Color calibration tools for small office

I am trying to buy some color calibration tools to assist in color management within a small office with a couple dozen employees. A number of these folks do some kind of visual and/or graphic design work so it is a little disheartening to see how poorly their displays are currently set up.

This question is about hardware color calibrators and software that appear to be available online for $100-$300 from Pantone, etc. It would be worth it if we could do several workstations with the color calibrator, but I don’t know whether they are going to need a standalone program running on the system and each user would need a license for the software to get the full benefit. Or alternatively, it is something where we can hook it up, work with the display settings themselves and possibly Windows or display driver software and get decent results.

Anyone have experience with these things? Putting this in GQ due to the question about how they work in general and the potential licensing issue.


I use the Spyder2Pro, an older program that’s no doubt been upgraded since I first started with it in 2007.

It consists software loaded on the computer and a sensor for the monitor. I’ve installed it on two different computers since first getting it, but as a private user I don’t know about licensing. You’ll only need one senor, though.

It works great (meaning I get WYSIWYG results when printing photographs) but you must follow the cardinal rule: Once the color profile is set and stored, YOU MUST NEVER NEVER NEVER EVER EVER touch any of the brightness/contrast or color controls for the monitor until you are ready to recalibrate. Ever. So if your employees are the type to fiddle with those controls, you may as well not bother.

I use DisplayMate, which I think may have been $50 or $80. It seems very nice to me, though it’s the only such program I’ve tried. You can run it from the install disk on as many systems as you want, one at a time, without going through the install procedure. Or, you can install it on one system. I don’t remember if you can do both of these things at the same time.

I use the Datacolor Spyder3Elite, also with a slightly older program. I’m a bit miffed that I was prompted to upgrade by the program, and did so only to find out that I couldn’t use it unless I paid a $19 upgrade fee. I had to reinstall the older version to use it again. $19, IMO, is not a huge amount to pay, but it would have been nice to be forewarned. Also, every purchase in my company has to be approved by our home office, and sometimes that is just too big of a PITA.

That said, I think it does a decent job of making the display “look nice”, but I have serious doubts that it can do a decent job of making monitors of different types actually match. I have a 1920 x 1200 Dell LCD attached to a MacBook Pro (again, headquarters wouldn’t spring for an external Mac display), and I can’t for the life of me get the two to match. I’ve read on some photography forums that people have gotten close by boosting or cutting the individual RGB channels in addition to what you have to do in conjunction with the Spyder software anyway. It’s frustrating, since I really need that extra real estate when working on certain projects, and it’s another kind of a PITA to slide windows over to the smaller display just to A/B the results.

If all of your displays are basically the same type, you may not have this problem. As for licensing issues, I believe that Datacolor lets you use the device on all machines in any one location, but I could be wrong about that. I would check with Datacolor.

I have a Colormunki spectrophotometer. It will calibrate monitors and printers.

For monitors, you hang the Colormunki in front of the monitor while the program cycles colours, compares the output to what it should be, and creates a profile for the monitor. Monitor profiles are dependent on room lighting colour and brightness; the Colormunki will measure the ambient light at the workstation before profiling. For exact colour work, you need to have a room with neutral grey tones, and not wear bright clothing. :slight_smile:

For printers, the Colormunki prints a test page, and you slide the device across the printout while it compares the printed output to what it should be, and then it creates a profile for the printer and paper. It may need to print more than one test page. Printer calibration is heavily dependent on the paper used; you end up with multiple profiles, one for each combination of printer and paper.

The Colormunki comes with software (Windows and Mac OS X) that runs the device via USB, and also provides help in choosing colour palettes, based on colours in images, etc. The software comes with a three-seat license: you can put it on 3 separate computers at a time. You can remove it from one computer and put it on another:

For calibrating scanners, I use VueScan scanner software and a scanner calibration target from The target comes with a description file for that specific target (identified by serial number). To calibrate a scanner, you load the description file into the scanner software, scan the target, then the software compares the input to what it should be and creates a profile for the scanner.