Best Monitor Brightness and Contrast Settings for Gaming

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Gaming has gotten more intense over the years; graphics are sharper, the sound is crisper, and gameplay is fluid and entertaining.

However, you must take the time to properly calibrate your monitor’s brightness and contrast settings to have the best gaming experience possible. 

Keep reading to see everything you need about setting up the best monitor brightness and contrast settings for your gaming needs! 

Importance of Calibrating Monitor Brightness and Contrast

There are several reasons why it is so important to calibrate your monitor’s brightness and contrast settings, especially if you game for hours in a single sitting each day.

Gaming for long periods can be extra taxing on your body if you do not have the right settings set up, with the most common problems being eye fatigue and headaches. 

Besides protecting your health and eyes from strain, taking the time to figure out the best settings for your monitor allows you to make the most of that special monitor you got just for gaming. 

This is especially important if you are a fan of playing games with dark scenes (or you enjoy watching Game of Thrones and squinting to see who is doing what).

By properly calibrating your monitor, you can increase your visibility and enjoy accurate colors, which can mean the difference between victory and defeat in a game. 

What to Calibrate When it Comes to Monitor Settings

You know it is important to calibrate your monitor, but what settings should you mess with when you finally decide to do this important task?

There are seven settings, in particular, you should calibrate when you get a new monitor. Refresh rate, resolution, aspect ratio, color temperature, brightness and contrast, sharpness, and gamma settings. 

You can mess around with other settings on your monitor if you want, but those are the seven you want to focus on to get the most out of your monitor.

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Below you can see the best settings for all of these parameters.

So let’s jump in.

Brightness and Contrast

Best Brightness and Contrast Settings:

  • The screen brightness should be no more than 75% – 90%. Only go to 100% if you have an eye-friendly monitor or need it because of room lighting.
  • Contrast should be set between 50 – 80, depending on your preference. 

By far some of the most important settings for a monitor, the screen’s brightness level and contrast settings will dictate how easy it is to see your favorite games.

Before tweaking your brightness settings, open the games you play with dark scenes. That way, you can get the settings perfect for those games while actively inside the game.

Brightness

Start by tweaking your brightness settings. I recommend starting with a brightness of 75%-90%.

With a brightness setting below 70%, it might be difficult to see what’s going on in the shadows. On the other hand, too much brightness will make the image seem dull and kill any suspense. High brightness can easily lead to a feeling of eye strain.

If there’s a lot of ambient lighting – fx from direct sunlight or sunlight spilling into your game room – you might need to increase the brightness of the screen to the maximum to see what going on. But that’s the only time I recommend doing so.

Once you have your brightness settings, you want to set your contrast settings.

Contrast

A higher contrast ratio will cause the dark areas of the image to become darker and the white areas to become brighter.

As a result, colors will have more of a punch (look more vibrant), and the image will appear sharper. A high contrast ratio is important if you’re gaming for long hours in a darkly lit room.

While it depends on your preferences, I recommend starting with a contrast ratio between 50 – 80 and adjusting to taste from there.

If you want to calibrate your brightness and contrast, you can do it via the color calibration wizard from above or your monitor. Find the contrast and brightness buttons on your monitor and then use those to get your optimal brightness and contrast.

What about the dynamic range?

So how is the contrast level related to the contrast ratio?

The contrast ratio is related to the dynamic range of your monitor.

A high dynamic range means the monitor can display many contrast levels between the darkest black and the whitest white.

Refresh Rate

Optimal Refresh Rate: Minimum 60hz; 120hz is optimal.

Refresh rate refers to the number of times per second your monitor refreshes whatever is currently on your screen (game, video, image, etc.).

A low refresh rate causes image flickering, which leads to a bad gaming experience.

A higher refresh rate (combined with a fast response time of <4ms) on your monitor is especially important for fast-paced shooters because many fast movements and actions happen on the screen each second. So you want your screen to update quickly and tell you what’s happening in real-time.

While your hardware limits your refresh rate, you can increase your refresh rate if it is supported. To change your refresh rate, follow the steps below. 

  1. Open your Settings App;
  2. Navigate to the “System” tab. 
  3. When you open the “System” tab, you will automatically be on the Display Settings window. 
  4. Scroll to the bottom and click “Advanced Display Settings.”
  5. At the bottom will be “Refresh Rate.”
  6. Click the pulldown menu to see the available refresh rates. 
  7. Select your desired refresh rate and then press “Keep These Changes.”

Some monitors even have a refresh rate of 144Hz or above. These are great for fast-paced games, but some people experience motion sickness at a high refresh rate. In that case, you don’t want to choose the highest refresh rate possible.

How is the Response Time related to the monitor refresh rate?

Your monitor might have a response time of <4ms or <1ms. But what does response time mean? And how is that related to the refresh rate?

Response time is the time it takes the monitor to change the color of a pixel from one color to another, measured in milliseconds (ms). Because of this, if your monitor can’t change pixel colors quickly, it can’t have a high refresh rate.

A slow response time and refresh rate can lead to trailing, ghosting, or unwanted motion blur.

How is Screen Tearing related to the monitor refresh rate?

Screen tearing is caused by the frame rate of your GPU isn’t in sync with the refresh rate of your monitor.

To combat this, enable the appropriate technology of your GPU or monitor, such as VSync, Adaptive Sync, or Variable Refresh Rate.

Resolution

Optimal Resolution: 1920 x 1080 is the current optimal resolution.

Next up is your monitor’s display resolution. Resolution refers to the number of pixels your screen can show. The higher the screen resolution, the sharper your games will be, while a low resolution will result in blurry and pixelated images. 

Like your refresh rate, the resolution is controlled by your hardware, so if you want to enjoy a higher resolution rate, you will need a high-quality graphics card combined with your monitor.

To change your resolution settings, follow the steps below. 

  1. Open your Settings App;
  2. Navigate to the “System” tab. 
  3. When you open the “System” tab, you will automatically be on the Display Settings window. 
  4. In the middle of the screen should be “Display Resolution.”
  5. Click that to pull up your available resolution options.
  6. I recommend going with whatever resolution has “recommended” next to it, as it will likely function the best.

Pro tip: I know gaming in 4K (3840×2160 pixels), and above is all the rage. And even though it makes many games look amazing, the highest setting isn’t always the best option.

If you’re playing first-person shooters and MOBA games, you’ll greatly benefit from playing at 1920×1080 maximum. It’s much easier to pull off a jump headshot with a sniper rifle at 1080p than at high resolutions such as 1440p or 2160p!

Aspect Ratio

Optimal Aspect Ratio: 16:9 is the current optimal Aspect Ratio. 

The aspect ratio is the ratio between your display’s height and width, and having the wrong aspect ratio can throw off your entire display. While there are several different aspect ratios available that you can choose from, and newer ones like 21:9 are starting to become available, you can never go wrong with using 16:9.

If your display is zoomed in or out too far or otherwise feels off, there is a good chance it is your aspect ratio settings that need to be tweaked. To check your aspect ratio and change it to 16:9, follow the steps below. 

  1. Open your Settings App;
  2. Navigate to the “System” tab. 
  3. When you open the “System” tab, you will automatically be on the Display Settings window. 
  4. Scroll to the bottom and click “Advanced Display Settings.”
  5. Click “Display Adapter Properties.”
  6. A pop-up window will open. Select “List All Modes.”
  7. Choose the aspect ratio from the list and press “Apply.”

Color Temperature Settings

Optimal Color Temperature: Depends on your preferences. 

When it comes to your monitor’s color temperature, it depends entirely on your personal preferences.

Usually, starting with a monitor’s native color temperature is best, then playing with them to get them right for your needs. 

Suppose you want to speed up the process and use a tool to get the perfect color temperature settings for your monitor.

In that case, you should check out the DataColor SpyderX Elite (link to Amazon):

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The SpyderX Elite is a calibration device designed for color-grading artists, video creators, and graphical artists who want the best monitor settings.

A professional artist must be able to rely on the computer screen because, in the end, that’s the tool they use to judge if the contrast ratio, brightness levels, color profile, and different colors are correct.

The SpyderX Elite makes the calibration process easy and pain-free.

If you don’t want to shell out for such a tool, check out the steps below instead: 

  1. Open your Settings App;
  2. Navigate to the “System” tab. 
  3. When you open the “System” tab, you will automatically be on the Display Settings window. 
  4. Scroll to the bottom and click “Advanced Display Settings.”
  5. Click “Display Adapter Properties.”
  6. A pop-up window will open. Select the “Color Management” tab. 
  7. Press “Color Management…”
  8. Navigate to the “Advanced” tab.
  9. Click “Calibrate Display.”
  10. Follow the calibration wizard to calibrate your computer’s color settings. 

Most monitors can also set your picture settings directly from the on-screen display menu via the buttons on the bottom, side, or back.

While this may not always be the case, it is usually a possible option if you want to avoid going through the pain of using the Windows color calibration wizard.

Sharpness 

Optimal Sharpness Settings: Keeping your sharpness between 65 – 80 is recommended.

Your monitor’s sharpness decides how easy it is to read text on your screen and will make a huge difference in how comfortable or uncomfortable it is to stare at the screen for hours. 

Finding the best sharpness for you will take some trial and error because having too low or high of sharpness can make your computer viewing experience less comfortable than it should be.

While you can change your sharpness settings directly from your monitor, you can also follow the steps below for NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards. 

NVIDIA Graphics Card:

  1. Open the Nvidia Control Panel.
  2. Navigate to the “Display” menu.
  3. Find the “Adjust desktop size and position” option.
  4. Underneath it should be a slider titled “Sharpness.”
  5. Move it back and forth to change your sharpness setting.

AMD Graphics Card:

  1. Open your Radeon Settings.
  2. Click “Display.”
  3. Activate “Radeon Image Sharpening.”
  4. Your sharpness will now automatically optimize in each game and app.

Gamma Rays

Optimal Gamma Rays Settings: The optimal setting is around 2.2 on a Windows PC and 1.8 for an Apple macOS. 

The gamma rays setting for monitors is a bit more complicated as it controls a monitor’s pixel brightness in relation to the overall brightness setting.

Thus, changing your gamma-ray brightness will change the overall brightness, so you can normally get by with not touching this setting unless you want to. 

If you want to change it, you can do so via the color calibration wizard explained above. It will help you choose the optimal settings for your monitor and provide you with a slider to move up and down. 

Summary

If you want to get the best from LCD monitors, you should not rely on the factory settings but take the plunge and start tweaking the different settings yourself.

Luckily this is easily done using a combination of the different settings in Windows, the software that comes with your GPU, and the built-in menu on your monitor.

Optimizing your monitor’s different settings can take some time, but after that first time, you shouldn’t have to worry about it again.

Plus, taking the time to hit the right sweet spot for you will help ensure a great gaming experience and the best picture quality possible.

Remember, the perfect settings, especially for brightness, also depend on the amount of light in your room. If you’re in a dark room, set the correct brightness with the settings mentioned in this article.

However, if you’re in a room with much light, you might have to crank up the brightness to the max to see what’s happening on the screen.

Likewise, with contrast, you want to hit a sweet spot where blacks are black, whites are white, and colors pop.

But if you crank up the settings too much, you’ll crush the blacks and make the whites too bright, so you can’t make out any details. Again the best way is to start with the settings suggested in this article and adjust to taste.

If you enjoyed this article and found it helpful, check out some of my other articles, like this one about the best linear switches for gaming. Until next time, happy gaming! 

FAQ

Should I Factory Reset My Monitor When Calibrating For the First Time?

Yes, when you finally calibrate your monitor, it can be beneficial to do a factory reset. By factory resetting your monitor, you eliminate any random changes you may have made in the past and give you a fresh slate to work with.

How Often Should My Monitor Be Calibrated?

While you can technically calibrate your monitor as often as you would like, you only need to recalibrate every few months to tweak settings based on your recent experiences.

After the first calibration, it will mostly make very small changes to reach that 100% optimal viewing experience. 

My Monitor Offers a Black Equalizer? What is that, and Should I Use It?

If you are looking through your monitor’s settings and notice one called black equalizer, what that does is it changes the black level. That means it brightens darker portions of your screen, like a dark corner in an FPS game, without touching the lighter portions of your screen. 

While it is not necessarily a huge deal if you change it or not, if you play a lot of games with dark spots, it may be helpful to increase it to make it easier to see enemies. 

Can I Turn Off My Computer’s Blue Light?

Every device emits blue light, which can cause eye strain and headaches, especially after long periods of use; some monitors have a blue light filter, which allows the option to turn that off. This causes colors to take on a warmer glow. 

If that option is unavailable, you can also turn on your computer’s night light from the display settings to accomplish the same. Remember that colors will be warmer and have a sort of orange tinge overall compared to the sharp blue/white monitors normally have.

While some manufacturers claim that low blue light settings should make it easier to fall asleep after screen time, this hasn’t been scientifically proven true.

What is color space?

The color space is an organization of colors. Common color spaces include Adobe RGB, sRGB, CMYK (mostly used for print), HSV (Hue, Saturation, Value), and HSL (Hue, Saturation, Lightness/Luminance).