Written by Donato

How do I calibrate my television for the best image settings?

The default settings of your television often aren't the settings that you'll like best. Throughout the next steps, I'll explain which settings you can adjust in order to display the best possible images on your television.

Good to know

TV image settings
  • To each his own. In this article I'll tell you how each setting works and I'll share tips on which setting to adjust in different situations. Don't be afraid to use different settings from the ones I'm advising. In the end, it's all about finding the image that you like best.
  • Your eyes will get used to an image. Try out different settings and observe the result for a day. Afterward, you can decide whether or not these are the right settings for you.
  • Different settings affect one another. At the end of this guide, make sure to double check your settings.
  • When the room is darkened, you're more sensitive to the light produced by your television. As such, adjust your television's settings during your favorite time of the day to watch TV. Do you watch both during the day and in the evening? Adjust your settings during the day.
  • Write down the value of each setting before adjusting it. This allows you to quickly compare whether or not you like the image better after having adjusted it.

Before you start

Turn on your television and put on your favorite movie, series, program, or game. We'll use this image to optimize your television's settings. After you've completed the steps described in this article, I suggest you to go through them again using a different movie, series, or game. This way, you'll optimize your settings for different sources.

Take your time getting to know your television's menu. All of the settings discussed in this article can be found in your television's Image menu. For most televisions, this menu can be found under settings.

Picture Mode

Set TV picture mode

The Picture Mode is a good starting point for calibrating your television. This option contains presets for different settings that are suitable for different situations. Set your Picture Mode to Movie (also called Cinema) for the most realistic display. The colors will now be displayed as real as possible and the image won't be smoother than the creators intended it to be. Do you prefer an image that optimizes all of your television's technological tricks, with vivid colors that jump at you from the screen? If yes, select Dynamic Mode (also called lively). When you mainly use your television for gaming, select Game Mode. This mode disables (most of) the image enhancers in order to minimize the amount of delay between your controller and the action on screen.

Note: when you change your Picture Mode, all of the settings are adjusted. After changing the Picture Mode you always need re-calibrate all of your settings.


Set TV backlight

The backlight setting allows you to adjust the amount of light that your television produces. Search your movie, series, or game for a bright image (like a daytime, outdoor scene) and adjust the backlight to a comfortable viewing level. Don't pay much attention to the brightest and darkest parts of your screen, yet. We'll optimize these throughout the next steps. In general, most televisions perform best when the backlight is calibrated between 60% and 80% of the maximum output.


Set contrast TV

The Contrast option decides how bright the brightest (white) parts of your screen will be. If you set this setting too low, the image will look dull, but if you set it too high, you won't see any details at all due to overexposure.

In order to properly calibrate these settings, you should first look for an image that contains lots of white. An image with clouds or snow is highly suitable for this. Start with a low contrast and gradually turn it up, until you start to notice that details are becoming obscure and a cloud starts turning into a white blob. Now slowly turn the brightness back down until you can see all of the details again. You've now calibrated the perfect balance between brightness and detail. Feel the image is too bright? Try to first lower the backlight setting before you decide to decrease the Contrast.


TV brightness

The Brightness option is the opposite of the Contrast option. This option decides how dark the darkest part of your screen will be. When set too low, you won't see any details during dark scenes, only black blobs. If you set the brightness too high, the color black will start looking gray.

To calibrate this option, you'll need a dark scene. Start at a high level of brightness and slowly turn it down, until you notice that details start becoming obscure and the the darkest parts are turning into black blobs. Now go back up until the details are visible again. You've now found the darkest possible image that still shows details.


Set sharpness TV

In order to calibrate Sharpness, you need a scene that contains a lot of different colors. I suggest you first completely disable this option and letting your eyes adjust to the image for half an hour. At first, it'll appear as if the image becomes less sharp. Even so, the image you see will be much more realistic and closer to what is shown in movie theaters. You'll also see much more details in the image, because they aren't polished away by the artificial sharpness that's applied. Still prefer a sharper image? Gradually increase the sharpness. As you keep increasing the sharpness, you'll start noticing lines between the colors, that weren't visible before.


Set TV color

The Color option is usually well-calibrated, depending on the Picture Mode that you've chosen. Still, it's best to check whether or not this option is calibrated correctly. If this option is set too high, colors become saturated and you'll lose image details. If set too low, the image becomes very dull. In order to calibrate the color, you need a scene that contains lots of brightly colored object. Think of trees in Fall or a movie theater filled with red chairs, for example. First, turn colors completely off. You'll now see a black and white image. Keep an eye on the details that are visible in the image. Now gradually turn the colors up again, until you notice that details are starting to fade. Now slowly go back down until all details are visible again. You've now calibrated the most intense colors without loss of color.

Double check all of your settings

All of the settings impact one another. If you adjust a setting, you might have to adjust a different setting as well in order to achieve the best result. That's why you should double-check each setting, except for Picture Mode.

You're done

Your television is now optimally calibrated. You might've noticed that your television contains many more settings that weren't mentioned in this article. These settings are often very specific and nearly impossible to properly calibrate by eye. Feel to experiment with these settings, but make sure to write down the original value of each setting before adjusting. This'll allow you to easily reset it if need be.

Lost track of your calibration and would you like to start over? Check out how to reset your television to the default settings.

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