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Dan Rubin's SuperfluousBanter

Design, random musings, and the Web. Since 1977


Gamma Problems

First of all, no, this has nothing to do with the Incredible Hulk — I spent a good deal of time this weekend revisiting the site design for Webgraph, which has been sitting idle in my hard drive for too long. I’ve had the basic design completed since the beginning of the year (!), so I decided to start testing the colors on different systems before I consider the scheme (and the exact shades) finalized, and this is where I start to run into problems: I’ve dealt with gamma issues before (PC’s and Mac’s have different gamma settings, which cause colors to display differently between platforms, and even between different monitors if they’ve been calibrated), but I can’t recall ever seeing as much of a difference as I am with this particular case.

To illustrate the problem, I’ve created an example (view test image) showing what I consider to be the acceptable variations in shades of black (concentrate on the nav bar, behind the words “Home, Our Work” etc.) between the top and bottom borders, the solid background, and the diagonal pattern (all shades of black). If you are viewing this on a PC, you might not see the pattern, or the top and bottom borders. This is the problem.

On the desktop PC’s here (the problem does not occur on our Dell laptop, because LCD displays do not generally share the same gamma problems as CRT’s) the entire area from top border to bottom border (except the white lettering) looks black. No pattern, no difference between the borders and the background. On our Mac’s (some of them calibrated, others straight out of the box, all CRT) the difference in shades is clearly visible.

The problem is this: when I change the shades so they show up as subtle differences on the PC’s, it is so incredibly light on the Mac’s as to make it look stupid.

Aside from any ideas (which are most welcome), I would like to use you, my valued reader, as a test user: please post your review of the above test image in the comments of this post, and include your testing environment (OS, browser, type of monitor, color depth, calibrated or not, gamma setting if known) and let me know which of the variations you prefer (or none, if you cannot see the pattern at all).

I really appreciate your help, and if you can assist with an direct solution, I’ll include a comment in the final site’s HTML listing you as a contributor, and linking to your site.

This item was posted by Dan Rubin on Monday, July 21st, 2003.


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10 comments on “Gamma Problems”

  1. Posted by zlog on Monday, July 21st, 2003.

    The top right one (75%, 95%) looks best in WinMoz whereas the bottom right one looks better in WinIE6 — both on XP.

    Hope it helps.

  2. Posted by jeremy on Monday, July 21st, 2003.

    Windows2000, matrox g400 dual output, viewsonic g90fb.

    i agree. top right looks the best.

    however, on my 15″ iMac (g4, running osx10.2), the top right image is too bright…hurting my eyes almost looking at the text on top of the pattern.

    hope this helps.

  3. Posted by doot on Monday, July 21st, 2003.



    32bit true color

    samsung 17″ crt using default color profile

    not calibrated

    Background and border is viewable and looks fine in all images.



    32bit true color

    samsung 17″ crt

    calibrated with adobe color thing

    Background and border is viewable and looks fine in all images.

  4. Posted by jeremy on Monday, July 21st, 2003.

    on a side note, in WinMoz 1.4, at the bottom of every page, below the footer, i am seeing the following error:

    Warning: Unknown modifier ‘~’ in /Users/drubin/public_html/superfluousbanter/refer/refer.php on line 121


  5. Posted by Dan on Monday, July 21st, 2003.

    Hi Jeremy, that error was caused by something dumb I did :-)

    It should be gone now — thanks!

  6. Posted by Dave S. on Monday, July 21st, 2003.

    No border, and the pattern is virtually unnoticable in all images. Thanks to my res, no doubt – I can just barely distinguish pattern in the right two images if I squint.

    XP, 1600×1024 on 17″ @ 32bit, Firebird and IE, Adobe Gamma configured for web profiles

    Solution: Divorce any preconceptions that your work will be perfect across the board, obviously!

    Love this web thing. Love it.

  7. Posted by Dan on Monday, July 21st, 2003.


    That sounds the same as my own findings, and yes, I know not to expect identical results across platforms — I would just like similar results whenever possible, though as long as the end result is just as usable from browser to browser, platform to platform, I’ll be happy.

    If it ends up that the best solution means some PC users can’t see the pattern, then I’ll be OK with that, since it’s just part of the aesthetic of the site, and not required for usability (in fact, it won’t affect the user experience at all).

  8. Posted by Sunny on Monday, July 21st, 2003.

    The (75% / 95%) looks the best in WinXP/Firebird.

    The (75% / 100%) looks the best in WinXP/IE6.

    My resolution is 800 x 600. It is a CRT.

    I will post LCD, iMac, once I get to my college tomorrow.

  9. Posted by Dan on Monday, July 21st, 2003.

    It seems like 75% is the favorite for the pattern so far, though I agree with Jeremy regarding the lighter (75% / 95%) version looking too light on the Mac, especially when using an LCD.


    Again, this is not really an issue of usability, rather one of visual appeal and minor UI elements. That said, I really do appreciate all the help!

  10. Posted by yumpuckers on Saturday, October 25th, 2003.

    why does some of my PHP pages run together when viewing on older monitors. thanks ???????????????