Beauty is in the eye of your monitor

Digital art has a unique problem.

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For instance, do your images look the same on other people's monitors as they do on yours? Have you ever viewed your website or online gallery from another computer, or more specifically, from another monitor?

Traditional art, like painting for instance, produced an image whose appearance was fixed and changed only with the lighting of the room, the fading or darkening of the pigments in the paint over time, and in rare instances, the color blindness of the viewer.

In traditional art (ie non-digital) we see with our eyes, which never need to be calibrated and need no configuring. With digital art, we see with our monitors, and the artwork is an image file, a set of digitized instructions from which the monitor re-creates the artwork. It could look quite different from what the artist intended.

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In other words, a fractal that you're all excited about, with stunning color and subtle shading might just look like garbage to everyone else because you've carefully created the whole thing on a monitor whose image display is faulty.

It's like working with sunglasses on. What you create might look awesome, but it won't look that way to anyone else unless they put on sunglasses too.

Making sure your monitor display is set up correctly, or configured to some sort of standard, ought to be of primary importance when making digital art. It should be the first thing we do.

Would we look at Van Gogh's paintings differently if we knew he painted them under ultraviolet light conditions using special UV pigmented paints? Yes, of course; those would be the same conditions the artwork would be displayed in.

Would you read a book differently if you knew it was written in a foreign language? Yes, you would read a translation of it in your own language in order to understand what the author was saying. Our monitors translate the foreign language of jpg files and display to us what the artist made.

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A good translation is what the author would have written if they spoke your own language. A bad one is a distortion of what the author wrote because the translator cannot express accurately what the author originally said.

A good translation of a good book is a good book. A bad translation of a good book is a bad book. Similarly, if your monitor displays an artist's work in a distorted and inaccurate way, you end up looking at something bad or boring and wondering what on earth the artist ever saw in such a piece of garbage.

Of course, if you're the one with the distorted monitor then everyone else is wondering what you ever saw in your artwork which appears to them to be garbage.

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Anyhow, it's something to think about. Digital art is not a fixed medium like paint on canvas, so we ought to give some consideration to this unique challenge if we want to avoid filling up webspace with stuff only we ourselves can appreciate.

Here's what I do:
-Use the color setting, 6500K
-Leave the gamma setting at default or 1.00
-Set contrast and brightness to what looks good.
-Accept the fact that the average monitor is limited in its ability to render the full range of colors (especially darker tones) that printers or traditional art methods can and that this is a characteristic of digital art and work around it.
-try to view your work on as many monitors as possible, because in the end, it's all about standardizing digital display, not perfecting it.

I could be wrong.

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