaking in FS 595b terms, most of the camouflage tones will be affected this way.
Checking your display
The greyscale above presents multiple shades of grey from pure white to solid black. The pure white block at the far left should be as white as the background of this page, while the second block of very light grey should display just a bit darker than pure white. The solid black block at the far right should merge with the outline of the image, while the block just to the left should display a bit lighter than solid black.
Adjust contrast and brightness settings of your display to obtain satisfactory result. Most any monitor should have brightness and contrast controls, either adjustable wheels or buttons that allow up or down increments to be made.
Now to the actual gamma test. Step away from your screen and have a look at these three rectangles. From a distance, pattern in the outline of each of the solid rectangles in the middle of each area should become indiscernible in tone from the patterned outline (it may help to squint your eyes a little). If it is so, the gamma of your display is set correctly. If the inner rectangles remain clearly visible, your display needs gamma correction.
Not all computers support adjusting a gamma curve, but if they do, it is usually done through the display settings dialog box or special software such as Adobe Gamma.
It should be kind of obvious, but your monitor should be operated in subdued light; strong direct light should not reach the screen. Dark areas of the screen should appear dark to the eye.
Most monitors have provisions for setting color temperature. Color temperature is comparable to white balance setting on a digital camera – it is your monitor’s ability to reproduce whites and greys without a "background" color tint.
The temperature is usually set directly on your monitor using on-screen menus, and this is where adjustment can be made. A good starting temperature value is 6500K, which corresponds to natural daylight on a sunny day.
Checking your display
Pick a white sheet of paper and hold it against a large white area on your screen (like the background of this page). Is the "white" on your screen tinted pink or blue? If it is, you need to adjust the color temperature of your screen.
For best quality, the test should be done in natural light, with well-diffused light from a window as the only light source. Artificial light has a color tint in itself and will affect the perceived shade of the paper sheet.