You can't get reliable color without a reliable image on your monitor. If your monitor is too bright, too dark, too red, too blue, it will affect everything on it, including your images.
Photoshop comes with a pretty good monitor profiler. Even better ones are available for purchase, but Adobe Gamma will get you most of the way there. Adobe Gamma installs with Photoshop, and can be accessed via the Control Panel. Gamma also ships with the Macintosh version of Photoshop, and installs in the System Panel.
Until you get more comfortable, the Wizard interface will do just fine.
Follow the step-by-step instructions. Keep in mind three things:
- In the Wizard, uncheck "Single Gamma Only" so you can calibrate all three colors separately
- Make sure your monitor has been on for at least 1/2 hour before starting
- You'll want to redo this periodically (at least monthly). As your monitor ages, its output will deteriorate
Once you finish with the Wizard, Adobe Gamma should be installed in your Startup menu, so it will run automatically whenever you start WinXP. For the Macintosh, look in your Colorsync settings.
You won't be able to re-run the Wizard from the startup menu, but you can access it anytime you want via the Control Panel.
Now your monitor is calibrated. The idea of calibration is to eliminate variables. In theory (and only in theory) all calibrated monitors will display the same values for the same image. In actuality, it's better than nothing (but much better than nothing). Professional labs would be advised to spend a few hundred dollars on a hardware calibrator. It will pay for itself very shortly in increased efficiency and decreased wastage.
Just one quick note:
This is the extent of monitor calibration for Photoshop. You're done. You do NOT use this profile in Color Settings. Doing so simply turns off color management. We'll discuss that in a future tutorial.