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Choose your monitor


Which screen size to choose? Single or multi-screen? - 2/8

Published on April 16, 2016    |    Updated on November 27, 2019


Now that you know my approach and philosophy regarding the choice of a photo or video touch-up monitor depending on whether you are a simple beginner or a professional touch-up artist or editor, I will focus on the first criterion for choosing a monitor: its size. Then the question will arise as to the number of screens: why not choose two 24-inch screens rather than just one 27-inch ?





Screen size: from 21 to 49-inch...?

In my opinion, four criteria are important when choosing the size of your future screen:  

  • the physical size on the one hand on your desk (will it fit on your desk, stupidly?),
  • its definition (the number of pixels)...
  • thus its format: panoramic or classic,
  • and therefore its resolution on the other hand (its ppi/pixels per inch)

The physical size of the screen: from 21-inch... and up to 49-inch panoramic

It is obvious that the larger your screen is, the more space you will have on it to view your image but also to display some useful tools to work comfortably, especially in photo editing or video editing software. However, will you have enough space on your desk to install such a screen? A 27-inch screen is physically over 24-inch cm wide and a panoramic screen as below measures in 49-Inch over 120 cm... while keeping a "reasonable" height!

DELL U4919DW 49 inches panoramic monitor

DELL U4919DW 49'' Panoramic Display - 5160 x 1440 pixels


Advantage of panoramic screens! They therefore have the main advantage of multi-screens: the space in width to display several windows of a software next to each other but also several tool columns in Photoshop while leaving a very comfortable space for the image or video. In addition, a single screen means a single take on the graphics card and a single calibration:

  • Plenty of space for the image despite the presence of windows,
  • Only one take of the graphics card used,
  • Only one calibration!

Screen definition in pixels

It is obvious that the larger your screen is, the more space you will have on it to view your image or video but also to display some useful tools to work comfortably, especially in photo editing software or video editing. Having a 27 or 32 inch when you only choose one screen does not seem at all exaggerated to work comfortably and here is an example: most of the 27'' and all 32'' (not panning and not 4K) can display 2560 pixels sideways. You can display two columns of tools in Photoshop and keep a workspace for your image of 1900 pixels or the place of a 24''. By opening these same two Photoshop tool columns on a 24'' this time you will reduce the space dedicated to the image singularly. See for yourself below!

24 inch monitor under Photoshop

On this 24-inch screen displaying 1920 x 1200 pixels, you no longer have much room to edit your image if you display two columns of tools.


Note about panoramic screens!  From 29 to 49'', these screens can display either 2560 or 3440 pixels wide. In 49'', it is therefore possible to display four columns of Photoshop tools while preserving more than 2000 pixels for the image. Very comfortable!

My recommendation! So if you only want to buy one monitor, prefer if your budget and your place on the desk allow it, at least one 27'' displaying at least 2560 pixels on the long side. A 24 inch will quickly make you cramped, especially in Photoshop. If you hesitate between a 27'' and a 30'', both displaying 2560 pixels on the long side, be aware that the pixels of the second will be a little larger (as on the 24'' Full HD) and that thus, the texts will be more readable. The difference between the two will only be in the comfort of the texts. Personally, I really like the size of the texts displayed on the 24'' Full HD or 30'' QHD. I find the texts displayed on the 27'' a little too small. On the other hand, and this is what we will see now, the pixels are almost invisible on the 27'' while they are not 4K. It's up to you because it's eminently personal...

Monitor resolution: the famous ppi (pixels per inch)!

The pitch of a screen represents the difference or distance between two pixels. It generally navigates around 0.27 mm on non 4K screens and can halve this figure to 4K as we will see in detail on the next page  :

  • 24'' Full HD of 1920 x 1200 or 1080 = 94 ppi
  • 27'' QHD of 2560 x 1600 or 1440 = 110 ppi
  • 30'' QHD of 2560 x 1600 or 1400 = 94 ppi

Note! The choice between a 27'' and a 30'' will only be made on the screen resolution, so... on the ease of reading the texts since they display exactly the same definition in pixels! In other words, they both display the same image in the same interface of your software but as slightly magnified on the large 30'' or 32'' screen. At 0.27 mm (94 ppi), a pixel is still discernible at 70 cm from the screen, the average distance at which we are placed in front of our work tool. But if for many years we have been satisfied with it, fashion - beneficial for our eyes but not without consequences on our wallets! - is to reduce it with the advent of the 4K. The screens of 4K televisions, our screens and even more of our smartphones have higher and higher resolutions, so an increasingly fine pitch that has finally become totally invisible. This brings a real improvement on the display of our photos whose details become sharpened and the superbly progressive gradients as can be seen in the illustration below:

Screen resolutions

On the left, the pitch is visible if you get closer to the screen while on the right, on a high definition screen since the definition is double, the pitch becomes invisible and the text display really very beautiful.

But... end 2019, because of some software not updated to take into account the new definition of the screen for the display of the interface, there is a real problem of displaying... texts! These are sometimes perfectly unreadable because they are so small! Indeed, all the software was written while screens around the world had adopted a "standard" ppi of 94, i.e. that of a 24-inch Full HD (1920 x 1200) screen. Naturally, software manufacturers have all opted for a certain text size, between 12 and 14 pixels high, in most software menus. They were thus perfectly readable.


100% display on a QHD screen. The texts are perfectly readable...


On 27-inch displays with a slightly higher resolution, the texts in these same menus became a little smaller and this could disturb some of them but it was still acceptable. Well, without updating the software, when the 4K monitors arrived, the texts became "mechanically" tiny, a little like in the illustration below:


100% display on a 4K screen and in non-optimized software. The texts are really small...


Note! In 2019, all operating systems - Windows 10 and MacOS at least - are up to date with this quality of display because the 4K screens we will discuss again on this dedicated page are invading our shelves, but many software, sometimes well known and used, still do not provide this essential update. I think and hope, however, that this note will be obsolete by end 2019... We're almost there, but there may still be some unpleasant surprises.



Single or multi-screen?

I have the feeling that once you have tried the multi-screens you can't go back so comfortable it is... And it doesn't necessarily cost more. Here is why...

A single screen

For an equivalent range, it is necessary to count at least a 300 dollars difference between a 24 inch and 27 inch screen. On high-end displays, this difference rises to 500 dollars and even more for the 30''. I'll let you do your math! However, it is obvious that if you plan to do photo retouching with only one screen, I recommend a minimum 27-inch screen unless you succumb to the new panoramic screens. There are some from 350 dollars at Dell : Ultrasharp U2715H.

  • Advantages: Price (although!) - Desktop space - Except for the 4K, all today's graphics cards are up to the task even if you plug it into your laptop.
  • Disadvantages: Unless you choose a 30", you almost constantly have to move the software windows - In Photoshop, you can't constantly open several tool palettes without reducing the space left to the image to a minimum - as shown in the image below, extracted from a 24" screen.

On a 24-inch monitor, you will only have 1300 pixels of space left for your image if you open only two columns of tools in Photoshop... Not very comfortable!


The major disadvantage of the single screen - with the exception of panoramic screens - is therefore the lack of space to open several tool pallettes in Photoshop for example, especially in 24'' obviously, without disturbing the retouching of the photo. It goes without saying that in 27'' the situation will be more comfortable because this time there will remain 1900 pixels so the equivalent of a full 24'' for the image if you open two tool columns in Photoshop. It's already more comfortable even if it won't reach the comfort of multi-screens or panoramic screens.

DELL Panoramic monitorSpecial cases: the new panoramic screens - These screens are a little misleading in 29'' because they take up a lot of space on the desk but only display "only" 2560 pixels on the width, so as on a "simple" 27''. So basically, the problem remains the same and there will always be more space on two 24'' screens (1920 x 2 = 3840 pixels so as much as in 4K but without the disadvantages still present at early 2019 as I specify on my page dedicated to the switch to 4K). To have a real advantage to switch to a panoramic screen it is therefore preferable to switch directly to 34'' screens because they display the WQHD or 3440 pixels on each side of 1440. 


Being a multi-screen adept since I myself own three - a top-range one called "graphic art" (Eizo CS2420) "surrounded" by two "low-range" monitors that I very much like and recommend shamelessly to all those with a tight budget (Dell P2419H with IPS panel). I find interesting and even rewarding to make the choice of a quality main screen in 24-inch inches and two others of a lower quality, especially in sRGB to make surfing the web easier, in 23 or 24-inch so as to have some space to work and repart your program windows better. In a two-screens configuration, I could pick two 27-inch.

Multi-screen configuration with three screens dedicated to photo editing in Photoshop

My office and its three monitors: two ASUS VC239 and the 24-inch EiZO CS240. Note that I painted the back wall in a neutral grey.


  • Pros: the main screen can be a 24-inch "only" so you can buy a quality screen for a reasonable budget in comparison with a top-range 30-inches - You can keep open more windows or tool palettes at the same time - a third monitor enables you to keep Internet or your e-mails on display without having to reduce the main window. Very convenient.
  • Cons: I can see two: the space taken on the desk - you can count 1.50m in length to put three 24-inch monitors side by side - and the graphic card must have three outputs and be reasonably powerful. With a RAM of 1 Gb, it works, if you don't get the crazy idea of switching to 4K screens.

My recommendation! A solution around a very good monitor but in 24-inches only and of one or two lower range monitors - with an IPS panel though - as secondary screens is a solution to consider seriously for a tight budget and an increased work comfort. In Photoshop for instance, it is so convenient to have all the tool palettes you're using open while leaving your quality 24-inches monitor to your images. It is then convenient to move all the Photoshop palettes on the second screen. Do you really need your tool palettes on a $5,000 monitor?!. 

Distribution of Photoshop palettes on a second screen

I can leave 9 Photoshop tool palettes open all the time on my 23.8< -inches (1920x1,080).


Should you use a hood?

Hood for monitorYes, you can, of course! This will avoid as many reflections on your screen as possible in order to keep as much contrast as possible to your images or videos. In addition, it should be noted that the eye sees colours differently depending on the lighting environment in which it is located. If he sees colours off the screen, he will see the colours displayed on your screen "differently". Some retouchers also take care to paint the wall behind their screen in neutral grey as I did in my office (photo below.) It goes without saying that it is more complicated with three screens but some invent clever systems. It is up to you to decide depending on your environment.

Wall painted in neutral grey behind my computer screens for photo editing

The wall behind my screens was painted in neutral grey, close to 18% Kodak grey because I could not place a hood on my three screens.


Next pages...

3 / 7 -Swith to 4K... or not yet?

4 / 7 - Which panel technology to choose? Wide gamut or not?

5 / 7 - Which graphics card to buy?

6 / 7 - Hardware acceleration and Look Up Table?

7 / 7 - What is the purpose of the 10- bit display?



Through these 8 pages I will share with you my advices to choose your photo editing or video editing monitor...
- Generic advice
- Which monitor size to choose? - 2/8
  - Monitor size: from 23" to 49"
- Single or multi-screen?
- Should you use a hood?

- Switch to 4K or UHD... or not yet?
- Panel technology : IPS, TN, VA, OLED?
- Panel luminosity, HDR or not, sRGB or wide gamut?
- Which graphics card and which connector?
- Hardware acceleration and Look Up Table?
- What is the purpose of the 10-bit display?


- 2020 monitors buying guide
- How to calibrate your monitor?
- My 35 full monitor reviews!


Calibrate your monitor with the best
colorimeter: X-Rite i1Display Pro !

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Calibrate your photo printer with the
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