As a designer, what should I look for in a monitor? After all, there are so many options out there. If you spend your days staring at monitors, it’s worth looking into just what to look for in one. There are plenty of factors to weigh up when choosing the best screen — resolution and color gamut are important, but also things like panel type and screen size.
There are a ton of different monitors out there, but when it comes to specs, you need to be looking primarily at three things: the resolution of your monitor, the panel type and its color gamut.
Is color gamut important?
The other thing is color gamut, which is a fancy way of saying how many colors the monitor can display. Have you ever seen an image on your screen that looks slightly off? That’s probably because it’s not using the right colors to display correctly. It might have too much red in it, or too much blue, and as such doesn’t look like what you’re used to seeing in reality. The more colors your screen can display accurately, the better it will be able to handle reproducing images under different lighting conditions; this is especially useful if you need a wide color range for design purposes. Read more in-depth on color gamut here.
To give you an idea of just how wide the difference can be, it might help to think of it like this: an average smartphone display will have a color gamut somewhere between 55 and 60 percent of that on a monitor. Most TV sets are in the 75-85 percent range.
That’s not to say you absolutely need a screen with very wide color gamut — depending on what you’re doing, there may be no reason to invest in one at all. But if you’re doing any kind of design work where colors play an important role in how something looks or works, then having a wider gamut is going to be (literally) more accurate than smaller ones.
What different monitor types are there?
Now, there are two different kinds of monitors when it comes to panel type. Monitors with an IPS panel (in-plane switching) have a wider viewing angle than those with TN panels (twisted nematic). This means that the former can be viewed from a wider range of angles, so there’s less chance of colors washing out or looking weird if you’re not sitting directly in front of them.
Panel type also affects how fast the monitor is able to refresh images on the screen, measured in Hertz (Hz), and therefore how well it displays moving content. A monitor with a higher Hz will be able to display things like video more smoothly — but also move text up and down faster as you scroll through web pages, for example. They’ll also tend to consume less power.
You also need to look at screen size when choosing a monitor. This mainly comes down to deciding how close you sit to your display when working, but also the size of screen you need for a given task. For example, if you’re working on very detailed images or doing web design, you’ll probably want to go for something bigger. If you spend most of your time in front of a computer using software that doesn’t require high resolution (word processing, maybe), then going for a smaller screen might be more useful and convenient.
The good news is that screens have been getting bigger in recent years, and you can get a 28-inch ultra-widescreen display for just $450. That’s not to say this is the most sensible thing you could do — but it’s exciting to know what technology is capable of, at least!
A 27-inch 1440p screen at the same price point isn’t nearly as exciting, but it’s still a good deal for many people.
What monitor resolution do I need?
When buying a monitor as a designer, the resolution might be one of the deciding factors. Resolution is basically how many pixels a monitor has. In other words, how many individual tiny dots of light the monitor can put together to create an image. The higher its resolution, the more detailed the picture on your screen will be.
Resolution is measured in pixels per inch (PPI), so if you look at a monitor that’s using a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution and another one that’s using 2560 x 1440 pixels, there are the same amount of pixels, but they’re spread over a larger area on the former. This means you’d be able to see more detail in images and text on screens with higher pixel counts — everything just looks sharper.
That’s a good thing because it means things will look realistic at screen sizes and resolutions you might commonly use for designer work — like 27 inches at a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels.
Is 4K the way to go?
4k monitors are proving to be a lot more popular than their 1080p or 2K predecessors, and many newer models now come equipped with USB-C ports. But what does this mean for you? Let’s explore what you need to know about these two new technologies.
Designing on a 4K monitor is something to consider for those who are doing work with graphics. Designers will want a card that can handle high-resolution graphics along with their 4K screen. The difference between a 4K monitor and a Full HD 1080p screen is obvious. There’s more resolution — which means sharp details in photos.
But be warned: if your computer isn’t powerful enough to push all that extra pixels, it can bring things to a crawl pretty quickly because there’s so much data being pushed around… Slowdowns and crashing are common problems when dealing with graphics on a 4K monitor. A good rule of thumb for achieving speedy performance? Make sure your video card has dedicated memory.
USB-C might be the best option for connecting a 4K display.
The big problem with older USB-C displays is that they don’t always have extra ports for your old accessories — headphones, mice, and so on. A cheap solution is to use adapters like this one which add a couple of USB-A ports to the display! The other issue with USB-C displays is making sure you can still connect them to older computers. Most higher-end models will have an HDMI port with DisplayPort 1.4 support, but some cheaper options only ship with a Thunderbolt 3 connection — Thunderbolt 3 isn’t widely adopted yet, so be wary of that when buying!
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: if you’re doing anything design-related, you need to be looking at monitors with a minimum resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels. That’s what the majority of high-end models have these days; having that amount of detail is fairly crucial for most things designers will want to do — either that or 4K (3840 x 2160) displays, which are getting more popular but aren’t quite as easy to come across just yet. Just make sure your video card can handle playing graphics back on one!
Here are 5 monitors we recommend for designing:
- LG 27MD5KL-B 27″ UltraFine 5K
- LG Ergo 32UN880 Monitor – Read our review here
- Sceptre 27″ Monitor
- BenQ EW3270U 32″ 4K Monitor
- ASUS ROG Strix XG279Q 27″ LED Monitor
What about monitor for video editing?
If you’re looking for a monitor that’s more suited to video editing and gaming than design work though… then something like this HP model could be worth considering. It comes equipped with AMD FreeSync technology (which helps prevent screen tearing) and has a high refresh rate for fast-paced gaming.
Take advantage of that extra space and work on spreadsheets or design mockups across two screens… more easily than using dual monitors. You can also extend the desktop onto another monitor or TV via HDMI or Mini DisplayPort (depending on what video card you have). This means that instead of having your primary display take up most of your desk space, you can place it further away — and move other things like speakers over to the second screen. When buying a multi-screen monitor setup, make sure you get one with built-in stereo speakers!
One last tip: Put your main display, keyboard, and mouse near your primary screen, while putting speakers and other peripheral devices on the second screen. Set your second screen to extend the main display’s area. This will allow you to keep an eye on what’s happening as you work without having to look back and forth so much.