Photo editing is an art that goes beyond just modifying a picture, it often times requires a monitor with accurate color reproduction which has been correctly calibrated.
Having used many IPS and WQHD monitors in the past in this post I'll first review computer monitor terms and specifications that you'll need to know when looking for a photo editing monitor and then I'll review several high-end, mid-range, and budget IPS display monitors that should be near the top of your list if you're a photo editor.
Monitor Term and Specification Review
Color gamut - This is the range of colors that a display can produce.
Contrast Ratio - This is a measurement of the darkest black and the whitest white.
Glossy vs. Matte Screens - Glossy screens are attractive but sometimes have annoying glare. If you end up picking a glossy monitor, then it's a good idea to make sure it has an anti-glare coating.
Flexible Screen Positioning - Some higher-end monitors give you the ability to look at the monitor horizontally or vertically. This is especially important for photographers who may want to use vertical viewing for their vertical photographs.
LCD - LCD stands for "liquid crystal display". LCDs do not produce light and need backlighting to function. If a monitor is labeled only as LCD (not LED) then typically it uses fluorescent lighting to light the display.
LED Backlighting - LED monitors are LCD monitors. The difference is in the backlighting. LED or "light emitting diode" backlighting is much more energy efficient and doesn't use environmentally harmful mercury.
Pixel - The smallest unit in a picture that can be controlled. It's a single square or dot in a much larger image.
Refresh Rate - The number of times, per second, that a display draws the data to be displayed in the picture. Slower refresh rates can lead to eye strain; however, this is much less of a problem then it was in the past. Generally anything 60Hz plus is sufficient. 3D monitors generally have faster refresh rates (120Hz) for dual viewing technologies.
Response Time - Typically, gaming or entertainment enthusiasts will look for a monitor that has a quick response time. The response time is the time that it takes a pixel to go from black to white and back again. On any computer monitor this is measured in ms or milliseconds. The faster the response time the less blurring and ghosting users will experience during action packet sequences. A good gaming, entertainment, or video editing monitor should have a response time under 3ms. As we mentioned above an IPS panel monitor is less likely to have a fast response time.
TFT LCD - "Thin film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) is a variant of liquid crystal display (LCD) which uses thin-film transistor (TFT) technology to improve image quality (e.g., addressability, contrast)." (Source Wikipedia).
True Color - True color representation can show 256 shades of red, green, and blue which makes up a total of 16,777,216 color variations. Higher-end products do exist which have specifications beyond true color, in 30-bit color, for example.
Viewing Angle - In monitor specifications this is generally referred to as the degree, horizontal or vertical, at which an acceptable picture can still be seen.
Best Professional IPS Photo Editing Monitors 2017
Dell UltraSharp U3014:
With a 30-inch screen size, 2560 resolution, and 12-bit processing the Dell U3014 gives you the size, resolution, and accuracy you need for all your projects. If it's a bit pricey, consider the Dell U2412M or U2713HM-IPS.
A Budget TN 4k Panel with decent color
ASUS PB287Q 28-Inch Screen LED-Lit Monitor - accuracy.
If you're ready for 4k, I highly recommend the Asus PB287Q. For around $600 you get a super-responsive monitor with 4k, a 60Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time, and solid color accuracy. If you're ready to ante up for the 4k IPS version, try the LG 31MU97 shown below.
IPS Vs. TN Panels
LCD Panel Types
If you already know what you need to about computer monitor terms and specifications, then jump to our list of the best photo editing monitors section below.
There are six types of panels: TN (twisted nematic), IPS (in-plane switching), MVA (multi-domain vertical alignment), PVA (pattern vertical alignment panels), AFFS (advanced fringe field switching), and ASV (advanced super view). For the purposes of this article we'll compare the differences between IPS and TN panels. If you'd like to read more about each panel type, then I recommend you take a look at this wikipedia article.
Do you know what type of panel you are using currently? TFT Central is a monitor database that has most existing monitors and their basic specifications. You can see what type of panel you currently have by using their panel search.
TN - Most monitor panels are twisted nematic. Twisted nematic displays are the most popular for the average consumer because of their affordability, low power usage, and faster response time. This makes them ideal for gaming, video, and general office use. TN monitors are not used for accurate color reproduction because they only use six bits per RGB color or 18 bits in total. This makes them unable to display the 16.7 million colors available in 24-bit truecolor. In order to simulate certain colors twisted nematic displays use dithering to make various shades. With dithering you may notice TN monitors advertising the full 16.7 million colors; however, it's important to understand that this is accomplished through only reproduction and the difference is noticeable when comparing a TN monitor to a IPS or other display panel monitor. Improvements to TN panels have certainly happened over the years, but many LCD TN panels only reproduce up to 26% of the NTSC color gamut.
IPS - IPS Panels have the wide viewing angles and accurate color reproduction(display 24-bit color depth) desired by most artists and photographers. In the past slow response times limited IPS monitors ability to watch and edit video. Much of the problems with response times have been solved; however, IPS panels are still not ideal for watching movies or gaming.
Best IPS Monitor Under $1000 for Photo Editing 2016
Dell UltraSharp U2711 Review
I've really enjoyed using Dell UltraSharp models in the past and the Dell U2711 really shines as well. When correctly calibrated the 1.07 billion colors along with the 80,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio give you great color intensity with deep blacks and bright reds. I also like the PremierColor technology which limits the amount of time you'll need to spend doing calibration out of the gate.
Additionally, with a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, 6ms GTG response time, and WQHD resolution of 2560 x 1440 , this monitor produces brilliant color and excellent detail for high-definition graphics while maintaining the amount of pixels and screen real estate that you need for proper photo or video editing. It also gives you nearly blur-free motion during movies and games.
Connectivity Options and Flexibility:
Another thing I really like about this particular model is that it comes equipped with 4 USB ports and a media card reader which allow easy connection to all your peripherals. It's also easy to connect to just about any device with a D-Sub, DVI, HDMI, Component, Composite, and DisplayPort input. For me this is great for my cameras and other devices. It also has a height-adjustable and tilt and swivel feature that allow you to put it right where you want it and easily adjust it when you're doing a collaborative project.
Overall the Dell U2711 is an affordable IPS monitor with a color gamut of 110% and vibrant true-to-life color across all display modes. With all these features and more, the DellTM UltraSharp U2711 27-inch widescreen monitor gives a unique style and sophistication to your desk and works well with the tasks you need to complete. In addition, because Dell branded monitors undergo exhaustive testing for performance, you can expect long-term reliability and durability. It's my pick for best IPS monitor for the money under $1,000.
This 2560 x 1600 WQXGA Display Monitor gives you a ton of screen real estate and color accuracy for a value price of around $500. It's also a must for those looking for a 16:10 aspect ratio.
What's the Best Brand to Use for Professional Photo Editing?
In the last few years there have been several really good value/budget IPS panel monitors released. If you want an IPS monitor, but don't have the money for a higher-end model, then consider one of these monitors below.
Another comparable monitor is the ASUS PA248Q which is my preference if you can find it for around $250.
Sbuy LP2480ZX 24IN LCD Monitor
The HP DreamColor LP2480zx Professional Display is the world's first color-critical LCD monitor that utilizes the DreamColor engine. This delivers broad color support, rich visual quality, and consistent results.
Billion-color possibilities: Enjoy support for over one billion active colors-64 times the colors supported by traditional LCDs-from the innovative 30-bit LCD panel technology.
Breakthrough color control: Achieve what you intended with unprecedented color fidelity through a tri-color LED backlight; work with deeper colors, CRT-class black, and programmable white all on a 24-inch diagonal wide-aspect screen.
Vision-to-production precision: Customize seven color space presets for luminance, gamma, gamut, and white point; achieve completely accurate rendition of sRGB, Adobe RGB, Rec. 601, Rec.709, and DCI-P3 (97%) at the touch of a button.
Enhanced connectivity: Get connected to all your devices with analog, DVI-I, Display Port 1.1, HDMI 1.3, component, S-video, and composite inputs, HDCP support for protected content, and an integrated USB hub.
Flexible positioning:Be comfortable with adjustable tilt, swivel, height adjustment, and pivot rotation.
Easy-to-use OSD: Quickly customize a range of user and color calibration settings with the completely redesigned onscreen display. New auto-fade backlit bezel buttons enable easy viewing in bright and dark work environments.
Specifications include; 1920 x 1200 resolution, 0.270 mm display pixel, brightness 50 cd/mÂ² minimum and 250 cd/m² maximum, contrast ratio 1000:1, viewing angle 178Â° horizontal; 178Â° vertical, 6 ms response time, connectors 1 Component video; 1 Composite; 1 DisplayPort; 1 S-video; 1 HDMI 1.3; 2 DVI-I, tilt and swivel Tilt: - 5 to +35°; Swivel: - 45 to +45°, Anti-glare, Asset Control, Anti-static, Language selection, Plug and Play, 4 USB hub, and a 3 year parts and labor warranty.
Eizo ColorEdge CG241W
The ColorEdge CG241W is one of the more popular monitors among photo editors. Features include Hardware Calibration for Better Color, Simple and Precise Calibration with ColorNavigator, Wide Color Gamut, Certified GRACoL Grade #1 by IDEAllianc, Brightness and Color Uniformity with DUE, Verification Documents Included, Factory Adjustment of Gamma, Ideal for Moving Image Work, Too, Instant Brightness Stabilization, Flexible Screen Positioning, Color Vision Deficiency Simulation, and a 5 year warranty.
Specifications include 1920x1200 native resolution, 850:1 contrast ratio, 300 cd/m2 brightness, and Dual DVI-I inputs. The monitor hood is included.
Nec Multisync 30in Lcd 2560x1600 850:1 Cg303w-bk
The NEC CG303W-BK let's you work in comfort with 30 inches of screen space. Because the resolution is 2560 x 1600 that's over twice as many pixels as a 1600 x 1200 resolution monitor (typically what's used on 20-21 inch monitors).
Hardware Calibration for Better Color: ColorEdge monitors offer hardware calibration which means color settings are adjusted inside the monitor so there is no displayable loss of tonalities. This produces more predictable results and ensures color display is much more uniform between ColorEdge units. The bundled ColorNavigator software makes calibration both simple and quick. Just input target values for brightness, white point, and gamma. ColorNavigator works with a wide range of measurement devices to directly utilize the monitor's look-up table and create an ICC profile within minutes.
Wide Color Gamut: This monitor reproduces 98% of the Adobe RGB color space so it can display most colors in a digital photo taken in Adobe RGB mode. Furthermore, it also has an sRGB mode to accurately reproduce colors in this narrower but commonly used color space. 10-Bit Simultaneous Display: The ColorEdge CG303W employs a 12-bit look-up table with a color palette of 68 billion colors from which the most appropriate 16.7 million (8 bits) are displayed. Additional Details include 260cd/ma Brightness, 178°/178° Viewing Angle, 12ms Response Time, USB 2.0 port, and monitor hood.
Monitor Reviews and Guides for 2017
If you didn't find what you were looking for, then check out one of our recommended articles below.
- Best LED Monitors - 22, 24, 27
A review of LED monitors broken down in category by size.
- The Best LED Computer Monitors of 2015
Another review of the best LED monitors of the year.
We hope you've enjoyed this review of the best photo editing monitors for 2015. We actively respond to reader inquiries so if you didn't find the monitor you were looking for here or would like to contribute to this lens, then please leave a comment below.
Speak Your Mind
anonymous on November 30, 2012:
I intend to buy one of the following 3 monitors in the near future for photographic editing: NEC MultiSync PA271W-BK-SV 27-Inch LCD Monitor, Dell UltraSharp U3011 30" Monitor, or HP ZR30w 30-inch S-IPS LCD Monitor. My research indicates these are the best for my budget. But I also know that without the correct computer, I'm wasting my money on the monitor. My current (and less than year old) laptop does not have the right graphics card nor the right connectors. So my question is: what do I need to look for in a laptop in terms of graphics capability and connector (HDMI, DVI, etc) to drive these monitors?