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A Guide for Picking a LCD Monitor for Graphic Design

The Right Specifications to Look For

A monitor is a graphic designers canvas for creating works of art. Having a great monitor, is essential for your graphic design projects. When buying a LCD Monitor for graphic design purposes, the specifications you should look at before you buy a LCD monitor are:

  • The type of back light it uses
  • Viewable angle
  • Native resolution
  • Screen size
  • Aspect ratio
  • Dot pitch
  • Contrast ratio
  • Response time
  • Video Interface type
  • Ergonomics
  • and glossy or non-glossy screens.

Back Lights

When looking for an LCD display, you should look for one that uses LED (light-emitting diode) back lights since LED back lights are brighter per watt then fluorescent tube back lights. Individual LED bulbs can be arrange where the light is evenly disperse, so there are not any bright spots along the edges of the LCD like a LCD which is illuminated by fluorescent tubes when you display a dark picture on your screen. Another advantage of LED technology is it is more power efficient and lasts longer then fluorescent tubes.

Viewable Angles and Resolutions

The viewable angle of the LCD is also important since you want to view your pictures from multiple angles to see if they look good from all angles. When you are at a store, look at your LCD from multiple angles to see if the LCD is viewable from most angles.

If you make a lot of high resolution pictures like desktop backgrounds, I recommend buying a LCD with a high native resolution which has a resolution of 1400 × 1050 or more, so you are not constantly using your horizontal or vertical scroll bar to scroll back and forth when working on your projects. I also recommend having a screen since of 20″ inches or more for the LCD’s diagonal length (bottom right corner to top left corner). Having a bigger screen, will make you squint your eyes less, or use the “zoom in” and “zoom out” function as much when working on smaller pictures on a high resolution display. Changing your LCD to a lower resolution will make your screen look blurry since LCD are designed to work best at its native resolution.

Aspect Ratio and Dot Pitch

Picking the right aspect ratio is important. If you make a lot of big pictures which has square-like dimensions then I recommend a 4:3 aspect ratio since 4:3 aspect ratios LCD look like a square. However, if you make a lot of pictures which are rectangular then I recommend a LCD monitor with a 16:9 aspect ratio since 16:9 aspect ratio monitors has rectangular dimensions.

Dot pitch is a essential specification when picking a LCD monitor. The dot pitch of a LCD is the length between two pixels of the same color. When a LCD has a smaller dot pitch the picture will be more sharp and less blurry. A dot pitch of 0.28 mm or smaller is most desirable. If the dot pitch is greater then 0.28 mm, the LCD will appear grainy.

Contrast Ratio and Response Time

Picking an LCD monitor which has a good contrast ratio like 800:1 or above will make your monitor display more shades of grey, and the color black and white better. The contrast ratio is the darkest black and the whitest white. Another way of looking at the contrast ratio is the shades of gray in between the color black and white.

If you design flash animation, 3d animation, edit movies, watch fast moving objects on your LCD, you need an LCD with a fast response time of 8 milliseconds or less. If your response time is 10 ms or more, you might see ghosting or un-smooth video playback. The response time is the amount of time it takes for a pixel to go from white to black or black to white.

Video Interface Type and Ergonomics

The video interface type is also an important factor to consider when buying a flat panel display. You need to find out if your monitor can support your video card. A VGA plug which has 15 pins will not work on a DVI monitor because it has a different pin count which is 24 pins. DVI is the best video interface for LCDs since a DVI video card outputs the signal as digital to a DVI monitor which is also digital. If you use a VGA monitor, your monitor has to convert the analog VGA signal from the video card back to digital, so there might be some quality loss during conversion of the analog VGA signal to digital for the LCD to display an image. Another benefit of DVI LCDs is there are fewer parts to break since the analog to digital video converter is not needed.

One of the most over look features when people buy monitors is ergonomics. You should pick a monitor which has an adjustable height stand, so you can move your screen up or down. This will prevent you from slouching down to view your monitor, or staring up to view your monitor. Also, you should test out the buttons on the monitor to see if they are easy to use for adjusting your LCD’s red, green, blue color settings, brightness, and contrast, etc.

Work Environment and Callibration Software

It is also important to pick a screen base on where you do most of your work. If your work environment has a lot of sun light or bright lights then a non-glossy/matte LCD would be better since it reflects less light. However, glossy displays are more reflective, and display colors more vibrantly, and displays black better. A glossy screen attracts more dust and finger prints then a matte LCD, so you will have to clean glossy displays more.

When you finally bring your new LCD home, you should use calibration software like QuickGamma which is a free calibration software which will guide you through on how to calibrate your monitor, so your colors for your LCD are displayed correctly.

About the Author:

created when he was enrolled in a Vancouver Community College IT course. He decided to dedicate towards helping Windows PC users to learn how to use software, operating systems and hardware designed for Windows XP, Vista, and 7 for free. There are also articles about content management systems, SEO, and basic web design.

Leave a comment


  1. Patricia says:

    THANK YOU!!!! This is a very useful and helpful article for helping me pick out a new monitor.

  2. Tom says:

    Yeah thanks for this article Johnson, I learned a lot.

  3. Vim says:

    useful info, my monitor at home is decent, however i noticed that there is line of back light toward the top of the monitor, this is unnoticeable most of the times, but when watching movies and there’s a dark scene i can can see the line of back light which is really annoying. Would you know why this is?

  4. Thanks for the link to QuickGamma. Thats very useful :)

  5. Ben Sky says:

    Im running a 30″ dell monitor at the moment, most incredible monitor i’ve ever seen/used colours look immense.

  6. Sharon says:

    Is video playback controlled by response time?

  7. Johnson Yip says:

    Hi Sharon,

    Video playback is controlled by your computer and your videocard outputing your computer.

    The respone time is just the time it takes for the pixel to change from black to white or black to white or any other colour on your LCD. The response time is measured in Milliseconds like 8MS 10MS. It is best to pick a response time of 8 MS or less to avoid slow moving images or ghosting.

  8. Grant says:

    Is 800:1 and above really fine for doing gradient work on still web designs?

    I am in the market for a new monitor as my last CRT just died. I always thought that you had to have like 20,000:1 to get good greys etc.

    Great article btw!

  9. Johnson Yip says:

    Hi Grant,

    Contrast Ratio is calculated differrently by every LCD maker. Contrast Ratio mostly became a marketing tool/term to sell more LCDs. I seen some high-end LCD monitor which only has 1000:1 contrast ratio, and they look great with my own eyes.

    The best way to test if a LCD works for your needs is to use your eyes and others opinions.

  10. jeprie says:

    nice articles. i just bought a new LCD and this guide help me a lot.

  11. Niladri Chatterjee says:

    The most important thing has been overlooked. The LCD panel should be an 8 bit panel (S-IPS, S-PVA, P-MVA) so it can display 16.7M colors directly. All these monitors are expensive and have 178/178 degree viewing angle. Cheap 6 bit TN panels can display only 0.22M colors and that’s certainly inadequate for displaying colors properly.

  12. Johnson Yip says:

    Hi Niladri Chatterjee, thanks for pointing out the importance of “8 bit panel (S-IPS, S-PVA, P-MVA)” for LCD monitors. Thanks for the comment.

  13. Lawrence Miranda says:

    Thank you so much..its really wonderful and very important useful information..

    God Bless you for this


  14. Suresh says:

    i want to buy a new monitor for graphic designing i think LCD monitor is not good for that what kind of suggestion u say


  15. Johnson Yip says:

    CRT Tube monitors has pretty good quality when reproducing colors, whites and Blacks. I’m not too sure which CRTs are best since I have not bought one in years, so the quality might have decrease due to companies using cheaper parts since few people buy them. You can try looking for a used Hitachi CM-827 CRT monitor which has good reviews online.

    I heard good things about OLED monitors, but I’m not too sure you can buy them yet since they seem to be still in development.

    There are also higher end LCD like the HP ZR30w LCD looks impressive, but it cost over $1000 USD .

    4.1 million pixels
    1.07 billion colors (64x more then regular monitors)
    Brightness (typical) 370 cd/m²
    2560 x 1600 resolution
    3000:1 dynamic contrast ratio
    16:10 aspect ratio

  16. Diane Smith says:

    Thank you so much for this information!!! I’ve been looking everywhere to try & find the best monitor for graphic design/print/web work and this has by far been the most helpful.

    Merci beaucoup!

  17. adrian says:

    thanks this help me alot by learning the difference in LED and LCD monitors, a guy is trying to sell me his lcd display for my mac book pro, which i am not completly interested in. not pretty sure, but this helped me much in opening my eyes thanks

  18. Kedar says:

    I have at home LG E2240T LED Monitor. I never seen this much clarity & brightness. Really awesome! LED monitor will kill all CRT & LCD monitor.

  19. Shawn Tooley says:

    I have been experimenting with LCD monitors in my graphic arts work. I get frustrated by the color shift from the top of the monitor to the bottom. It sometimes makes it difficult to gauge accurate color on-screen. It’s not quite as crucial for my web site design, however.

  20. josi says:

    thanks, v useful information :)

  21. yeahok says:

    Vim that’s of the big problems with LCD, and it screws me over everytime. Mostly when dealing with gradients. The problem is the viewable angle which he talks about here, and most LCD’s are hard to gauge the exact viewing angle unfortunately. The back light contributes to this as well. I have to disagree with this article because instead of having to make sure of all these features, I can just load the design on my CRT, and it will be more accurate than thinking you have the right LCD. I love lcd, but I still think both are need. If you’re not seeing your design from all of your users perspective, you’re not designing how you should be.

  22. Ahsan Idrisi says:

    Thanks a million, i think there must be one more thing added to your article which is IPS panel

  23. Sctt says:

    this article talks alot about what makes a good monitor for general use, but misses the points important for true graphic artists.
    Some types of LCD’s (the lcd’s themselves, not the backlighting) are much better than otehrs – and they are generally not the fast sub-5ms ones…

  24. Jarkko says:

    Looking for new monitor.. Thanks for this very useful article.

  25. Diane says:

    Thanks for all the helpful SPECIFIC tips – and for explaining the terminology associated with choosing a monitor. Your site is an excellent resource – especially for those of us with limited technology backgrounds.

  26. Juvienne says:

    This article was very detailed, informative and helpful in assisting me with my purchase.
    Thank you!

  27. Nil says:

    Is 1920 x 1080 is best resolution for graphics jobs ?

  28. John Padgett says:

    Thank you for taking your time to illustrate us with this information. Very kind of your behalf.

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