Calibrating tv color: How To Calibrate Your TV [Simple Guide]

How To Calibrate Your TV [Simple Guide]

Find out how to calibrate your TV the quickest and simplest way without purchasing any calibration discs or professional services.

By Rob Shafer


The quickest and most straightforward way to calibrate your TV is to select the Movie/Cinema or Filmmaker picture preset, which has the best color settings.

Then, you should disable all image manipulation features, such as Motion Smoothing, Dynamic Contrast Ratio, Energy Saving and Noise Removal/Reduction.

The truth is that the TV you’re watching could most likely have a better and more immersive image quality with some tweaks here and there.

Now, there are professional services that can calibrate your TV and certain calibration discs or devices you can buy, but in this guide, we’ll focus on what basic and free alterations you can do to enhance the picture quality on your TV right away.

Picture Presets

First of all, after opening your TV settings, you should either select ‘User Mode’/’Custom’ preset or ‘Movie’/’Cinema’ preset. The latter usually has the best color settings right out of the box, which is why we recommend it. Modern TVs also have a ‘Filmmaker’ mode, which usually offers the most accurate settings out of the box.

Image Manipulation Features

TV features such as Framerate Interpolation (Soap Opera effect) and Black Frame Insertion, implement additional frames generated by the TV’s processor to increase motion clarity.

However, unless you are watching sports or playing fast-paced games, these features have adverse effects on image quality.

Some people prefer to disable it even when playing games/watching sports, while others like to use this feature to watch almost everything.

Different TV brands will have different names for these features, for instance – LG TruMotion, Sony MotionFlow, etc. You can learn more about motion smoothing here.

Other features that manipulate the image quality are Dynamic Contrast Ratio and Energy Saving, all of which you should also disable.

Afterward, when you are finished with the calibration, you can enable these features and see how they affect the image quality.

Naturally, if you are using your TV as a monitor or for console gaming, you should leave ‘Game Mode’/’PC Mode’ on. Furthermore, the ‘Noise Removal/Reduction’ feature should only be used with low-quality content and disabled otherwise.

Brightness & Contrast

You should adjust the contrast and brightness according to the picture below. Click on the image to enlarge it.


If you want your image to be brighter, you should adjust the TV’s ‘Backlight’ setting.

You can set it to whatever you want – if you are watching the TV in a bright room, you should increase the backlight and decrease it if you are viewing it in a dim room.

Generally, setting it to between 50% – 75% will work most of the time.

Color Settings

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to calibrate the colors of a TV perfectly without a dedicated colorimeter.

Since every TV is a different machine, even when two identical models are in question, you cannot simply copy the ideal color values (for instance, red, green and blue color channel values for color temperature).

This is why we recommend using the Movie/Cinema or Filmmaker picture preset, which usually has the most accurate color settings.

And that’s it. That is as much as you can do to make your TV’s picture better without purchasing any professional calibration CDs or services.

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How to calibrate your TV

No matter how much you spend on your new TV, calibrating the picture is a necessary step to get the best home theater experience. Since TVs on display in stores need to compete with showroom lighting, the default picture settings are often not ideal for home use. Even TVs with multiple image presets need some work.


  • Pick your process
  • Talk the talk
  • Getting ready
  • Making your adjustments
  • Important final notes

Anyone is capable of calibrating a television, as long as you follow the right steps. With the right settings, you can have a display that works best for your home. Our TV tune-up guide will help you quickly set up your best picture quality.

Pick your process

This guide is designed to help those who want to do a manual adjustment without the aid of a calibration disc. Actually, we recommend you start with an “eyeball” calibration first, even if you do intend to use a disc for help. It will get you closer to your ideal settings and facilitate faster fine-tuning later.

You could also choose a calibration disk that you would use in an accompanying Blu-ray player. While many may be wondering about separate techniques for adjusting 4K Ultra HD TVs — especially those with high dynamic range (HDR) — we regret to say there are very few viable calibration discs available to the general public at present. You’ll find some YouTube test patterns available, but their usefulness is limited compared to scenes you can find simply by playing a favorite movie or show.

If you really want a calibration disc to work with, we suggest the Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark and Calibration. In our experience, this is one of the most intuitive calibration and testing discs available to the enthusiast. It provides clear, easy-to-understand on-screen instructions as well as online support, and it does away with the often corny and cheesy voice-overs associated with other calibration discs. The only downside is that it doesn’t include audio adjustment, but if audio help is what you need, we’ve got you covered here.

If you want to try a completely different approach — one that doesn’t involve a disc but rather your iOS or Android device — check out THX’s Tune-Up app. It connects to your TV via HDMI (separate adapter required) and uses your iOS or Android device’s camera to assist you. You can learn more about the app at the App Store (iOS) or Google Play store (Android).

Talk the talk

There are many terms at play when discussing picture quality and its various aspects. Though many of these terms tend to be easy to pick up and understand immediately, TV manufacturers seem intent on making things more confusing by applying their own proprietary nomenclature to terms like contrast, saturation, etc., or trademarked names to technology like local dimming or backlighting.

While we’re going to be using the basic terms in this article, they may be different from what your TV lists. To help make things clearer, we’ve included the following table to describe how different TV manufacturers refer to basic terminology.

LG Samsung Sharp Sony Vizio
Backlight Backlight/OLED Light Backlight Backlight Brightness Backlight
Brightness Brightness Brightness Brightness Black level Brightness
Color Color Color Color Color Color
Color space Color management Color space C. M.S. Advanced color temperature Color tuner
Color temperature Color temperature Color tone Color temperature Color temperature Color temperature
Contrast Contrast Contrast Contrast Contrast Contrast
Dynamic contrast Dynamic contrast Dynamic contrast AquoDimming Advanmced contrast enhancer Black detail
Full/limited RGB Black level HDMI black level Black level Dynamic range
Local dimming LED local dimming Smart LED N/A Auto local dimming Acrive LED zones
Motion interpolation/Motion smoothing TruMotion Auto motion plus Motion enhancement Motionflow Reduce judder/Reduce motion blur
Noise removal Noise reduction and MPEG noise reduction Digital clear view and MPEG noise filter Digital noise reduction Random noise reduction and Digital noise reduction Reduce noise
Picture mode Picture mode Picture mode AV Mode Picture mode Picture mode
Sharpness H & V sharpness Sharpness Sharpness Sharpness Sharpness
Tint Tint Tint Tint Tint Tint
White balance White balance White balance Advanced color temperature Advanced color temperature 11 point white balance

Getting ready

Before we launch into making any changes in your TV’s settings, there are a few things we need to do first to make sure the stage is set for a hassle-free and successful calibration.

Pick your sources

Our top source recommendation is a Blu-ray disc player — either of the standard or Ultra HD variety — or game console. These devices deliver a full 1080p image, and in some cases 4K resolution and/or HDR. That sort of detail will come in handy later. Plus, calibrating your TV for the best possible picture source right out of the gate just makes sense. If you don’t own a Blu-ray player, an HD cable/satellite box with DVR is your best alternative. The key is to get the best source possible while maintaining the ability to pause images as needed. Whatever source you choose, you need to you connect it to your TV via HDMI cable.

For source material, we recommend a high-definition movie or TV program that was natively recorded in HD or 4K Ultra HD as it applies to your display. Pick something that has a good blend of bright and dark scenes as well as a lot of color. Avoid dreary, under-saturated shows, such as Game of Thrones. Computer-animated films can make excellent sources of vivid color and resolution detail, but live-action films are going to be better for judging more subtle aspects like skin tone accuracy and shadow detail.

Pick a picture mode

Your TV will come with several different picture modes and presets. These are usually labeled sports, games, vivid, movie, cinema or standard — some will even get specific as to which type of sport. Most of these are horribly out of whack. Steer clear of sports and vivid or “bright” modes, as these are consistently the worst offenders and, because they are so overly bright, will reduce the long-term life of your TV. The movie, cinema or standard settings serve as the best launchpads for creating your own custom settings. They may appear a little dark for your taste at first, but we’ll be fixing that. Once your adjustments are made, they may be saved under a “custom” setting rather than altering the factory pre-set. Those that do alter the factory pre-set will usually provide a factory reset option, as well as an option to make the settings “Global”  and be applied across all sources.

Stuff to turn off

Today’s TVs come with a long list of different processors intended to enhance images in one way or another. While some of these can prove valuable, it is best to defeat them while adjusting — you can always turn them back on later when you’re finished. Keep in mind that a Blu-ray disc image is natively very high quality and requires little to no processing help anyway.

The very first thing we suggest you disable is the motion smoothing feature, e.g., MotionFlow, CineMotion, TrueMotion, CineSpeed 120Hz, 240Hz, 480Hz or something else along those lines (check the above table). These processors make everything you watch look like a soap opera and defeat the cinematography that makes films look amazing.

Other picture enhancements that can often be disabled for improved quality may include edge correction, digital noise reduction (DNR), MPEG error correction, flesh tone, dynamic contrast, black enhancement, and HDMI black level, among others.


Making your adjustments

In the following section, we’ll cover most of the basic adjustments that users can make without breaking into the locked “service settings” of your TV. We’ll talk a little about what these adjustments do and what to look at to make sure you’ve got the best setting.

(Note: We highly recommend that only qualified service technicians get into the locked service menus. Just one adjustment in the wrong direction can throw an array of other settings off — that’s why they’re locked!)


This adjustment controls the intensity of the backlight on an LCD/LED TV. For those who have their TV in a dark room or basement, this setting won’t need to be terribly high. For those in brighter rooms, more backlight intensity will be desired. Try to avoid making this adjustment while the sun is shining directly on the screen, as this will result in an unnaturally high setting. Instead, make your adjustments when the room light is at its average for when you watch, and pick a program or movie scene with a lot of white in it — a daylight scene on a snow-covered mountain, for example. If after watching the scene for 10 minutes you begin to squint, the backlight is too strong. Reduce the backlight and repeat until you are happy.


The term “brightness” is a little misleading since the setting actually has more to do with the black level of your TV. Setting the brightness too high will result in grayed-out blacks and a loss of dimension. When brightness is set too low, you will lose detail in dark areas of the screen (called clipping). The easiest way to adjust the brightness is to use the black letterbox bars at the top and bottom of a movie.

These bars are meant to be dead black, and will usually be darker than the black background often found in movie credits. Pause on your scene of choice and turn the brightness up until the letterbox bars appear grey. Then, reduce the brightness just until the black bars are totally black.

Once this is done, find a scene that involves large dark sections that still contain detail. If the brightness is set too low, you’ll be missing details in dark scenes and shadowy areas. Keep in mind that there is such a thing as “blacker than black. ” Not all details in shadows are meant to be visible.


Contrast is, like brightness, a misleading term because this adjustment actually deals with the brightness and detail within the white portions of an image.

Ultimately, your contrast setting will come down to personal preference, but we advise that you resist the urge to simply jack the contrast up. Find a scene with a bright, white image in it and hit the pause button. Adjust the contrast to the point where the white object is bright, but still contains detail and crisp edges. A good starting place is the halfway mark. From there you should have no problem finding the setting that suits you.

(Note: You may have to bounce back and forth between the contrast and brightness settings to find the optimum combination. This is normal and can take a little time, but the final result is worth the effort.)


It is a common misconception that turning the sharpness on a TV to its maximum will provide a sharper picture. Truth be told, high-definition images usually need little or no sharpness enhancement. You can play around with this setting by pausing your source on a scene that provides lots of straight lines; for instance, a scene with lots of buildings or other uniform shapes like stadium bleachers.

If you turn the sharpness to its maximum, you should notice that the straight lines will become jagged. This is the TV introducing artifacts to the image that shouldn’t be there. Reduce the sharpness to a point where the edges appear clean and straight, then let it be.


Many of the high-end TVs we’ve tested have outstanding color accuracy right out of the box. But on mid- to lower-tier TVs, color adjustment could be considered the trickiest of them all. Without a calibration disc and an optical filter (or the ability to defeat the red and green output of the television), it can be tough to know if you’ve got the color just right. Just how green should a leaf look, anyway? For this reason, a calibration disc is highly recommended to achieve the most accurate color settings. We do have a couple of tricks to offer, though.

We strongly recommend you take notes of each setting and store them for future reference.

First, find out if your TV offers a color-temperature adjustment. Settings for color temperature are usually expressed in terms of cool or warm. Choose the warmest setting you have available to you as a starting point. From there, find a scene with plenty of faces in it, then press Pause.

Turn the color all the way up, and notice how everyone appears to have jaundice or a fresh sunburn. You don’t want that. Now, turn the color nearly all the way down and notice how everyone looks as if they belong in the morgue. You don’t want that either. Now adjust the color back up until the faces look natural. Each person’s face should have its own distinct hue. If it looks like real skin tone, you’ll know you’ve gotten close.

Note that you may also see references to color gamuts that your TV can reach, such as a percentage of the cinematic standard DCI-P3. These cannot be adjusted, but content with optimization technologies like HDR can take advantage of broader color gamut coverage.


We recommend that you leave the Tint setting alone, unless you are using a calibrator disc. It is a rare case in which the tint setting will need much adjustment, but it does happen. If it does, you can also use our same skin color test we mentioned above.

Important final notes

  • We recommend noting or snapping a pic of your chosen settings for future reference so you don’t lose them after dialing in on the perfect ones. After all, someone is bound to come along and accidentally screw it up at some point. It’s especially prudent to record the settings if you have kids — or just a household with a lot of peripherals (or gaming systems).
  • If you do watch content with HDR, that’s great, it should improve your visuals noticeably. But it won’t be the settings you chose when you calibrated your TV. You can typically calibrate individual settings while in HDR mode, but there’s not usually a need — HDR tends to find the best possible options for the content you are watching or the closest it can get.
  • If you want to get the most out of your TV’s picture quality, you can always acquire new and specialized tools to further enhance performance. For example, you can use a calibration disc to micromanage the output of your television. While it uses test patterns with lesser subjectivity, you will optimize the settings on your TV. The disc itself costs a little extra, but it ultimately gives you confidence that you’re getting the best picture quality.
  • If you’re not sure what to watch, we’ve got lists of the best Blu-ray discs and Ultra HD Blu-ray discs to make the most of your home theater. It’s always best to reward a hard day’s work with a cold beer or lemonade. So, grab one, have a seat, and enjoy your shiny new TV with the knowledge that it looks its best. We’ll even allow a little gloating on your part as a newly ordained home theater whiz.
  • Check out our guide on manually calibrating your speakers for incredible sound to make your home theater even better. In the end, picture quality and sound quality complement each other so perfectly that you can’t have one without the other.
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How do I get the best picture on my TV?

Regardless of the screen size, every owner of a liquid crystal (LCD, LED) TV wants to get the maximum quality from the image produced by the screen. In order to get closer to the benchmarks for aspect ratio, brightness, contrast, color and focus, we will use various expert tests from Burosch.

The tests they have created are used all over the world to evaluate the quality of a TV picture. These tests and setup instructions are only suitable for liquid crystal (LED, LCD) TVs, not older than 10 years.

Does the screen need to be adjusted? Didn’t the manufacturer take care of that?

Partly true. Large production volumes do not allow the manufacturer to fine-tune the screen, be it Samsung, LG, Sony, Toshiba, Sharp.

TV operating conditions play an important role. They will always be different: the signal sources are different, the TV is installed at different heights, the distance to the TV is different, the room lighting is different and there are many other aspects. Therefore, it makes no sense to adjust the image either at the factory or in the store, but you need to do it at home, in the place where the TV will be installed.

Achieving the correct display of the picture is no more difficult than setting the channels. It will take no more than 20 minutes of your time. To make your TV pleasing to the eye, you only need to adjust the picture settings so that the test pictures are displayed correctly on the screen. How exactly should be “correct” you will see below. Test pictures are selected by experts so that after adjustment you can enjoy any scene in terms of brightness, color, clarity and contrast.

More about test images

Each individual image serves to set one parameter. The test from Burosch contains:

  • Pictures for setting five basic parameters: format, brightness, contrast, color and focus.
  • Pictures with test areas for simultaneous adjustment of several parameters
  • Pictures for professional calibration
  • Some real pictures for checks

Test pictures for each parameter

Used to fit a single parameter. After adjusting this setting, you will need to switch to another picture and adjust another setting.

Test patterns with multiple test areas

Used when quick setup is required or when setup is performed by an inexperienced user. On such images, you can adjust five basic parameters at once.

How to display test pictures on TV?

To display test images on the screen, use a USB drive (after writing files from the archive to it), if your TV is equipped with a USB input, if there is no USB input, display the image from your PC / laptop.

You can download the archive with files from this link. Save this file and unzip it. Write the unzipped files to a USB flash drive, and then plug it into the appropriate TV slot.

Getting Started with Screen

First of all, you need to select the signal source on the remote control.

To do this, press the Source or Input key and select the image source: USB flash drive (or the corresponding HDMI input if you are broadcasting from a PC / laptop).

Next, you need to enter the TV menu: to do this, press the menu button on the remote control and go to the picture settings. Different manufacturers have a menu button called differently: it can be Settings, Options, Menu. The picture below shows the most common remotes.

If you have any difficulties entering the menu, you can find a description of this procedure in the instructions for the TV more precisely, specifically for your model. When you enter the menu, you will see something like this:

Next, you have to choose which way to go: take a universal picture (faster) or adjust each parameter according to the corresponding picture (higher quality).

Setting the screen format

In order for the format to be set correctly, it is necessary to disable the scaling functions (overscan, upscale) in the menu.

Brightness setting

The correct brightness setting is achieved when all shades of gray are clearly visible against a black background. To do this, move the slider of the brightness parameter in the menu with the remote control keys until all gray gradations are visible.

Contrast setting

The correct contrast setting is similar to the brightness setting, the only difference is that now the background is not black, but white. The correct setting is when you see all grayscale on a white background. To do this, use the remote control keys to move the slider for the contrast parameter in the menu until all gray gradations are visible.

Color adjustment

Color saturation and color temperature are adjusted according to human skin tone. In order to get the correct color settings, you will need a test picture with women depicted on it. They have different skin colors, you need to adjust the regulators so that the skin looks natural. To do this, use the remote control keys to move the slider for the color parameter in the menu until all faces look natural.

Focus adjustment

Sharpness adjustments must be made after fine tuning the format described above. In order for the TV screen to produce a clear image on the test picture, it is necessary to achieve the most accurate display of intersections and lines. To do this, use the remote control keys to move the slider for the focus (sharpness) parameter in the menu until all intersections become visible.

After completing these settings, exit the menu, remove the USB flash drive, turn on any movie or TV program. After these, your TV is set up to enjoy watching videos of any content: from action movies to nature documentaries.

How to set up the TV using test pictures

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Burosch’s various Full HD and Ultra HD tests are used as a reference and are used to evaluate the image quality of the on a TV or monitor screen.

These tests can be used to optimize and adjust the image. You only need to achieve the correct display of pictures from the test on the screen and you can say that your TV is set up.

This adjustment occurs regardless of the screen size and is estimated by eye, each user makes adjustments for himself.

Picture adjustment should be carried out at home, in the place where the TV will be used. Because in a store or at a factory for a demonstration, they could choose a different mode of operation of the TV receiver. And with the help of settings, you can change the quality of the picture on the screen within a fairly large range.

Test images are selected so that by setting them correctly you can prepare your TV for displaying any scenes in terms of brightness, contrast, color, clarity.

All pictures are static to allow time for the eyes to detect inaccuracies in the display.

Test images are divided into five groups:

  1. Basic samples for primary visual correction
  2. Test images for metrological calibration with light sensor
  3. Professional static reference images for image optimization
  4. Dynamic test rollers
  5. Professionally made real pictures

These are the general characteristics of tests that may be encountered. In our tests, there are only some pictures, but they are quite enough to set up the TV.

Each test image serves to set a single parameter.

Our test has:

  • Five main images for the first basic picture quality setting on the screen:
    1. Format, size
    2. Brightness
    3. Contrast
    4. Color
    5. Focus (clearness)
  • Test images with many test areas
  • Professional customization images
  • Real images for further customization and verification

Test images for each setting

Such images are used for only one setting, unlike images with several test areas. Therefore, after making one setting, you need to change the picture to another and adjust another parameter. The setting procedure is described below.

Multiple test areas

Pictures with a large number of test areas (five zones are used here) are for TV set-up by inexperienced users or for quick setup. On each such picture, you can configure five basic parameters by controlling them on the screen at once.

The initial setup of the TV should be carried out either with the help of five primary test pictures or with one of the ones presented here.

    1. Set screen format or size. For proper adjustment, you need to disable the various image scaling functions in the menu. Different manufacturers have different names for such scaling (image resizing) functions.
    1. Brightness setting. Select the desired gray scale area and adjust the brightness so that all the gradations in the dark area are visible.
    1. Contrast. To set the contrast correctly, you need to select a light part of the gray scale and adjust it so that all parts of the scale are visible with a clear border between them.
  1. Col. Color adjustment is made according to the color tone of human skin. The test picture shows women with different skin colors, and you adjust the controls in the menu so that all shades look natural. It is necessary to adjust both the saturation of the color and the shades of the color temperature.
  2. Sharpness. By adjusting the sharpness or clarity, you need to achieve the disappearance of halos in the image in the sharpness test zone. It is necessary to achieve the most accurate display of lines and intersections without halos. This adjustment should only be made after fine-tuning the scaling from the first step.

After all the settings, you can include real photos in the desired resolution from the set. In these pictures you check the naturalness of all settings.