To have a properly calibrated and profiled monitor is absolutely a requirement that no photographer should give up. This allows us to accurately view (and post-process) our images on the screen, as well as ensuring that they can be correctly displayed online or printed.
Those who own a BenQ monitor from the SW series have always had an extra aid in this process, which until now was provided by the BenQ Palette Master Element software. Although perfectly effective, this software has never been among the easiest programs to use.
After years of development, BenQ finally releases its successor called BenQ Palette Master Ultimate, a software that promises to simplify the entire calibration and profiling process, allowing us to achieve even more accurate results (thus a lower DeltaE).
Once we have purchased the calibration hardware component (the probe), we are bound to it (that’s why it is advisable to choose the right one, and I therefore recommend using a Calibrite colorimeter), but we have much more flexibility with the software component, and that is only a good thing.
However, Palette Master Ultimate, unlike other software (such as Calibrite Profiler or the much-loved DisplayCAL), allows us to take advantage of one of the true benefits of our BenQ SW series monitor: hardware calibration.
Hardware calibration involves applying the correction curves (one of the outputs of the calibration software used) to the Look Up Table (LUT) internal to the monitor itself, rather than to the graphics card as in the so-called software calibration. This not only allows for greater stability over time in the profiling process, but also effectively removes limits in correcting the chromatic rendition of tones, thanks to the greater number of color levels that can be managed by the 14-bit or 16-bit 3D LUT.
Given the advantages of Palette Master Ultimate, let’s now see how to use it to calibrate and profile our BenQ SW monitor effectively.
Preparing the monitor for calibration and profiling with BenQ Palette Master Ultimate
Before using Palette Master Ultimate, it is important to perform some preliminary operations on your computer.
First, clean the monitor. It may seem trivial, but dirt or fingerprints on the surface where we will place our probe could compromise the profiling.
Once this is done, it is important to reset any manual settings you have made on your monitor. To do this, enter the OSD menu and select “Reset All” under the System option. (The actual wording may vary from monitor to monitor, but I believe the concept is clear.)
If, like me, you are calibrating the monitor using a Mac, here are some suggested settings to configure in System Preferences before starting the calibration:
Disable the screensaver;
In the Display section, make sure “Night Shift” or “True Tone” is not active;
In the Energy Saver section, disable various power-saving modes;
Another very important step before performing the calibration is to leave the monitor on for at least half an hour. This way, all the components will stabilize thermally, simulating the conditions in which we will work later on.
We are finally ready to calibrate with Palette Master Ultimate!
Preliminary operations for using BenQ Palette Master Ultimate
First, download Palette Master Ultimate for free from the BenQ website HERE.
Once installed (both Windows and macOS versions are available), connect the probe to your computer and open the Palette Master Ultimate application.
IMPORTANT: If you are not using a USB-C cable, remember to connect the BenQ monitor to your computer not only through the video cable (HDMI or DisplayPort) but also using the USB-B cable (the “square” one) that you found in the package. This is essential to perform hardware calibration and properly exchange data between the computer and the monitor.
Additional tip: for greater reliability, I recommend connecting the probe to one of the side USB ports on your BenQ monitor rather than the USB port on your computer. (Remember that the side ports become active only after you have made the USB connection between the monitor and the computer, as mentioned earlier.)
The first difference we notice compared to the old Palette Master Element is the registration request upon first launch. I strongly recommend doing this because it is free and allows you to access the backup service as well as automatic updates.
After completing the registration or logging in, we face the main selection screen.
As we can see, the interface of Palette Master Elements has been completely redesigned compared to the new Palette Master Ultimate, but the essence remains the same. We are still asked to select our monitor and the calibration and profiling probe we want to use.
Finally, on the right side, we have the option to choose between “Color Calibration,” “Advance Color Adjust,” and “Validation.” This section is not very intuitive, both in terms of content and selection method, but essentially we need to click on “Color Calibration” text (which will turn blue) with the mouse and then press “Start.
1 – Calibration settings Selection
The next screen allows us to do essentially two things:
Select the Calibration preset;
Select the Calibration slot.
Selecting the Calibration preset means choosing the settings for Luminance, White Point, Black Point, and Gamut of our monitor. The operation is very simple, and we can select the preset from a practical and clear drop-down menu. Once the desired preset is selected, Palette Master Ultimate will show us a very clear summary of all the calibration settings. Although the preset are well-structured and designed, I believe that the one related to photography could be further improved, which we will do in the next step.
The selection of the Calibration slot allows us to choose where to physically save our settings. I remind you that thanks to the capabilities offered by the hardware calibration of BenQ SW monitors, we have three slots available. This allows us, for example, to create (and subsequently recall) an optimized profile for photo post-processing and another one for printing… very convenient!
2 – Customize calibration parameters
At this point, to create our personalized calibration preset, we click on “Edit Target”.
First, we choose a name for the preset that is as self-descriptive as possible so that we can easily find it later. Now, if you are interested in a profile perfectly suited for photo post-processing, we set these parameters:
Luminance: 120 cd/m2
White Point: CIE D65
Enhanced Gamma Calibration: On
Black Point: Absolute Zero
As you can see, compared to the old PME, we are effectively setting an absolute black point because the calculation method in Palette Master Ultimate is different, and a relative black point (which in Palette Master Ultimate can be entered in cd/m2 instead of nits) would not allow us to achieve an optimal result in this specific case.
Once everything is done, we click on “Done”.
3 – Measurement and Validation of ICC Profile with Palette Master Ultimate
Finally, it’s time to move on to the measurement phase, which will result in the creation and automatic activation of our ICC profile. We will see how this operation is made even simpler, more accurate, and faster with Palette Master Ultimate.
First, we are presented with a checklist of things to do before proceeding. If you have followed my instructions up to this point, you will see that we have already taken care of everything.
Now, select the version of the profile to create as V2 (to maximize compatibility with all your software) and give a name to the ICC profile to be created. As always, I suggest using a name that is as descriptive as possible so that you can immediately identify the ICC profile on your computer. Once done, click on “Next”.
In the next phase, first, Palette Master Ultimate asks us to position the probe on the screen. To do this, we need to tilt the screen slightly, remove the probe’s protection, and place it in the indicated area (be careful to ensure that the area is clean!).
Once done, we can start the automatic process, which consists of three phases:
ICC profile generation
In none of these phases will we be asked to do anything, just to be patient for a while (especially if we have activated the “Enhanced Gamma Calibration” option, which I recommend once again).
The measurement consists of 28 stages. In each of these stages, the monitor emits different signals that our probe reads. In the bottom right corner of the screen, we can always see which stage we are in, and we can enjoy the beautiful animation on the chromaticity diagram! The generation of the ICC profile takes just a few seconds at the end of the measurement.
The last step is the so-called validation, which consists of 25 stages and serves to evaluate the quality of the newly generated ICC profile, which we will discuss shortly.
4 – Evaluation of the ICC Profile Validation
After completing the validation phase, Palette Master Ultimate presents us with the report of the performed activity.
The result is astonishing: in my case, the created profile has an average DeltaE of 0.38, with a maximum recorded value of 1.1! Believe me when I say that I had to repeat the operation several times to understand if it was an error or not, but the reality is that Palette Master Ultimate manages to achieve an almost absolute level of accuracy (which in the real world means that it is physically impossible to distinguish any deviation in the representation of correct colors), making the most of our BenQ SW monitor!
At this point, the calibration is saved in Slot 1 of the monitor as we indicated at the beginning, and a quick check in the display settings of the operating system allows me to see that the created ICC profile is correctly activated.
Now, all that remains is to close the application and enjoy our images perfectly represented on the screen!
Absolutely free and compatible with the entire range of BenQ SW monitors, Palette Master Ultimate, when properly set up, allows us to achieve a level of accuracy that was previously unimaginable. Although it is truly complex and sophisticated under the hood, the graphical interface is clean and straightforward. By setting the right parameters (which you have found in this guide), you can only be satisfied with the results obtained!
Do you want to delve further into the topic of Color Management? Take a look HERE for more information and to book your one-to-one lessons.
If you don’t have a BenQ SW monitor yet, remember that by contacting me, you can get a discount on your purchase.
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