I recently upgraded my monitor and noticed that my desktop looked dull once I enabled HDR. After looking around on the internet for solutions, I was surprised to find very little in the way of something that worked.
One common solution I found was toggling the HDR mode whenever you wanted to view HDR content. For myself, this is too much of a pain, and I decided to work on a solution myself that would avoid doing this.
The quickest way to resolve the post HDR washed-out effect is to adjust the HDR brightness to maximum and install an ICC color profile for your specific monitor. But in my personal opinion, you are better off turning HDR off.
Note: This tutorial is not intended for display purists. It is only meant to be a convenient and easy hack to bring your display back to a reasonable display quality when using the Windows 10 desktop environment.
I have noticed that this washed-out effect is a matter of insufficient luminance instead of chrominance in general. And modern SDR does just fine. We can all do without HDR and its complications.
In most cases, this means that it’s not color strength (saturation) that needs adjustment but more likely the brightness or gamma.
One other thing to mention, please ensure that you don’t have night mode enabled, which can also cause a dimmed and washed-out look with the lack of blue.
Adjust the HDR brightness in Windows 10
One of the first adjustments to set is the HDR/SDR brightness balance.
If you right-click the mouse button on the desktop, then left-click on ‘Display Settings’, you will open the settings related to your display.
Above the Use HDR toggle switch is a Windows HD Color Settings hyperlink. If you click on it, you will be shown more advanced settings surrounding HDR.
From here, you can select if you want HDR to work when streaming video and the brightness balance we are currently interested in.
Drag the brightness slider under HDR/SDR brightness balance title to the right (100).
This will give you an initial improvement, but it might not be as bright as you want it or as bright as your display before enabling HDR.
Install a color profile for your monitor
Downloading and installing a specific color profile for your monitor could solve many problems surrounding the HDR washed-out effect.
There are a few resources where you can look for an ICC color profile to download.
Here are a few to get you started:
- TFT Central.
- Your specific monitor’s manufacturer website.
- Adobe (Scroll down the page to agree).
- Color Management (Standardized profiles that require some experimentation).
Once you have downloaded the color profile you wish to test, install it by following these steps:
- Open the Windows Settings App.
- Type in color profile in the search box.
- Click on Color Management.
- Select your monitor from the drop-down box next to the Device label.
- Select Add.
- Select Browse.
- Select the file that you downloaded.
- Before you close the Color Management panel, highlight the new profile by selecting Set as Default Profile.
To be on the safe side, restart your computer to ensure the new settings have been loaded properly.
Fixing the washed-out mouse pointer or cursor
After you have adjusted your monitor and are happy with how the display performs, you might still have a mouse pointer with very low contrast, resulting in a disappearing effect in certain circumstances.
There are two ways of dealing with this problem. One way is to change the mouse pointer color scheme, and the other is by simply replacing the text select cursor.
I recommend the latter first. This will allow you to fix the problem in a more specific manner.
To change the text select cursor, follow these steps:
- Open the Windows Control Panel.
- Type mouse into the search bar.
- Click on Mouse.
- Click on the Pointers tab.
- Scroll down the list inside the Customize box.
- Select Text Select.
- Select Browse.
- Scroll down the cursors list and select beam_r.cur and select Open.
- Click on the OK button to save the settings and close the panel.
If you still find that the mouse pointer is unacceptable, try these steps:
- Open the Mouse Properties settings panel (Steps 1 – 4 above).
- Select the drop-down box under ‘Scheme’.
- Select ‘Windows Black (system scheme)’.
- Click on the ‘OK’ button to save the settings and close the Mouse Properties panel.
Adjust the desktop colors (Optional)
If you can’t find a profile for your specific monitor, try adjusting the brightness and gamma manually.
This process isn’t the recommended solution, but it will be a fix that’s easy to implement when your back’s against the wall.
To make these adjustments, you must open the desktop color settings in the NVidia, AMD, or Intel control panel or app.
You can approach the adjustments differently based on how much effort you want to put into getting the brightness and colors more accurate.
The quickest and dirtiest method would be to observe a calibration chart with HDR toggled off, then adjust the desktop colors to get everything as close as possible once HDR is toggled back on.
Tip: To make things a little easier, visit this site for some reference images to compare with each other.
NVidia GPU Adjustments
Open the NVidia Control Panel by following these steps:
- Right-click the mouse on any unused desktop area to open a contextual menu.
- Left-click on NVidia Control Panel.
- Left-click on Adjust desktop color settings.
In the color settings area, you can now adjust settings like brightness, contrast, gamma, digital vibrancy, and hue.
Try simply adjusting brightness first before changing anything else. It may just be enough to meet your requirements.
AMD GPU Adjustments
To open the Radeon Control Panel, follow these steps:
- Right-click anywhere on an open area on your desktop.
- In the contextual menu, left-click on AMD Radeon Settings.
- Click on Display.
- Click on Color.
Now you can adjust color temperature, brightness, hue, contrast, and saturation using the sliders.
Intel GPU Adjustments
To open Intel Graphic’s color adjustment area, follow these steps:
- Open the Start Menu. See how you can do that step by step.
- Search for Intel’s Graphics Command Center app (by typing intel).
- Click on the result listed as Intel Graphics Command Center.
- Select Display in the left column.
- Click on the Color tab to open all the adjustments you need.
Other settings to check
Here are some other settings to ensure they have been configured correctly.
Set the output color format
I recommend setting the color format to RGB. Seeing that this is the standard that most monitors use internally, it makes sense to stay with the format that it ends up in any way.
Adjust the RGB dynamic range to full, so you can ensure your monitor receives the full range of colors (0-255).
If you notice that colors aren’t correctly shown, change the dynamic range back to limited.
Output color depth
Always set this to the highest available setting.
This means how many bits each color channel can display.
Calibration for greater accuracy
This method is best for those who want their monitor to perform at its best.
Follow the instructions in the box. It’s relatively easy, and software is provided with the tool. You will be taken through a series of steps (with instructions) to complete the calibration process.
Why I don’t recommend Microsoft’s Monitor Calibration Tool
In more than one instance, I have found running the monitor calibration tool that Windows provides natively yielded some unreliable results.
Typically, I ran into issues after exiting games. The display doesn’t return to the calibrated state all of the time.
I had to re-apply the original monitor profile to get the display back to normal (no, restarting didn’t fix it either). This is partly due to the calibration settings automatically saved to a new profile.
After looking at the methods available for display calibration, there is the no-cost method and another which will cost money to get a more accurate result.
It most certainly depends on your personal preference on how much image quality you want. It couples in with the grade of the monitor you have.
If you have spent money on a high-end monitor, you might want to consider calibrating the image to a more accurate standard.
On the other hand, if you are mainly focused on gaming and don’t require a super-accurate desktop display calibration, or don’t mind a few inaccuracies, then going with the whole calibration tool method might not be for you.
Either way, the free quick, and dirty method will return your display to a reasonably acceptable ballpark.