How to Fix the Color in your TV Picture

If the color problem goes away when you select a different source or input, then 1.) you may have a faulty connection (see Cable Connections), or 2.) the device connected to the TV may be faulty.

Otherwise, the problem will either be 1.) an improper picture setting, 2.) a faulty or improper cable connection, or 3.) a faulty printed circuit board.

The following two tables list various color anomalies and corrective actiions. The first table lists issues resolved by making menu adjustments. Find the Symptom, then find the corresponding Setting in the Picture menu and adjust it in the Direction indicated. Also, see Setting Adjustments.

Setting-related issues
Symptom Setting Direction
Picture is weak, pasty, or flat Picture or Contrast Right (or up)
Skin tone is too reddish or too purplish Tint or Hue Toward green
Skin tone is too greenish or olive Tint or Hue Toward red
Colors are too pale or weak Color Right (or up)
Colors are too bold or vivid Color Left (or down)
Everything is bluish See Color Temperature
Everything is yellowish or orangish See Color Temperature
Skin tone is too vivid or too orange Color Left (or down)
There is no color at all Color Right (or up)
Blacks are too black Brightness Right (or up)
Blacks are too light (gray) Brightness Left (or down)

The following table lists issues that are resolved in other ways. Select the Probable Cause to get the solution.

Non-setting-related issues
Symptom Probable Cause
There is no color at all Cable Connections
Blues and reds are reversed Cable Connections
Only blues and yellows are visible, but no reds Cable Connections Circuit Board
Only reds and greens are visible, but no blues Cable Connections Circuit Board

Setting Adjustments

To make adjustments to the settings, grab the remote that controls the TV's menu, press the 'Menu' key to display the main TV menu. Select the 'Picture' option. This will display a range of settings. Make the adjustment by selecting that setting and using the ← (left arrow) and → (right arrow) keys, according to the chart. The Direction in the table refers to the way to change the setting. It is typically left or right, where left is less, and right is more. Some TVs orient their settings vertically (those directions are in parenthesis).

If the remote control is not available, the adjustments can be made using the push buttons found on the television itself. The Menu button will display the main menu. The cursor in the displayed menu can be moved using the Volume Up, Volume Down, Channel Up and Channel Down buttons. Navigating with these buttons can be difficult. The literature that came with the TV can show you how to use them.

You can exit the menu on the screen by pressing the Exit or Menu button on the remote. The menu will disappear on its own anyway if you wait long enough without doing anything.


How to adjust the Brightness

"Brightness" is a bit of a misnomer. The brightness setting on your TV actually has more to do with the "blackness" of the blacks than anything else. If the blacks are too dark, turn up the brightness. If the blacks are gray, the brightness needs to be turned down.

How to adjust the Color Temperature

Many TVs have a setting known as "color temperature". When the entire picture has an undesirable yellowish cast or bluish cast (mostly noticable in white areas of the picture), it may be because of the color temperature setting.

What is perceived to be the "best" setting will actually be influenced by the kind of ambient light there is in the room. The TV picture will appear to look right when the color temperature is set to match how your room is lit - whether there is daylight coming in from the windows, or whether the lamps are lit for evening viewing.

The names for the settings vary among TV brands. Generally they are "Warm", "Cool" and "Normal" (or "Neutral"). These names describe specific, standard shades of color, with some variation among brands and models (explained in the next paragraph). The Normal setting produces a picture with a daylight cast, matching the ambient light coming in from the windows during the day. The Warm setting gives pictures an off-white, yellowish, or candlelight-like cast. This setting is more appropriate for evening viewing, and is the most psychologically relaxing. The Cool setting produces whites that are more bluish. This setting is meant to make the picture look bright and vivid. It is the default setting that many TVs are set to when they come fresh out-of-the-box from the factory, or when they are being demonstrated on the showroom floor.

When color temperature was first introduced, these settings represented standard, industry-accepted shades. Although, lately there has been a shift in shades by some manufacturers, whereby the shade that was once "Normal" is now found on the "Warm" setting. We will not address these variations in this article, only to say that there are a few. Instead, we will stick with the original intent of these shades.

Here is how color temoperature works - each setting produces a specific shade of white, from which all the rest of the colors are derived. The shade of white as a source of light can be measured in degrees Kelvin (which also happens to be a unit of measure of heat). Applying this measurement technique to television, the "Normal" setting produces a color temperature of 6500°K, which is the approximate color temperature of sunlight. This is the original industry standard for color temperature to which all television cameras are calibrated and upon which all television colorimetry is based. The "Warm" setting produces a color temperature of about 3000°K, and the "Cool" setting produces about 8200°K. Notice how the terminology seems to be backwards (i.e. warm for a low temperature and cool for a high temperature). These terms are not meant to describe the sense of the scientific metric, but rather the aesthetic feel of the cast. In fact, the terms "warm" and "cool" describe how artists view color, where yellows are considered warm and blues are cool.

Other settings

The settings mentioned in this article are the common ones that you will find on nearly every TV. But within the Picture menu there may be more settings that could change the way the colors look. These settings are specific to the brand and model of television that you have. To learn what they are and how they will affect the picture, consult the owner's manual.

Cable Connections

Component video cables that are not connected properly between the source and the TV can produce pictures with wrong colors. Conventionally, at both ends of the bundle, the green connector will connect to the Y jack, the red connector will connect to the Pr jack, and the blue connector will connect to the Pb jack. Keep in mind that the connectors are color-coded simply as a convenience so that they can be uniquely identified. The signals in these cables really don't care what the colors of the connectors are, as long as the particular signal coming from the source connects to the proper input at the other end.

The following chart lists the Symptoms that are related to faulty component video Cable connections along with which signal cables would be at fault.

Symptom Cables
Reds and Blues are reversed Red (Pr) and blue (Pb) are swapped at one end
Only blues and yellows, no reds Red (Pr) cable is not connected
Only reds and greens, no blues Blue (Pb) cable is not connected
Black and white, no color Both red (Pr) and blue (Pb) cables not connected
Hash or dot pattern crawling upward with the picture behind it The green (Y) cable at the source is wrongly connected to the neighboring yellow video output jack
Intermittent or flickering changes in color A bad cable, or a cable plug not firmly seated into its corresponding jack

If you can't seem to get the colors right by changing channels, or by making adjustments to the TV picture settings, or by changing the cable connections, then you are probably dealing with a faulty device. Determine which device is faulty by switching inputs. If the problem is always there no matter what you select as your input, then your TV is the culprit. Continue reading.

Intermittent Connections

Cables can become intermittent or go bad at their connectors. This can happen when the cable is disconnected repeatedly by grabbing it by the cable itself and tugging, rather than grasping the connector to disconnect it. Repeatedly unplugging and plugging in cables can also damage the female connector on the TV causing an intermittent connection as well. To tackle this problem you will need to gain access to the printed circuit board (see How Do I Get To the Circuit Boards in a TV?).

If the connector does not feel loose when you rock it back and forth, but the connection comes and goes, then there is probably a hairline fracture on the printed circuit trace to which the connector is soldered. If this is the case, then the board will either need to be repaired or replaced. It can be repaired by locating the broken trace, scaping the solder-resist off of the trace on either side of the fracture to expose the actual copper trace, and then reinforcing the trace with solder. If the connector feels loose to the touch, then it is likely that the printed circuit board has a crack in it, and will need to be replaced (see Circuit Board below).

Circuit Board

The printed circuit board in your TV that would most likely cause these kinds of issues is called the 'Main Board', or 'Signal Board'. It is generally the one that is populated with all those connectors for connecting various devices to the TV that are accessible in back of the TV.

Sometimes the failure could be caused by the actual connectors (jacks) on the printed circuit boards themselves. They can become electrically intermittent due to excessive mechanical stress from either 1.) the wear and tear of constantly plugging and unplugging cables into them, or 2.) the constant physical weight or tension imposed on them by the cable.

Whether the problem is with the board-mounted connectors, or some other component on the Signal Board, the board would definitely need to be replaced, and this web site can show you how to replace it. The articles How Do I Get to the Circuit Boards? and Replacing Circuit Boards in a TV provide useful information.

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