Monitor Buying Guide: How to Choose Monitor for Graphic Design
If you’re a graphics professional, then you obviously need an LCD monitor with the right size, resolution, performance, and connectivity. But with hundreds, if not thousands of choices out there, how do you ensure you get the right monitor for the job? Dual Monitors Guide breaks down the most important things you need to look for in buying a monitor for graphics design.
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HP Dreamcolor Z27X (image from Amazon)
Graphics design is a serious profession, creativity alone is not enough, you need to have the right tools and vast knowledge in using and maximizing different apps and programs to come up with the best design you possibly can. One of the most important tools in any graphics designer’s toolbox is the right set of computer, and it starts with the right monitor for graphics design. Here are the things you need to consider when choosing the best display:
Color Accuracy and Grayscale Accuracy
In graphics design you work on colors, and these colors should look the same as on screen and on print. Meaning, monitors should be able to replicate the exact colors accurately. IPS is the most preferred type of panel for this kind of job, but in the past couple of years, we have seen an improved version called Advanced High-Performance In-Plane Switching (AH-IPS) panel, and this is what you need to look for.
Also, the monitor should have at least 10-bit look up table (LUT) or higher (12-bit or 14-bit). This will give you the freedom to perform frequent calibrations and cover 99% of Adobe RGB color space.
There are quite a lot of professional-grade monitors out there that comes with both hardware and software calibration tools to help users fine-tune and maintain color consistency in their display. If your preferred monitor doesn’t come with a calibration tool, then your best option is to buy a third-party calibration solution.
The NEC PA272W sports an AH-IPS panel and runs at WQHD (2560 x 1440p) resolution and comes with 14-bit 3D internal programmable lookup tables (LUTs) for calibration. It also comes equipped with SpectraViewII color calibration solution is the premier desktop display for color critical applications.
When it comes to grayscale performance, a good graphics design monitor should have no trouble showing all shades of gray (from the lightest to the darkest shade). Grayscale determines the level of highlight and shadow you will see on your computer screen.
Monitors with IPS panels also have the widest viewing angles, delivering excellent color fidelity and luminosity when viewed from the sides, top and bottom. It beats TN (Twisted Nematic) and VA (Vertical Alignment) in this department.
The more pixel resolution, the better, especially for artists and graphics designers doing a lot of detailed work on their computer. The best we have right now is the Ultra High-Definition (UHD) resolution, also known as 4K, which is at 3840 x 2160 pixels. Followed by Wide Quad HD (WQHD) at 2560 x 1440p. The standard we have today is Full HD which is at 1920 x 1080p. Note that the higher the resolution, the more expensive it will be.
Dell Ultrasharp UP2414Q runs 4K Ultra HD resolution in its 24-inch IPS panel.
Size matters, that’s a fact of life. In the case of choosing a computer monitor for your workstation, size is important to get the best details of ultra-high resolution images. Aside from the price, the obvious limitation most of us have is our workspace. However, there are ways to maximize the screen real estate and view multiple windows and projects on a single screen. If you’re looking for an Ultra HD or WQHD monitor, then your best choices are at 27-inch to 32-inch. If you’re looking to put two monitors side-by-side for dual monitor setup, then two 24-inch monitors can do justice. If you want wider field of vision, then you can opt for 29-inch, or anything with ultra-wide and 21:9 Aspect Ratio.
The NEC MultiSync PA322UHD is a 32-inch professional-grade monitor that uses IGZO IPS panel and runs at 4K Ultra HD resolution (3840 x 2160p) with on-point color accuracy and grayscale performance, consistent from edge to edge.
Connectivity options or I/O ports refers to inputs/outputs the monitor offers. Ideally, you want a monitor that has DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI, and dual-link DVI ports. If you ever have plan on daisy-chaining multiple monitor (dual monitor or triple monitor), then choose a monitor with either DisplayPort 1.2 or Thunderbolt-in and –out ports.
NEC MultiSync PA322UHD I/O ports (image from Amazon)
If you opt for 4K Ultra HD, then make sure you have the GPU with two HDMI ports and/or a DisplayPort 1.2 input and can support MST (Multi-Stream Transfer) to achieve maximum resolution at 60Hz Refresh Rate.
As a graphics professional, you will be spending extended hours in front of your computer screen on a regular basis. Thus, try to opt for monitors with adjustable stand for more comfortable viewing. The stand should allow you to tilt, swivel, raise or lower or even pivot the screen 90° (quite convenient when viewing long documents or websites) depending on your needs. If you opt for larger screens, say 27-inch, 32-inch or higher, chances are, they don’t come with adjustable stand. Your next best option is to make sure they come with VESA-compliant mounting holes. Monitors with this feature allows you to mount the screen to a third-party ergonomic solution, such as desk stands or desk mounts with fully articulating arm, wall mount or even sit-stand workstation.
(image from Ergotron)
If you’re looking to make a dual monitor setup with then, then you should check out the LX Dual Side-by-Side Arm or LX Dual Stacking Arm, both from Ergotron. Both arms can extend up to 25 inches, with 18 inches range adjustment, allowing you to push your monitor completely out of the way when not in use, and free your desk. It is a very versatile solution, easy to setup and install to your workstation, and effortless to use. It’s a perfect tool for professionals, especially those who wish to use this display for long hours of work, every day.
(image from Ergotron)
For 32-inch displays that needs a wall mount, the Ergotron Interactive Arm, HD is a great option. This solid wall mount comes with fully articulating arm for optimum ergonomic adjustments. It can also support screens weighing up to 40 lbs. while holding the monitor in mid-air.
Also, a monitor with a USB port adds convenience. Photographers, graphics artists and designers will surely connect their camera, smartphone, tablet, etc., to the computer to transfer files. USB ports in monitors make this connection more convenient as users don’t have to reach to their PC towers to plug in flash drives, etc. Similarly, a card reader can be of great convenience, particularly for photographers.
Most people have this aspect as their number thing to consider when buying monitors. We all know high-end monitors don’t come with cheap price tag, however, as a professional who relies on computer screen’s image quality, it is worth the investment. Expect to spend around $800 to over $1000 for 27-inch WQHD monitors. If you want to future-proof your computer and have a big monitor with the best resolution, a 32-inch 4K Ultra HD display can cost as much as $2500 or higher. If you’re on a tight budget, you can find good deals at $500 for a 24-inch monitor. But then again, it is always better to opt for accurate color and good grayscale performance than settle for mediocre displays just to save a few hundreds of dollars.
For more buying guides and on what to consider when choosing a specific type of monitor for your specific use, check our Dual Monitors Guide today! You can also check our top picks for best graphics design monitor category here.
For more our best monitor for graphic design buying guide, click here.