Calibrating BenQ SW Series Monitors with Palette Master Elements

This is the Image Science guide to getting the best out of your BenQ SW Series monitor through BenQ's direct hardware calibration system, called Palette Master Elements. We take you through the process from front to back and explain all the settings along the way.

Of course if you have any questions after you've reviewed this guide, don't hesitate to get in touch for extra advice.

(N.B. This guide is only for BenQ SW series monitors - if you monitor's model number instead starts with a P instead, follow this guide instead!)



Mid 2019

Errors in Validation Bug(s)

UPDATE 17th June 2019 - V1.3.5 of Palette Master Elements on the PC appears to have issues with both validation and profile creation.  We suggest rolling back to 1.3.4 for now.


Bug notes:

The validation bug mentioned below appears to persist with the latest PME versions.  Current feedback is that Mac users are telling us 1.3.5 is working ok, but now PC users are experiencing this bug & others in 1.3.5

There is a bug with the  some recent versions of Palette Master Elements that affects the Mac version only if you specify the RGB primaries as panel native as recommended below.  

WORKAROUND:  We've been told an easy workaround is simply to choose AdobeRGB for the RGB primaries instead - for now - as the finished result will be nearly identical (as the native gamut of the BenQ monitors is effectively AdobeRGB anyway). (This does not seem to work as a fix on the 1.3.5 PC version).

BenQ are aware of this bug and working to fix it, however they are also working on some great new functionality so it's possible it may take a little while before a new release that fixes this bug is forthcoming. 

IMPORTANT: This validation bug in no way affects the performance of your actual calibrations.

That is - the bug means validation will fail (i.e. the actual calibration itself is NOT affected)

Specifically, from what we have seen, the validation of the Red, Green and Blue primaries (lines 12, 13 and 14 in the screenshot below) will fail.  It's actually quite easy to see why - the bug has caused L* values of 100 to be used for R G and B in the values PME is validating against - which is of course incorrect (you can see a set of correct validation values in the screenshot below - although of course the actual values will vary depending on your calibration target).

The key message is that the bug can be safely ignored - your calibrations are correct, this is just a maths error in the validation report.

Getting Started

First - Clean Up!

First, it's good practise to tidy up in general - and that means you should remove any and all previously installed monitor calibration systems you might have used - as different calibration systems often interfere with each other.  

Once you have your BenQ properly set up and calibrated, you can then re-install your other software (but we really recommend you do so only if you need to for use with other devices - e.g. to calibrate a second monitor).

(Also, if your BenQ is attached to a laptop, make sure that during this process the monitor is directly attached to the laptop, rather than through a laptop dock, as docks are notorious for breaking this process!).

Also, clean your monitor's screen - we don't want any dust or crud on there to interfere with your calibrator's measurements.  (And this is a good time to point our that your high end screen should not be cleaned by a low end, potentially damaging cleaning product.  Eizo offer a good choice here.)

Disable Interfering OS Features

Dynamic adjustments to monitors like 'Night Shift' are a bad idea for colour management!

We don't want your screen's appearance to be modified in any way during the calibration process, so at this time you should also:

  • Disable your screen saver (or set the time of activation out to an hour)
  • Disable any monitor power management that might turn off or dim your screen (or again, set out the activation to an hour)
  • Disable the 'Night Light' mode (aka 'Night Shift' on Macs)

Once calibration is complete, you can set them back to how they were, except you should leave the Night Light disabled - this varies the monitor colour over the day, a very bad idea for colour accurate work. 

(Your BenQ has low blue light and anti-flicker features built in that already offer very high ergonomic quality for your eyes - BenQ actually invented this technology).

Download and Install PME

To properly calibrate your new BenQ SW Series monitor, you must use BenQ's free Palette Master Elements (PME) software.  This is the only software that allows you to use one of the major features of your monitor - direct hardware calibration.

So, the first step is to download your free copy of Palette Master Elements if you haven't already.  You will find the specific link for this in the printed 'Quick Start Guide' that came with your monitor (see the final step). 

The link varies depending on your monitor's model number (although in fact the links are all to the same software!).  E.g. here's the link for the SW2700PT.

Connect the USB!

**N.B. THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT AND THE MOST COMMONLY MISSED STEP**

PME talks directly to your BenQ monitor's hardware over a USB connection (i.e. not the video connection) - so you must make sure you have also plugged in the monitor's USB connection - ideally using the supplied cable from BenQ.

This connection also enables the downstream USB ports on the side of your monitor, and the SD card reader if your model has one.

If you fail to do this you will get a message saying the monitor is not found, or you may see something more obscure like 'Are the FTDI drivers installed?'.  Plug the USB in, re-start the software, and Palette Master Elements will then find the monitor.

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Connect The Calibrator

Once you have made the USB connection to the monitor, then connect your calibrator.

The most reliable approach is to now connect your calibrator to one of the downstream USB ports on the monitor itself.  (Sometimes the BenQ software can be fussy about recognising the calibrator if you instead have it attached to a USB port on your computer - so if you have any issues in this area, try the ports on your monitor).

Palette Master Elements is compatible with, and comes with drivers for, X-Rite i1Display, i1Pro and Datacolor Spyder 4 and 5 calibrators.  (If you don't have a calibrator yet, we strongly recommend the X-Rite i1Display Pro - it's the de facto industry standard calibrator and an excellent, reliable, accurate device).

Setup

Make sure your monitor has properly warmed up before you start calibrating - with BenQ monitors just five minutes of switched on time is enough.

When PME first opens, you will be greeted with an initial setup screen. This screen should correctly identify your monitor and the calibrator you are using (if you forgot to plug in your calibrator before starting PME, plug it in now and choose 'Check Sensor' to confirm PME can find it).

We also choose Advanced Mode on this screen as we of course want to get the most out of our excellent monitor hardware.

When all looks right, hit 'Start' to begin the calibration process. 

You'll see a screen with two choices - just choose Profiling and hit Next.

PME Display Settings

On this page we choose appropriate settings for the profiling and calibration to follow.

You can set the following things, and here we provide some basic recommendations, but feel free to ask for more advice if you need it.  

Whitepoint - The industry standard whitepoint is 6500K (AKA D65).  You should probably use this if you are using a typical photo lab for your printing, or entering images into your camera club etc.  Alternatively, if you're doing your own printing (or printing with us here), you will probably find a warmer whitepoint gives you a noticeably better screen to print match.  We use 5800K here, which has become a de facto standard for many working in fine art print.

RGB Primaries - BenQ monitors are wide gamut monitors, and we want so see and use all that lovely colour, so we choose Panel Native here.  If you want to constrain the gamut of the monitor, or are aiming to work to a video standard, you could choose e.g. sRGB or DCI-P3 here as appropriate.

Luminance - For most print work, somewhere in the range of 80 to 120 cd/m2 is typically appropriate.  After calibration, if you find e.g. your prints are always darker than you expect, re-calibrate and set a lower figure here (or vice versa if prints are lighter, use a higher figure here).  100 cd/m2 is a good starting point, so that's what we have set here.   If you're doing video work, and you are trying to simulate TVs etc, you will probably want to use a higher figure, or even Maximum for the luminance.

Gamma
- For almost all still imaging work, this should be 2.2.  In the video space, different gammas are often used, such as 2.4.  Set as appropriate.

Black Point - Generally we advise setting relative here, but it depends on whether you want the deepest possible black, or the most accurate black.  Absolute here means use the full native contrast ration of the panel and set the black to the lowest possible point.  Using Relative here should in theory result in a more neutral black (technically the monitor will maintain the gamma curve all the way to the black point) - and one more suitable to print soft proofing, but the black will not be as deep as is possible.

(This is one area this software could be improved both in terms of options and language - it would be nice to be able to set a specific black level/contrast ratio here to enable better hardware simulation of print contrast conditions).

When you're happy with all your settings, hit Next to continue.

Measurement Settings

Now, we set up the measurement and profile settings.  Here we have chose options for maximum quality and compatibility.

Note you can load two or three separate calibrations in most SW models.  Once loaded into the monitor after the calibration process, you can switch between your different calibrations using the mode button on your monitor.  So you can, for example, create a general target for sRGB and web use, and a separate calibration for printing, and easily switch between these as needed.

Here, we've chosen to load this calibration into mode Calibration 1

ICC Profile Name is up to you - you can go with the technical numbers the software auto generates, or you can call it something more human like 'My Fine Art Print Calibration'.

System Level - this should always be checked, I really can't think of a scenario where you wouldn't want this to be checked to be honest.

Profile Version - V2 ICC profiles are the most generally compatible and there's really no actual practical benefit to V4 profiles, so go with V2 here.

Profile Type - The most accurate is 16 Bit LUT, so we have chosen that.

Patch Set Size - We chose large, which means measure and correct more patches.  It takes longer, but the final result is more accurate.

When you're happy with your settings, hit Start Measurement to begin the actual measurement process.

The Measurement Stage

Follow the on-screen instructions and mount your calibrator on the screen, then hit continue to get the ball rolling.  Your screen will flash various for a while, with various brightness levels and colours, and the process can take some time (up to 30 minutes - but usually it is more like 10 minutes).

When the process is complete, you will see the basic results screen.

Basic results - to learn more, proceed to validation...

Validation and Extended Results

Whilst there is a solid argument to be made that validating a calibration with the same measuring instrument you made it with is conceptually flawed (measurement errors that occur during calibration are likely to be repeated during validation), there's no real harm in it, so hit Validate Calibration and you will get a more comprehensive results screen

Look at those lovely low delta E scores (= accurate colour!)

Calibration Complete!

At this point your BenQ SW monitor is calibrated, and you can finish here if you like, or go back and set up more calibrations for different working scenarios.  

You should now be able to enjoy gorgeous, accurate colour on your now calibrated display!  We recommend you re-run the calibration every month or so.

Below we link to an article that lists some suggested calibration targets for different scenarios, such as fine art printing or video editing work.

We have lots of other content you may find useful as an SW owner, here are a few of particular relevance:

Or, browse all our colour accurate monitor articles:

The BenQ SW Series

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BenQ SW2700PT 27" Monitor
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BenQ SW271 27" 4K Monitor
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BenQ SW320 31.5" 4K Monitor
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