How to choose a monitor for graphic design

November 19, 2017

If you are doing graphic design the monitor is one of the most important parts of your computer setup. There are several factors to consider, including screen size, resolution and color accuracy.

Panel resolution

The panel resolution defines how many pixels the screen consists of. Budget monitors have a 1920 x 1080 resolution, which is also called 1080p or Full HD. This means that the screen consists of a matrix with 1920 pixels horizontally and 1080 pixels vertically. Generally, larger resolutions mean that movies and photos look nicer on the screen. For graphic design this resolution is the minimum that you should consider.

The next step up are 1440p monitors. They they have a 2560 x 1440 resolution. They are mainly popular for gaming, because they have a good balance between resolution and refresh rate, but there are also some good monitors for graphic design with this resolution.

Finally, there are UHD or 4k monitors with a 3840 x 2160 resolution. These are very good for graphic design, because they can display your work in great detail. If you are producing 4k content it makes sense to work at a native 4k resolution.

Panel Size

Generally, larger screens are better for graphic design, because they allow you to view your work in greater detail, especially when combined with a high resolution. Budget monitors for graphic design usually start at 24". Larger 27" and 32" monitors are available at higher price points.

Pixel response time

Pixel response time describes how long it takes a pixel to switch color. It is measured in milliseconds (ms). A lower response time is better because it allows the monitor to display fast movements without artifacts such as ghosting. This is mainly important for gaming. For graphic design you don't have to look at this factor too much.

Refresh rate

The refresh rate is measured in Hertz (Hz) and describes how many times per second the screen is refreshed. This is mainly important for gaming, where the content changes quickly on the screen. For graphic design this is not that important.

Contrast ratio

Contrast ratio is the range between the darkest black and the brightest white color the display can show. Higher contrast ratios generally give a better picture quality. The problem is that this number is difficult to compare between manufacturers, so you should take it with a grain of salt.

Viewing angle

The Viewing angle describes the maximum angle at which you can view the display clearly. Lower end displays look dimmer when you look at them from an angle. Higher end screens are clearly readable from the side. For graphic design this is important, because it allows you to view your work in proper colors, especially when more than one person is looking at the screen.

Color gamut

The color gamut is the range of colors the monitor can display. The sRGB standard is often used for basic graphic design. For more color sensitive work the Adobe RGB standard is used. Ideally the monitor should cover 99% of the Adobe RGB color space.

Color accuracy

The color accuracy is one of the most important aspect for graphic design. A large color gamut is not enough, the screen also needs to be calibrated if color accuracy is a priority. Higher end monitors for graphic design come with calibration tools that help you to maintain a high color accuracy. There are also third-party calibration tools that you can buy.

Panel technology

There are different types of display technologies. Twisted Nematic (TN) screens are popular among gamers because they have high refresh rates and low pixel response times. However, they often lack in color accuracy and viewing angles, which make them less suitable for graphic design.

Vertical Alignment (VA) panels offer higher contrast ratios and a better color reproduction. There is also an improved Multi-domain Vertical Alignment (MVA) technology.

In-Plane Switching (IPS) screens generally have the best colors and viewing angles. They are usually the preferred choice for graphic design.

Input connections

A DisplayPort is ideal for end monitors in order to take advantage of the higher resolutions and refresh rates. A DVI-D would work as well. HDMI and standard DVI are not ideal if you want to take full advantage of the monitor.

Adaptive Sync

Higher end gaming monitors have adaptive synchronization technologies to reduce artifacts such as screen tearing during gaming. This is not that important for graphic design though.

Monitor suggestions

You can check out these monitors for graphic design if you want some monitor suggestions based on the above information. Alternatively, if you will also use the monitor for some gaming you may find our Interactive Monitor Buying Guide more useful, because it also takes response time into account.