Getting the best TV picture
By Andrew Laughlin
Get your TV's picture looking its best with our interactive picture settings tool. Plus, get expert advice on how to get the best TV picture.
As well as in the tool above, we publish ideal picture settings with all the TVs that we test in our TV reviews.
If you don’t know your TV’s model number, don’t just make do with the default settings, as they often won't give you the best possible picture quality.
Instead, we have insider tips from our lab on how to get better picture on big brand TVs. Have your remote to hand and follow these simple steps for crisp colours and choice contrast.
Samsung TV picture settings
In the picture settings menu select Standard mode - this does a decent job of setting the brightness. Turn off Dynamic Contrast, as it tends to reduce detail in the darker parts of the picture. Next, reduce Auto Motion Plus (ie motion compensation) – it’s best to use a custom setting so nudge Judder Reduction to five and Blur Reduction to eight. Finally, set the Colour Space to ‘native’ and Flesh Tone to zero.
LG TV picture settings
First, select Standard mode under picture settings and turn off Dynamic Contrast. Next, reduce TruMotion (ie motion compensation) via custom mode – set De-judder to five and De-blur to eight. LG TVs tend to have slightly over-emphasised colours, so put Dynamic Colour to medium or low to compensate (you can keep the Colour Gamut as ‘wide’).
Panasonic TV picture settings
Select Normal mode - there are different settings for basic and high-end models but this adequately sets the brightness on both. Turn off Dynamic Contrast and Adaptive Backlight as it can cause brightness levels to fluctuate erratically. Reduce the Intelligent Frame Creation motion compensation tool to mid or low. Colours on Panasonic’s can often appear overly yellow, so go into the advanced colour settings (temperature or tint) and increase the Red slightly – just a tweak so it looks comfortable to your eye.
Sony TV picture settings
Sony has different menus and settings for its high-end and basic TVs but select Standard mode on either to set the brightness accurately. Switch off Dynamic Contrast and Adaptive Backlight . Leave Motionflow on as it does a good job of handling on-screen motion. Colours on Sony TVs can seem vibrant to the point of gaudy, so put Live Colour to‘low’. Just as with Panasonic, everything can look a bit yellowy at times, so to compensate raise the Red tint in the advanced colour settings menu.
Getting the best TV picture
Don’t have a Samsung, LG, Panasonic or Sony TV? See general tips on improving your TV’s picture, whatever the brand. Before you get started, note down your default settings just in case you need to return to them later. Then follow the below method for improve your TV picture.
1. Make your picture black and white – turn off any picture enhancement modes and reduce the Colour setting until you get a black and white picture.
2. Adjust the brightness – pause a scene in a movie with a lot of dark scenes, something like The Matrix or The Dark Knight. Toggle the Brightness control until you can only just make out the detail in the darkest areas.
3. Adjust the contrast – now find a bright scene and change the Contrast setting until the picture is bright enough to be comfortable to watch, but without looking ‘washed out’.
4. Find a compromise - continue to tweak the brightness and contrast while switching between the bright and dark scenes until both feel comfortable to the eye but there’s still detail in the shadows.
5. Adjust the Backlight - the picture should pop without being lit up like a battlefield (unless you’re watching War Horse, of course).
6. Get those skin tones just right - pause on a close up of an actor’s face, ideally during a scene with lots of natural light. Turn the Colour setting back up until the skin tones look life-like. A good rule of thumb is to keep going until the actor stops appearing sickly, but not perma tanned.
7. Try your TV’s colour tone presets - some TVs come with colour tone options, such as cool, warm or neutral. Find the one which works best for your particular TV, you may find neutral is the best option.
8. Switch picture enhancements back on - the picture modes or enhancement features you switched off at the start can now be turned back on. Some will reduce distortion, others will smooth out motion; the key is to try them gradually and don’t be afraid to turn them off if you see odd-looking results on screen.