Considering getting a colorimeter (Spyder or Colormunki)...
First of all, my set-up:
Acer 32" IPS UHD monitor (refurbished, and glitchy, but the picture quality is pretty good)
Canon Pixma Pro-100 printer.
The printer is new, and I'm just getting it set up. I've previously ordered prints online, and have often been disappointed when the pictures were way too dark. Areas that showed up on my monitor as varying degrees of grey would come back to me as solid black in the printout. I'm fairly sure this was a problem with the service and not the files or my monitor, as the file had information that obviously wasn't showing up on my prints.
So now I'm planning on doing it myself. I'm not pro, I think I would barely qualify as a hobbyist. However, I don't want to screw up too much with my own printouts. I'm still in the process of setting up the printer (every step of the way, something else gets in the way or needs done, like firmware update for the wireless router I'm going to have it connect through).
First thing I wanted to do was to calibrate my monitor. I was attempting to do it by eye, which depending on your commitment is either fine or sacrilege (seriously, it's like going on a John Deere forum to ask a question about a small lawn mower, you will get twenty people answering that what you really need is a full tractor and anything less is not worth it).
Now I can get my gamma set to 2.2 dead on (tweaking the individual color gammas in Nvidia control panel), using the lagom.nl image. The worry I have is with color saturation and brightness/contrast. There is a wide range of settings where the black level and white saturation tests "pass". The first time I calibrated the monitor, I felt the color saturation was WAY too high, and had originally turned down the digital vibrancy in the Nvidia control panel.
Playing around with my monitor later, I found some color gain settings and turned them down a little, and then recalibrated again (just call me Garrus). Well, I got my gamma set back to normal again, and tweaked the brightness and contrast in the Nvidia control panel again. It looks pretty good to me, the colors don't seem over saturated.
But now that I'm at work, I'm having doubts creep up on me again. Maybe I should be using the brightness and contrast in the monitor settings rather then the control panel... How do I know the saturation is "correct"? Maybe is is still over saturated? Maybe it is really under-saturated and I'm just used to it? Is there a test image to use for that? What about gamma... sure I have that set in the control panel, but maybe there is a hardware version of that somewhere in the menu (so far I can only find an option before 2.2 and something else, but there are probably three or four color setting windows in the monitor options I don't understand what they do).
And my anxiety is getting to me and suggesting that I just throw some money at a colorimeter like a Spyder or ColorMunki. Then I get hit back with that is just wasting money since I'm not really serious about it. Then I argue that I've already spent a lot on the monitor and printer. I explain that the monitor is a couple of years old and shouldn't be included in the cost analysis. I point out that the printer is new. I counter that getting a colorimeter is just throwing good money after bad, especially since I don't know if there is even a problem. And I come to, but how would I know if there was? I'm my own worst enemy in this case since I'm arguing both sides no matter what I choose I'll feel like I'm doing the wrong thing.
So, should I just plug away at the settings, try and find what the "correct" combination of brightness and contrast are, look for a good test image to try and determine the right saturation, then print things out on the printer and see if I have a problem? Or is a colorimeter the best thing to have in the world (next to a watch that receives the time wirelessly so you know it is always accurate to the second)?
Read responses in arstechnica.com