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What is TV color accuracy?

Color accuracy is important in your TV because it affects the overall picture quality. In short, TV color accuracy is how your TV displays colors on the screen and how close they are to real colors. This parameter is very important for the correct perception of the picture on the screen.

Our eyes don’t distinguish a little color inaccuracy, and that depends on the color itself. For different colors, the margin when the inaccuracy becomes obvious is different. That depends on the color itself and how we’re familiar with how it should look in reality.

While minor color deviations might go unnoticed by the average viewer, glaring inaccuracies can be jarring, especially when the hues of familiar objects, like a sports team’s jersey, appear distorted.

No TV can claim to display colors with absolute perfection, but striving for optimal accuracy is paramount. This article delves into the intricacies of color accuracy, elucidating its importance, the technicalities of calibration, and the parameters that influence it. So, why does color accuracy matter so much, and how does it impact our viewing habits? Let’s embark on this.

What is color accuracy?

Color accuracy is a metric that gauges how closely a display’s reproduction of colors aligns with the standard or expected values. In simpler terms, it’s the measure of how “correct” or “true” the colors on a screen appear compared to real-world or standardized colors.

There’s an example of different colors inaccuracy variations:

Most modern TV can be calibrated to achieve near-perfect color accuracy, especially mid-end and high-end models, but the calibration isn’t the thing you can (and want) to do with your TV; you’re probably expecting it would have a good color accuracy out-of-the-box, so it’s always important to pay attention how accurate colors with pre-defined calibration.

  • Reference Standard: For any color to be deemed accurate, there needs to be a reference or a standard to compare against. This standard can be a real-world object, like a red apple, or a digital color standard used in industries.
  • Deviation: If a TV or monitor displays the apple as more orange than red, there’s a deviation from the “true” color of the apple. This deviation is what we refer to when talking about color accuracy.
  • Why It’s Important: Imagine editing a photograph with poor color accuracy on a screen. The printed photo might look vastly different from what was seen on the screen. Similarly, watching a movie on a screen that doesn’t reproduce colors accurately can detract from the intended visual experience.
  • Measurement: Color accuracy is often quantified using a “Delta E” (dE) metric. A lower dE value indicates that the displayed color is closer to the reference color and, thus, more accurate. A dE of less than 1 is typically imperceptible to the human eye.
  • Factors Influencing Color Accuracy: Several elements can impact a display’s color accuracy, including the quality of the display panel, the backlight technology, and the calibration of the display.
  • Calibration: To enhance color accuracy, displays can be calibrated using specialized equipment and software. This process adjusts the display’s output to align more closely with the reference standard.

How do other color parameters impact color accuracy?

Color gamut

Definition: The range of colors a display can reproduce.

Here’s a color range in RGB format; triangles show Rec.709, DCI-P3, and Rec.2020 color ranges:

Impact on Color Accuracy:

  • A wider color gamut allows a display to reproduce a broader spectrum of colors. However, just because a display can show more colors doesn’t mean it will show them accurately.
  • If a display claims to cover 100% of the DCI-P3 color gamut but has poor color accuracy, the colors within that gamut might not match the reference colors of the standard.

Here’s the examples of variations in color accuracy with different dE calculated in CIEDE2000 standard:

You may take a look on these images. dE lower 1 may be considered insignificant, and it’s hardly to be distinguished by our eyes.

Color Volume

Definition: A 3D representation of the colors a display can reproduce, considering both color gamut (horizontal axis) and luminance (vertical axis).

Learn more about color volume.

Impact on Color Accuracy:

  • Color volume adds depth to the color gamut by considering brightness. A display might reproduce color accurately at a specific brightness level but falter at higher or lower luminance.
  • For instance, a TV might display a deep red accurately at a low brightness but wash out as the brightness increases.

Here’s just a synthetic example of how that may look like:

But, of course, color volume, the same way as color gamut plays its role. The TV can’t reproduce enough colors if the color volume is low. But there’s no such dependance from the other side. Even if the color volume is high enough, that’s not a pledge that colors would be accurate.

Contrast Ratio

Definition: The ratio between the brightest white and the darkest black a display can produce.

Learn more about the TV contrast ratio.

Impact on Color Accuracy:

  • A higher contrast ratio allows for more distinguishable shades between the extremes, leading to richer and more detailed images.
  • If the contrast ratio is poor, subtle color differences might get lost, impacting the accuracy of color reproduction. For instance, shadow details in a dark scene might merge into a single indistinct blob.

Color Depth

Definition: The number of bits used to represent the color of a single pixel. Common depths include 8-bit (256 colors), 10-bit (1,024 colors), and 12-bit (4,096 colors). Since our eye can catch around 10 million colors, even 8-bit (that’s around 16 million colors)

Impact on Color Accuracy:

  • Color depth determines the granularity of color representation. Higher bit depths allow for smoother gradients and transitions, reducing banding effects.
  • A display with higher color depth can represent subtle color variations more accurately. For instance, a sunset might appear as a smooth gradient on a 10-bit display but show visible banding on an 8-bit one.


While these parameters play a distinct role, their collective impact on color accuracy is profound. Imagine a symphony: each instrument (parameter) contributes to the overall performance (color accuracy). If one instrument is out of tune (for example, poor contrast ratio), it can overshadow the contributions of the others, leading to a less harmonious re-producing.

Achieving optimal color accuracy requires a delicate balance of all these factors. A display might boast a wide color gamut, but if its contrast ratio or color volume, the overall color accuracy can still be compromised.

Color temperature and color accuracy

Definition: Color temperature, measured in Kelvin (K), describes the hue of a light source within a display. It’s a spectrum that ranges from warm (reddish) to cool (bluish) tones.

  • Warm Tones (Low Kelvin Values, 2700K – 3500K): These tones are reminiscent of the glow from incandescent bulbs, producing a cozier, more relaxed viewing experience.
  • Cool Tones (High Kelvin Values, 5500K – 6500K): These tones resemble daylight, offering a crisper and more alert viewing ambiance.

The Interplay

  1. White Balance and Color Temperature: In TV displays, white balance is the process of adjusting the color temperature to ensure neutral tones appear neutral. If a display’s color temperature is set too warm, whites might appear more yellow or red than they should.
  2. Impact on Color Accuracy: An incorrect color temperature setting can skew the colors on a TV display. This deviation affects color accuracy. For instance, if a display leans towards a warmer color temperature, it might not accurately represent scenes meant to have a cooler or neutral ambiance, leading to a higher Delta E value when compared to the reference white.
  3. Calibration: TV displays can be calibrated to account for color temperature to achieve optimal color accuracy. This ensures that colors are represented accurately, regardless of the content being viewed.
  4. Perception: While our eyes adapt to different color temperatures in natural environments, when it comes to TV displays, a consistent and accurate color temperature is important for an authentic viewing experience.
Color temperature< 2700K2700K - 3500K3500K - 4500K4500K - 5500K> 5500K
Ultra-Warm WarmNeutralCool Ultra-Cool

White balance dE

White balance and Delta E (dE) are two concepts that, when intertwined, provide an understanding of color accuracy.

White Balance

Definition: As white can be illustrated as a spectrum of gray shades (from black to white). White balance refers to the process of ensuring that the colors in an image appear natural and consistent.

When we talk about the Delta E of white balance, we’re specifically referring to how far off the white or neutral tones (especially gray, which is the combination of black and white) in an image are from a reference standard.

Why is dE Important for White Balance?

  1. Quantifying Deviations: While our eyes can often detect when an image appears too warm or too cool, dE gives us a numerical value to quantify that deviation. A higher dE indicates a more significant deviation from the reference grayscale, while a lower dE suggests a closer match.
  2. Calibration and Correction: We can calibrate displays to reduce this deviation by measuring the dE of white balance, ensuring that whites and neutral tones are represented accurately.
  3. Consistency Across Devices: A consistent white balance is crucial, especially in professional settings, where an image might be viewed on multiple devices or printed. By minimizing the dE of white balance, one can ensure that the image appears consistent across different viewing mediums.

How is the dE of White Balance Measured?

  1. Reference scale: A reference grayscale (often a standardized shade from black to white) is chosen as the benchmark.
  2. Comparison: The white balance of the image or display in question is compared to this reference scale.
  3. Calculation: The difference between the two is calculated to produce the Delta E value. This value represents the deviation of the white balance from the reference.


  • A dE value of 0 would mean the white balance is perfect, matching the reference exactly.
  • A dE value below 1 is typically imperceptible to the human eye.
  • As the dE value increases, the deviation becomes more noticeable. A dE value above 3 or 4 in white balance can make an image appear noticeably warmer or cooler than intended.

Take a look at these two gray scales; you can see some inaccuracies on the left side of the grey spectrum:

We can place white against black in the RGB spectrum to see the deviation:

When we talk about this, referring to TV displays, we can say that the deviation is almost always bigger when it comes closer to white shades, while dark colors usually show less deviation.

The deviation may be caused by deviation between gray shades, like when whiter color is re-produced darker (more gray) than it should be. Or the deviation may be caused by colors within the RGB specter; in this case, the white shades would have a red (the most common), green, or blue tone.

White balance dE0-0.50.5-1.01.0-2.02.0-4.04.0-6.06.0+
Imperceptible differenceCan be detectedNoticable for trained eyesVisible differenceNoticable deviationHighly noticable

White balance dE test limitations

When we test deviation for white balance, we usually combine different shades and calculate the average deviation for 25 shades. So while a particular shade may have a lower or higher deviation, the test will show the average. But that’s accurate enough to understand how TV is dealing with the white balance.

Color dE

Definition: Delta E (de) quantifies the deviation between a displayed color and a reference color from a standard color space. In simple words, it shows how exactly TV can reproduce colors compared to the reference.

The standard set of colors dE that impacts color accuracy includes Red, Green, and Blue. But it can be extended to measure color accuracy more precisely by adding Yellow, Cyan, and Magenta. Usually, if the display can re-produce these colors with normal deviation, the other colors would be okay as well.

On the RGB range, the color dE can be expressed as the reference coordinate and actual coordinate.

The bigger distance between them. the more inaccurate colors display is reproducing.

Color dE0-0.50.5-11-33-44+
Perfect color accuracyDifference not noticableMinor deviationNoticable deviationHighly noticable

What impacts color dE?

  • Calibration: Properly calibrating a TV can optimize its color output, reducing dE values and enhancing color accuracy.
  • TV Technology: The type of panel (OLED, QLED, LED) and its quality can influence inherent color accuracy and, consequently, dE values.
  • Processing Algorithms: A TV’s internal electronics and software can impact how colors are rendered, affecting their dE values.

Color accuracy and panel type

You can take a look at the below images to see the difference in color accuracy between two different panel types:

Environmental conditions also play an important role. Ambient lighting can distort color perception; dim or uneven lighting can alter perceived colors. Viewing angle also matters, especially for LCD/LED panels, which exhibit color shifts when viewed from different angles. These factors underscore the importance of adjusting your TV to specific conditions to ensure accurate color reproduction.

Content quality is another important factor. Poorly processed or compressed content can render colors differently than desired, resulting in inaccuracies. A TV’s ability to handle HDR content is very important; although HDR improves color accuracy and contrast, the TV should process the HDR metadata correctly.

Does HDR affect color accuracy?

HDR can significantly affect color accuracy on TVs. HDR is a technology that enhances the visual experience by expanding the range of brightness, contrast, and color compared to standard dynamic range (SDR) content. While HDR can improve the overall visual quality, it also introduces new challenges and considerations related to color accuracy.

HDR content often utilizes a wider color gamut, closer DCI-P3 or even beyond, but no current TV model can reach Rec. 2020 color range compared to the standard sRGB color gamut used for SDR content.

Learn more about HDR TV.

This expanded color range allows for more vibrant and saturated colors that can better mimic real-world colors. However, to maintain accurate color representation, a TV must be capable of reproducing these extended color ranges correctly.

Does the ambient environment affect TV color accuracy?

The ambient environment also can significantly impact TV color accuracy. The lighting conditions, wall colors, and surrounding surfaces of the room can alter the perception of colors displayed on the TV screen. Bright or warm ambient lighting can distort color accuracy, and external glare can obscure details and affect contrast. Additionally, the time of day and window coverings play a role, with changing natural light impacting color perception.

Viewing angles within the room also influence how ambient light interacts with the TV screen, potentially leading to perceived color shifts. Moreover, artificial light sources, such as lamps or electronic devices, can introduce additional light that affects color balance. Creating a controlled viewing environment with consistent lighting, neutral wall colors, and minimal glare is essential to maintain accurate color reproduction. This environment ensures that the colors displayed on the TV align closely with the original content and the intentions of content creators.



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