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The best monitor calibrators for designers in 2020

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Welcome to our guide on the best monitor calibrators for designers and photographers. For anyone who works with video, photos or digital art, making sure your monitor is properly calibrated so that it displays colours as accurately as possible is essential – which is where the best monitor calibrators can help.

The best monitor calibrators that you'll find on this page all allow you to quickly and easily check your monitor and make sure it displays colours as accurately as possible. While it is possible to calibrate the screen yourself, using this technology is the easiest and most accurate option out there, ready for you to apply colour theory to your work.

By using the best monitor calibrators, you'll be able to work safe in the knowledge that your creative work will look its best. Plus, no matter how good a monitor you use is, if it's not calibrated properly, you're not getting your money's worth.

There's also health implications of having a correctly calibrated monitor, as it can help reduce eyestrain when you're working long hours. By adjusting the colours depending on the light conditions you're working in, your monitor should feel a lot more comfortable to use.

While you can rest easy knowing that all of the best monitor calibrators for designers will sort the colours on your screen, the upgrade to the more sophisticated software is always worth the boost in cost. Many will also detect ambient light in the room where you work. This has a big impact on how colours will appear on a screen, and can make sure your monitor's colour display is accurate no matter the lighting.

So once you've got a brilliant monitor (see our buying guide the best monitors for designers for help choosing one), there are plenty of options for calibration including software downloads, online tools and the built-in calibration tools within Windows and macOS. But nothing offers the accuracy and continuity of a hardware calibrator. 

We've rounded up the best options based on price, features, usability and all-round effectiveness.  

Datacolor Spyder5ELITE

(Image credit: Datacolor)

01. Datacolor Spyder5ELITE

The best monitor calibrator for professionals

Settings: Unlimited | Laptop and desktop: Yes, plus front projector displays | Connector: USB

Use in wizard or expert mode
Designed for professionals

As well as making laptop screens and desktop monitors just right, the Spyder5ELITE provides a lot more in terms of setup, but only takes around five minutes to calibrate (less for subsequent calibrations).

There's a simple wizard-based mode but also an expert mode, too. There are 'unlimited' calibration settings plus grey-balancing. You can calibrate all of your displays to a single target, while there's room light monitoring to determine the optimal monitor brightness. You're able to see 'before and after' results using your own images.

X-Rite i1 Display PRO

(Image credit: X-Rite)

02. X-Rite i1 Display PRO

Another top professional calibrator

Settings: Unlimited | Laptop and desktop: Yes, plus projectors | Connector: USB

Reuse the same profile on multiple displays
So many options

The incredible X-Rite i1 Display PRO comes with a heap of options, but then you do pay for it. You're able to use your profile across multiple displays (either on the same machine or network) as well as assess the ambient light in your workspace to set your monitor up for best results.

A technology called Flare Correct will measure and adjust your display profile for reduced contrast ratios caused by glare on your screen. Video colour standards are also incorporated, so video editors can set up their display for best results, too.

The X-Rite i1 Display PRO is a little expensive, but our price comparison tool trawls the web to find you the best price.

Datacolor Spyder5EXPRESS

(Image credit: Datacolor)

03. Datacolor Spyder5EXPRESS

The best entry-level screen calibrator

Settings: 2 | Laptop and desktop: Yes | Connector: USB

Budget option
Not as many settings as most
Professionals probably want more 

The Datacolor Spyder5EXPRESS is a really simple route to colour accuracy and is best for hobbyists, students and prosumers rather than pro designers. It's an easy four-step process with just two settings and you can see a 'before and after' view on preset images.

The software is available via a download link provided with the box. Professional creatives will probably be looking for more, though.

X-Rite ColorMunki Smile

(Image credit: X-Rite)

04. X-Rite ColorMunki Smile

Another super budget calibrator tool

Settings: Automatic | Laptop and desktop: Yes | Connector: USB

Easy to use
Pros will want more

The X-Rite ColorMunki Smile features some of the best monitor calibrator software anywhere. All you need to do is start it up, place the ColorMunki Smile on your monitor and click 'go'. Quick and easy is the name of the game – just plug the device into your computer's USB port.

As with the other contenders here, you'll be able to see the before and after results to check out the level of improvement.

X-Rite ColorMunki Design

(Image credit: X-Rite)

05. X-Rite ColorMunki Design

Calibrate screens, projectors and printers

Settings: N/A | Laptop and desktop: Yes | Connector: USB

Calibrates screens, projectors and printers
Create and name unlimited colour palettes

The X-Rite ColorMunki Design enables professional designers – or indeed anybody who works with colour – to calibrate LCD and laptop displays, RGB and CMYK printers, and digital projectors.

You can create and name unlimited custom colour palettes using the included software, while you can automatically synchronise your palettes to Adobe Photoshop CC and InDesign CC in addition to QuarkXpress. You're also able to export them to other photo and design applications.

(Image credit: Datacolor)

06. Datacolor Spyder5PRO

Another great monitor calibrator from Datacolor

Settings: 16 | Laptop and desktop: Yes | Connector: USB

Easy to use
Lots of settings
There are cheaper alternatives

Datacolor has a number of monitor calibrators on this list, and for good reason, as the company is a trusted name when it comes to making sure your monitors are displaying colours as accurately as possible. The Datacolor Spyder5PRO is more feature-rich (and pricier) than the Spyder5EXPRESS, but not quite as fully-featured as the Spyder5ELITE. This makes it a brilliant choice for people who want the best monitor calibrators for designers, but want to find a balance between features and price. It's easy to use and can help you calibrate your monitor in minutes. Despite its simplicity, there's a range of settings and ambient light profiles, with in-depth software for helping you get the most out of your screen.

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