The best monitor calibrator tools in 2023

The best monitor calibrator tools on a blue background
(Image credit: Datacolor / Calibrite / Future)

The best monitor calibrator tools are must-buy for anyone producing visual work. Because even monitors and laptop screens that offer good colour coverage and accuracy can vary over time. So regular use of a calibrator is the best way to ensure you see your work's true colours.

How do they work? Quite simply, you them place on your screen in order to run a check on the display's brightness, contrast and colour coverage and accuracy. Below, we've selected the best monitor calibrator tools at different price points based on our own reviewers' experiences, their specs, the types of screens they can calibrate and useful extra features like ambient light detection and multi-screen calibration.

You'll also need a quality monitor of course. So also read our guides to the best monitors for photo editing and the best 4K monitors. We've also curated a list of the best monitors for MacBook Pro.

The best monitor calibrator tools available now

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What is a monitor calibrator tool?

Monitor calibration involves measuring and adjusting the colours on your computer monitor to meet a set standard (see our guide to colour theory). The best monitor calibrator tools include two components to do that: hardware and software. The hardware takes the form of a sprectocolorimiter or colorimeter, which measures your monitor and records colour values, brightness and contrast, as well as other variables. The software takes that data and builds a colour profile for your monitor.

What's the purpose of a monitor calibrator tool?

The monitor you use and the setting where you locate it can have a big impact on how your work looks. Every screen displays images differently, so the colours you see on a phone screen, your monitor or a client's monitor will vary. That's because the internal workings of every screen are different (before you factor in the screen settings and ambient light conditions). 

This is a big deal for anyone who works in visual arts and design. Most computer screens give a vibrant, dynamic picture, but this isn’t always the best for editing your photos, for example. If you edit images on a monitor that hasn’t been calibrated, you may end up exporting pictures that look oversaturated, muted or have an obvious colour cast when you see them on another screen or on a printed support.

It doesn’t matter which colour space you select on your camera or how you adjust Photoshop’s settings – if the screen has a warm cast or a cool blue cast and isn’t showing you an accurate picture, then any edits you make may be subtly or substantially out. 

So which version represents the “true” colour? And will printed materials look like they do on your screen? This is where the best monitor calibrators come in. Technically known as colorimeters, they look at your screen and detect any discrepancies, taking account of how your display actually looks in your office space, whether that's at home, in a co-working space or from a dedicated workspace. 

They can then program your computer then programmed to compensate for the colour inaccuracy of your monitor. Calibrating your monitor also means looking after yourself because it helps reduce eye strain during intensive work sessions.

Do I need a monitor calibrator?

Probably, at least if you aim to work professionally in any visual creative field, be it graphic design, photo editing or videography. Some of more expensive monitors that are specifically designed for creative professionals come with their own monitor calibrator tools included. However, in most cases, you'll need to buy a monitor calibrator separately to enable you to calibrate your screen. 

Some downloadable tools claim to be able to do this too, but they can't actually 'see' your screen like the best monitor calibrators. Failing to calibrate your screen can result in work that looks very different when you see it on another screen or printed out. This can be because your monitor had poor colour accuracy to begin with, because output varies over time or because of the impact of ambient light.

How do I choose the best monitor calibrator for me?

When it comes to choosing the best monitor calibrator, there are really two main brands : Datacolor's Spyder X range and Calibrite's ColorChecker (Wacom has a calibrator for its own drawing tablets too). 

Both Datacolor and Calibrite offer several models: a standard option, a more professional model with extra features and studio packages that can also calibrate printers. They also have bundles that include other tools, often aimed at photographers.

How much you need to spend depends to an extent on what you need it to calibrate and what you use your screen for, but there are several aspects to consider:

Screen types: Monitors use different types of technology, and that can affect their colours, so you want a calibration tool that can account for things like LED backlighting. Most of the tools we've included in our guide to the best monitor calibrators can be used on any monitor or laptop, and also on projectors, but always double-check the tool you're going to buy. 

If you print your work, you can also calibrate your printer to ensure its colours are also the best they can be. For that, you’ll need a calibrator designed for printer profiling, such as the Datacolor SpyderX Studio at number 3 or Calibrite ColorChecker Display Plus at number 5 in our list above.

Ambient light detection: look for this feature for customised calibration that adapts to compensate for the surrounding ambient light in your room or office.

Speed: how fast your monitor calibration tool works might not seem so important, but if you calibrate your monitor as often as your should, then you'll be grateful for a fast device. Most options will actually remind you when it's time for your to calibrate your screen again.

Other features: More advanced features to look out for on monitor calibrators are conformity with the best-known colour standards and screen calibration, which ensures you see the same colours across a multi-monitor setup.

How often should I calibrate my monitor?

All monitors change in colour, contrast, and brightness as they age. Because of this, the majority of the best calibration software suggests you calibrate your monitor (or monitors) every 2-6 weeks. With the monitor calibrators we've listed above, the process only takes around two minutes per monitor.

 LCD monitors don’t age or change as quickly as older CRT technology, but you still want to rest assured that colours on your screen are accurate so even an LCD should be calibrated every six months at the very least. For a detailed look at how monitor calibration tools work, see our article on how to calibrate your monitor.

Are Calibrite the same as X-Rite monitor calibrators?

This is a question we sometimes get asked about one of the two major brands in monitor calibrator tools. Basically, yes; the tools that used to be X-Rite are now Calibrite. X-Rite owns a number of subsidiaries, including the well-known colour specialist Pantone. In mid-2021, it split off its monitor calibrator tools into a separate company, Calibrite.

It's a rebranding that caused some confusion among users, but despite being a separate company, Calibrite licences the monitor calibrator tech from X-Rite, so they're described as "powered by X-Rite" and contain the same tech as before.

Dan is the Editor of and covers the latest in computing, home entertainment and mobile tech. He's also the former Deputy Editor of TechRadar and former Editor of Lifehacker UK. Dan has written for numerous computing and lifestyle magazines and has also written a book, too. You'll see him pop up in numerous places, having been quoted in or on The Sun, BBC World Service, BBC News Online, ITN News, BBC Radio 5Live, BBC Radio 4 and Sky News Radio.

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