I recently upgraded my monitor and noticed that HDR looked washed out when I enabled it in Windows 10. After looking around on the internet for solutions, I was surprised to find very little in the way of something that actually worked.
One common solution I found was toggling the HDR mode every time 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.
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.
In general, I have noticed that this washed out effect is a matter of insufficient luminance instead of chrominance.
In most cases, this means that it’s not color strength (color saturation) that needs adjustment, but more likely the brightness or gamma.
One other thing to mention, please make sure 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 hyperlink called ‘Windows HD Color Settings’. 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, which we are interested in at the moment.
Drag the brightness slider under ‘HDR/SDR brightness balance’ title all the way to the right (100).
This will give you an initial improvement, but it still might not be as bright as you want it or as bright as your display was 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 (Visit Now)
- Your specific monitor’s manufacturer website.
- Adobe (Scroll down the page to and agree) (Visit Now)
- Color Management (Standardized profiles that require some experimentation) (Visit Now)
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 color profile by clicking on it and select ‘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 made adjustments to your monitor and you are happy with how the display performs, you might still have a mouse pointer that has 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 couldn’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 will need to open the desktop color settings in either the NVidia, AMD, or Intel control panel or app.
There are a few different ways you can approach the adjustments, 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 adjusting 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 open area of your desktop to open a contextual menu.
- Left-click on ‘NVidia Control Panel’.
- Left-click on ‘Adjust desktop color settings’.
In the color settings area, you are now able to 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 will be able to adjust color temperature, brightness, hue, contrast, and saturation using the provided sliders.
Intel GPU Adjustments
In order to open Intel Graphic’s color adjustment area, follow these steps:
- Open the Start Menu.
- 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 make sure that 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 that your monitor is receiving the full range of colors (0-255).
If you notice that colors aren’t being shown correctly, 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 is able to 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 end up re-applying 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 that are saved to a new profile automatically.
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 monitor you have.
If you have spent a lot of money on a high-end monitor, you might want to consider getting the image calibrated 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 the whole calibration tool method might not be for you.
Either way, the free quick, and dirty method will get your display back to a reasonably acceptable ballpark.