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How to correctly calibrate your iMac or MacBookPro

Older iMacs built before 2011 were complicated to calibrate but things have improved since then. Newer iMacs 2011/2012/2013 uses the best IPS technology and are amazing, once calibrated. But for best results you have to use the correct colorimeter and software.

macbook-proI can highly recommend the i1 Display Pro from X-Rite. It comes with itʻs own software but if you want best results you should consider buying basICColor display 5 too. This software is really worth the extra money and is industry standard in big postproduction facilities. If you want to save a couple of bucks basICColor offers a bundle for display 5 with 1 or 3 licenses plus the colorimeter named SQUID3. Basically itʻs the same colorimeter but with one limitation – it works only with basICColor software.

There are other colorimeters on the market too, like Spyder4Elite… but in my opinion they donʻt work so well with Appleʻs LED IPS technology. I saw it myself (tone breaks, color cast… just awful). Also if you use older colorimeters it gets worse. Instead of expensive glass filters they used cheaper organic gelatine filters inside the colorimeters back then. These organic gelatine filters had a lifetime of approx. 2 years before they started to discolor.

Therefore the opinions about calibrating an iMac screen are deeply divided. Of course you canʻt compare it to a dedicated wide-gamut NEC or Eizo display that costs 2000,- EUR. But with the right colorimeter and software the newer iMacs are amazing, once calibrated.


What you need:

• iMac 2011 or newer
• Colorimeter i1 Display Pro from X-Rite or basICColor display SQUID3 bundle
• Software basICColor display 5 or get the above bundle

First you have to delete any other colorimeter software you might have used and then restart your iMac. This prevents screwing up the calibration process by background tasks from other colorimeter manufacturers. If you got the i1 Display Pro you can use the included software from X- Rite or for best results buy and install basICColor display 5.

I will explain here how to do the calibration within basICColor display 5 but if you prefer to use the included i1-Profiler software from X-Rite just use the same settings showed below.

First go to your iMacs system settings and uncheck „Automatically adjust brightness“. Next connect your colorimeter to your iMac or MacBookPro and afterwards start the calibration software. If you’re doing it differently you might get an error that the device was not found! In basICColor display 5 select the Preset „Custom“. Click on Advanced Settings and use the following settings. You can also save the settings as a preset for next time.

• Color temperature: D65
• Tonal response curve: Gamma 2.2 (iMac displays are always calibrated to Gamma 2.2!)
• Luminance: White 120 cd/m2
• ICC profile: 16 bit LUT-based, ICC v2
• Calibration method: Combined Hard-/Software calibration


To select the ICC v2 profile just leave the box “ICC v4 profile” unchecked! The newer v4 profile still has problems with some applications i.e. Capture One Pro. So use ICC v2 and you’re good to go.

icc profile

The screen should be clean, free of dust, fingerprints etc. and the iMac should be running at least 15 minutes before measuring. This allows the monitor to warm up. The iMac screen is glossy therefore avoid reflections or any stray light when measuring. Change monitor position or shield the monitor with an ambient light hood. On an MacBook Pro also avoid backlight. The Apple logo is translucent and it could shine through the screen, resulting in false measurements.

Now click on „Start“ and in the next Pop-up window select your colorimeter from the drop down box. Click on „Connect“ select the settings below and than click on OK.

• Instrument: i1Display Pro
• Mode: LCD Monitor
• Type: White LED

select colorimeter

Position the colorimeter in the middle of your screen. You can also check the „Fullscreen“ checkbox. Now click on „Measure“. At this point the automated calibration process starts. This takes approx. 15 minutes.

calibrate your iMac or MacBookPro

After all the measurements have been processed the software will show you the results of the calibration and profiling process. The smaller the value of the „Standard dev.“ the better the calibration. Thats it!


Hint: If you want to know what display is built inside your iMac, MacBook Pro, … open the terminal and enter this command: (seems like on newer macs this command doesnʻt work anymore!)

ioreg -lw0 | grep IODisplayEDID | sed “/[^<]*</s///” | xxd -p -r | strings -6

In my case I had a 17“ MacBookPro 5,2 and I get this output:

LP171WU6-TLA1 <<< This is the display panel model – itʼs a LG Display
Color LCD

If you now search google for this display panel model you can get much more informations like – background lamp type, white LED, color bit depth, panel brand, panel type, resolution, brightness, response time, signal interface, …

How to synchronize color settings across Adobe applications


Adobe Photoshop / Camera RAW / …

Select the color working space in Adobe Photoshop:
Edit > Color Settings… > Working Spaces > RGB = Adobe RGB (1998)
Save these settings via the „Save…“ button and give it a name.

color settings photoshop

Open Adobe Bridge, go to Edit > Creative Suite Color Settings… and select the previously saved settings. Click on „Apply“. Now your creative suite applications should be synchronized.

color settings adobe bridge

Capture One Pro 7

Go to „View > Proof Profile > Selected Recipe“
Create a „Process Recipe“ with the following settings:

• Name: TIFF 16 Bit Adobe RGB (1998)
• Format: TIFF 16 Bit
• Options: Uncompressed
• ICC Profile: Adobe RGB (1998)
• Resolution: 300 px/in
• Scale: Fixed 100%

Hope that helps to get you started! Enjoy!
cheers, Daniel

settings capture one pro

daniel schweinertHi, my name is Daniel Schweinert. I am self-learner like many of you. My wife and I are both photographers for over 10 years. At the age of 19 I’ve worked as a 3D and compositing artist for a German TV broadcasting company. During this period I gained my full passion for visual fx, filmmaking and photography.

But Im more of a tech geek / nerd because I had an Apprenticeship as a Technical Draftsman, specialising in mechanical engineering. When I was younger I had a small manufacturing company and produced all kinds of parts for the movie industry. I still own the cnc-machine but nowadays I use it more as a hobby for creating my prototypes for movie and photography equipment.

In 2008 I begun to produce stock photos and footage and soon realized that this could actually turn into a great business. I’m doing this full-time now and I love it!

2 responses on "How to correctly calibrate your iMac or MacBookPro"

  1. Recent iMacs and Mac TB/Cinema displays are capable of reproducing about 80% of Adobe RGB. There is a little compression in the greens and a bit of clipping in some reds and blues but certainly not enough to be concerned with for the long haul.

    There are many, many iMacs used by professional photographers and in production work for many graphics, and print houses that use the Adobe RGB (or wider) workspace with no ill effects in their color reproduction. Especially when you consider there are relatively few monitors that are rated to render 100% Adobe RGB.

  2. Hi! Nice article. But Apple has no any display that support Adobe RGB (1998) space. They don’t have any wide gamut monitor. Maximum is full sRGB support. Please correct me if I wrong.
    P.S. I am using i1Display Pro with MBP with retina display with standard software.

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