Calibrate multiple monitors with a Spyder4express™

Anyone who is serious about the color accuracy of their photo or video projects knows the importance of display calibration. Using a hardware sensor is the way to go, but if you have multiple monitors and opt for one of DataColor’s popular Spyder products, you better be ready to shell out some serious cash for a more high-end version. That’s because the software for the entry-level Spyder4express limits calibration to a single display… or does it? The other Spyders do have additional advantages over the Spyder4express, but by using a bit of ingenuity it is entirely possible to calibrate multiple monitors using this little guy.

THE PROBLEM

The way the Spyder4express software keeps its users from calibrating multiple monitors is quite simple. After it finishes running its process on the first monitor, a color profile is created for that display. So far so good — this is the way every calibration software works. But as the user attempts to calibrate the second monitor s/he will run into the first obstacle: the program window seems to be “stuck” on the same monitor as before, meaning it will only be possible to calibrate on that monitor. This part’s easy to get past. On Windows simply open the Displays control panel and set the second monitor as the main display. The Spyder4express software will only calibrate whatever display is set as the main display.

The big problem comes after you calibrate the second monitor and realize that the color profile created has overwritten the color profile for the first monitor. There is no way to name color profiles from within the Spyder4express’s software — it will automatically name every profile it creates “Spyder4Express.icm”, overwriting any earlier profile with the same name.

Spyder4express

THE SOLUTION

The way to get past this limitation of the Spyder4Express’s software is to rename each color profile right after creation. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as renaming the file, although that’s a good start. Navigate to your system color folder (in Windows 8 it’s C:\WINDOWS\system32\spool\drivers\color), find Spyder4Express.icm and give it a more descriptive name.

Now the next step involves renaming the profile’s “internal name,” the name stored within the file — the name the Spyder4Express’s software actually cares about. And that’s not so straightforward, at least not on a PC. I believe that Macs come with a pre-installed software that allows modifying a profile’s internal name, but PC users will first have to download Andrew Shepherd’s ICC Profile Toolkit.

After installing the program, it might be a good idea to take a look at the ReadMe file for a short lesson on how to use it. It mentions tooltips and a context menu, but for some reason I couldn’t see either even after following the troubleshooting directions. Not a big deal. Simply navigate to the folder where the program was installed and run ChangeDescription.exe.

From there you should be able to open the profile you want to edit and make the changes. But let’s back up a little because to be honest even that didn’t go so smoothly for me. Strangely enough I was not able to browse to my system color folder from the Open dialog box. No problem, I just copied the path (C:\Program Files (x86)\ICC Profile Toolkit) into the “File name” field, hit enter and voilà!

Oh and for quickly switching between profiles may I suggest a free program by X-Rite called “DisplayProfile.” I will not link directly to it because I want you to access it from this guide, which explains yet another good reason to use “DisplayProfile” AND gives you an extra bonus. Curious? Click.

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