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LCD Displays Ruin Color Scheme

So I spent about two weeks (spare time) tweaking a website's look-and-feel.  Almost all the work was done at the kitchen table on my laptop.  Once in a while, I would go check it out on my desktop PC (which has an LCD monitor).

I upload the final version to the web server and send the wife a link so she can check it out at work.  She calls me at work and her first comment is "what's with the *awful* colors?"

I pull up the website on my work PC (which has a regular CRT) and the colors are terrible!  Apparently, the displays on the laptop and home PC "washed out" the colors enough so that they looked fine, but on an older CRT the website looks like stage dressing for Romper Room!

Are both the LCD displays out of color balance?  Or, is this just their nature?  Has anyone else had problems with a website or app that looked fine with one display, but awful with another?

(Luckily I used CSS, so tuning the colors will be a breeze.  It was just very surprising.)

Caffeinated
Friday, June 11, 2004

Come on, post a link so we can all play along.

Mike Schiraldi
Friday, June 11, 2004

You can use monitor calibration software like Adobe Gamma (not sure if you can buy it, comes with Photoshop), even on LCD screens. I use it on my laptop, and it works great - even though I had to almost completely turn down the blue and wizz up the red.
Note, however, that there exist very good LCD (I mean TFT - what's the difference anyway) monitors. I have one, it's a Samsung syncmaster 19". My dad's a photographer, so he's really serious about colors, and so am I. But it's great.
Anyway, the problem does not only relate to LCDs. Many people have CRTs with terrible colo(u)rs too.

Janonymous
Friday, June 11, 2004

In general, it's true that LCDs have crappier color than CRTs.  I ran into a similar issue where I designed a color scheme that looked great on my monitor (a Samsung SyncMaster LCD actually) but washed out and awful on most other LCDs.  It makes it a pain to come up with something good. 

On the positive side, you now have a great test for the quality of LCDs.

SomeBody
Friday, June 11, 2004

This is all a well-known issue with graphic design... they create it on their system (using some monitor) then send it off to the printers and don't want it coming back completely different. So there are monitors designed for these kinds of apps -- look for the ones that let you set the "color temperature" (like Sony's, I know), and google around for standard color calibration tools.

You can't help it if users have screwed-up settings, but at least you'll be consistent with all the other professional images and media out there.

Larry
Friday, June 11, 2004

Sounds like you should aim for colors that are not terrible for most monitors rather than ones that look great on one in particular.

I have to say that if users notice the colors or the design of you're website, you've failed. They should notice the content.

MilesArcher
Friday, June 11, 2004

Excellent point Miles.  On the laptop, the colors were nice and muted.  Subtle.  On the CRT, they were bright as hell.

My desktop display is a SyncMaster.  I will calibrate it this weekend and use it to make all my color choices from now on.

Caffeinated
Friday, June 11, 2004

I was a graphic designer in a former life, so I can comment.

Most monitors are absolute crap with regard to color correction.  There are only a few monitors which can really do good color work.  Laptop LCD's are probably among the worst, especially from PC vendors like Dell / Compaq 

Get a really good monitor: Apple, Sony Trinitron, Mitsubishi Diamondtron.  $179 Dell CRT's will not cut it.  For LCD you are really looking only at Apple and Sony. This is going to cost you $$.  Best of the budget monitors are the Viewsonic graphics series, but these barely hold a candle to the others.

Also, as was mentioned above, use Adobe Gamma.  Run it on all the machines you are using, it will help you at least get some level of consistency.

Sassy
Friday, June 11, 2004

If it is for fonts, tables, etc. ( not images ), you should use what is called "The browser safe web palette"

http://www.google.com/search?q=the+browser-safe+web+palette&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&btnG=Google+Search&meta=

Anonymouche
Friday, June 11, 2004

Don't just blame the monitor, look to the graphics sub-system as well.  If your LCD is displaying millions of colors, but the CRT is using Thousands you can get some bad results as the colors are converted.

Lou
Friday, June 11, 2004

Does the "Browser Safe Color Palette" that Anonymouche mentions still apply?

I thought that was important in 1998 when many computers only displayed 256 colors, but now that everyone can display millions of colors, the safe color palette has become irrelevant.

Mr. Bean
Friday, June 11, 2004

Just as a matter of interest what are LG Flatrons (both CRT and TFT) like for color.

Stephen Jones
Friday, June 11, 2004

The safe color palate is 216 colors, not 256 colors. The reason is that Netscape and IE rendered the other colors differently.

As .gifs still use 256 colors it has its points.

However, unless I'm wrong, the norm now is to display the hex number for the color, which I would have thought was browser independent.

It will make no difference to the difference between monitors though.

Stephen Jones
Friday, June 11, 2004

I can't firectly comment on LG ("Life's Good"), but I will give you a general caveat with this type of equipment.

You really do get what you pay for whe you are buying professional-grade gear.  Ask yourself what sort of investment a company like LG is making towards improving color accuracy or making reference-quality monitors.

Is the company a recognized leader?  Do they have a history of innovating in this space?  Or, are they just a Chinese manufacturer with a killer lowball price?

Sassy
Friday, June 11, 2004

If you're doing color-critical work on uncalibrated systems, you kind of get what you deserve.

And if you're aiming for the web, and don't test on the target platform ... well, what do you expect when you don't test?

Sorry, it's rough, but you do sound like you were asking for it.

M.M.
Friday, June 11, 2004

--" Is the company a recognized leader?  Do they have a history of innovating in this space?  Or, are they just a Chinese manufacturer with a killer lowball price? "---

LG are Korean; they used to be called Goldstar. they are one of the market leaders which is why I was suprised they weren't mentioned. The CRTs are right at the top of the price range, and the LCDs are also near the top. I have the 19" CRT, and don't really feel any need to swap it for a CRT, but for color faithfulness I don't know.

Stephen Jones
Friday, June 11, 2004

I do a lot of digital photography, so I got a Pantone ColorSpyder. You plug it into your USB port and run some software and it accurately calibrates a CRT or LCD monitor for contrast, brightness and color temperature. A few hundred $$$ but well worth it.

Andy in Austin
Friday, June 11, 2004

Kind of takes away the joy of grabbing the laptop and heading off to your favorite coffee shop, doesn't it?

But if you're familiar with how your LCD affects the colors, then you can work with this in mind to correct it (ie, we know LCD's tend to mute colors, so choose colors that look extra muted when working with your laptop).  Of course you still have to double-check everything on a good display...

Once in a while I've even found that a certain color scheme will only look good my LCD *or* my CRT (Viewsonic Graphics series), but not both :(  In that case, I've had to put them side-by-side and come up with a happy medium.

Joe
Friday, June 11, 2004

Perhaps adjusting the monitor used for development to display more accurate colors would remove the surprises.

http://craiggoldwyn.com/links/color/windows.html

Scot
Saturday, June 12, 2004

"Web Safe Pallete" -> Who gives a ____ anymore? I use them all the time because they're easy to type in & remember - 00, 33, 66, 99, CC, FF. Much easier to remember #003366 than it is to remember #023964 or something you chose randomly.

The problem here is that MONITORS differ in how they render colors, and they do. The fact that users can tweak the colors makes it even worse. Modern monitors have "day / night / text / movie" settings to make things even worse, they can change all their settings 1 button push.

Calibrate your monitor as much as you can with the resources you have, double check it on the monitor of the person paying you to work (if you can), and get on with your life.

Here's a good starting point: Is black really black, or is it gray? What about White? Adjust the brightness & contrast until black is black and white is white. A black screen should look like your monitor is off. A white screen should be about as white as you can make it.

Of course, most people brighten up their screens too much, and half the things you look at will now seem dark because everyone else is working off of too-bright screens, so be sure to double check what you do on a bright screen as well, or your stuff will look too bright to everyone else.

If you can't control the viewing environment, it's a comprimise. If the environment you develop in isn't perfect, you may be compensating in a direction that's doubly bad to the end user.

Audio folks have this problem all the time. Sounds great in the control room, sounds horrible in the car. Movie & TV as well. That's why THX is so popular, it gaurantees a minimum standard for the viewing & listening environment.

www.MarkTAW.com
Saturday, June 12, 2004

"A white screen should be about as white as you can make it."

Be careful of bloom on CRTs. When the white causes the picture to change shape, it's too high.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Sunday, June 13, 2004

I run into this problem all the time while developing intranet sites for work. My dev machine is a laptop and the colours are significantly different from LCD to CRT.

My solution is to run dual-head at the office with a CRT screen. Then I can just run with a browser in each window and tweak colour settings.

Ian Lowe
Sunday, June 13, 2004

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