Advice Guide

Getting the best TV picture

by Andrew Laughlin Back to advice guides

Our guide will help you adjust your TV’s picture settings so it's perfectly set up for watching in your living room.

Just want to see great TVs? Head to our TV reviews to browse a range of models across all brands, types and prices.

We publish ideal picture settings for all the TVs that we test, but if you want to personalise your TV picture, this method can help.

Switch off picture enhancement modes

Go to the settings menu on your TV, and make a note of the default settings in case you need to return to them later. Now, switch off any picture modes or enhancement features. If in doubt, just switch it off, as you can always turn it on again later.

Find the Colour setting and turn it right down until you get a black and white picture. Now play a Blu-ray or DVD movie with a lot of dark scenes, something like The Matrix or The Dark Knight. Adjust the Brightness control until you can only just make out detail in the darkest areas. It may be a good idea to pause the movie here so you can concentrate on adjusting the picture.

Adjust the brightness and contrast

Now find a bright scene in the movie and adjust the Contrast setting until the picture is bright enough to be comfortable to watch, but without looking ‘washed out’. Once you’ve done that, go back to the dark scene you used in the previous step and make sure you can still see lots of detail in the shadows.

Adjust the Brightness and Contrast while switching between the dark and bright scenes, until both feel comfortable to your eye. There’s usually some compromise involved here, but just try to find the balance that suits you best.

Now tweak the Backlight so you get a bright-looking picture, but not lit up like a battlefield.

Get those skin tones just right

"Your TV may have different colour tone options available. Try them out to see which looks best."

Now find a scene with a close-up of an actor's faces, ideally during a scene with lots of natural light. Turn the Colour setting up until the skin tones look exactly as they would in real life. A good rule of thumb is to keep turning the colour up until actors stop appearing sickly, but turn it down when they start to appear unnatural.

Some TVs may have different colour tone options available in the settings menu, such as cool, warm or neutral. Try them out to see which works best for your particular TV, although you may find neutral is the best option.

Switch picture enhancements back on again

Now you’ve got your ideal settings, you can switch the picture modes or enhancement features back on to see if any are to your tastes. Some will reduce distortion, others will smooth out motion; the key thing is to try them gradually and don’t be afraid to turn them off if you see odd-looking results on screen.