Budget Monitors for Graphic Design/Digital Artist (2019/2020)

In this article we'll cover the features to look for in a monitor for graphic design and digital art work. I'll also provide my recommendations from the budget to higher end (larger size and higher resolution) monitors.

Features to look for

Colour accuracy is important for artists and designers.

Ideally, you'll want to get a monitor that's able to show you the colours where your work will be displayed. So choose the monitor based on the work you create. If your work is mostly going to appear on screen, then a sRGB monitor should suffice. If you're working with print, a wider colour gamut monitor like an AdobeRGB is more appropriate. More on the sRGB and AdobeRGB jargon later.

Panel type
There are two types of LCD monitor technologies out there, IPS and TN.

Always get a monitor that uses an IPS panel, or a variant of the IPS sub-types. Most manufacturers have that information in their specifications.

IPS panels usually have wide viewing angles, usually up to 178 degrees for horizontal and vertical viewing angles. This means no matter from which angle you're looking at the display, the colours will look the same. Colours on monitors with lousy viewing angles will shift/change depending on the angle you're looking from. This can be problematic on large monitors because the angle when looking straight vs to the side is different. So for example, you can have a screen filled with gray, but when viewed straight on, it will be gray, and when you look to the side, it can be another shade of gray.

Avoid glossy screen because you'll be looking at your own reflection. The reflection impairs the colours you see.

I want to tell you to avoid TN panels but it's actually not uncommon to see TN panels with wide viewing angles nowadays too.

Colour Gamut
Colour gamut is the range of colours a monitor can produce. The two most common colour gamut or colour support is sRGB and Adobe RGB so they are often being advertised on spec sheets. You may also see NTSC and increasingly DCI-P3 being mentioned -- Apple calls it Display P3 when advertising their Macbooks.

sRGB is the most common colour space for monitors and the internet. So if your work is for display online, you can get an sRGB monitor.

AdobeRGB colour space has a wider colour range compared to sRGB and is able to simulate print colours. So if you work work print, and need to compare printed proofs against your screen, get an AdobeRGB monitor. An AdobeRGB display will give you an accurate representation and expectation of how your work will eventually appear in print.

NTSC is used for TV.

DCI-P3 is introduced by Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) to cover the color range of cinema. The colour space is around 25-39% larger than sRGB. This is great for video editors.

These colour spaces are just a subset of all the possible colours our eyes can see. So the monitor to choose should depend on the work you do. There's no point spending extra money on an AdobeRGB monitor if your work is only going to be viewed online.

Just for reference, a 100% AdobeRGB monitor can display up to 1 billion colours while a 100% sRGB monitor typically displays up to 16.7 million colours.

A good AdobeRGB monitor is a 10-bit monitor vs sRGB which is typically an 8-bit monitor. Some monitors may use FRC technology to dither 8-bit to simulate 10-bit colours but those aren't true 10-bit colours and those will not be true AdobeRGB monitors. Anyway, for a true 10-bit colour workflow, you will need proper hardware (monitor and graphics card) and software support.

You can read more about colour gamut at https://www.eizoglobal.com/library/basics/lcd_monitor_color_gamut/

Back in the days when monitors are still expensive, I would recommend either 1920x1080 or 1920x1200 resolution monitors.

Nowadays larger and higher resolution monitors are getting more affordable. So if you have the budget, I recommend getting a 2560x1440 resolution monitor. And the best size for this resolution is 27-inches.

The more resolution the monitor has, the more content, details and desktop space you can see. Say for example you open a window to display thumbnails of your files, 4K (3840x2160) can show you more thumbnails/files than 1440P, and 1440P can show you more than 1080P.

On a higher resolution monitor, when using graphic design software, editing photos or videos, you will be able to fit more panels and tools on the desktop. You can see more and don't have to scroll as often, and don't have to close panels or palettes that block your work. Higher resolution monitors improves productivity. And this is one significant reason to get monitors with higher resolution.

Other advantages of 4K includes the ability to view 4K videos at native resolution. This is useful for video editors who edit in 4K and want to see their videos at 100% without scaling. 4K has so much pixels that everything will look sharper and more detail.

Downside of 4K is they are more expensive, sometimes significantly more so, compared to 1440P monitors.

These are the resolution and sizes I recommend.

  • 1080P: 20 to 24 inch
  • 1440P: 25 to 27 inch
  • 4K: 32 inch

For MacOS users, it's important to get a monitor that's least 32-inch if you want 4K. MacOS does not have the appropriate scaling options to scale up user interface elements on smaller monitors with 4K resolution.


Most graphic design monitors now come with DisplayPort and/or HDMI.

Other ports to look out for would be USB ports. Look for monitors that can be used as USB hubs and have SD card readers.

If you're using any Macbooks from 2016 onwards, you may want to get a monitor that has Thunderbolt 3 support. Thunderbolt 3 allows fast data transfers, charging, display pass-through without the need for another display cable, and display daisy chain. In other words, Thunderbolt 3 is incredibly convenient if you have Thunderbolt 3 devices.

Other features
If you can get a monitor with a shading hood, go for it. Shading hood is very useful for blocking out unwanted light sources.

When I had to upgrade my monitor a few years ago, I was debating whether to get the BenQ SW2700PT or the Dell UP2716D that were selling at the same price. Both are AdobeRGB monitors but BenQ has the shading hood while Dell has thinner bezels and a somewhere nicer design. Ultimately I went for the BenQ SW2700PT because of the shading hood and it was a good choice. If I need to upgrade my monitor in the future, I will only go for monitors that come with shading hood.

My monitor recommendation

My recommendations are for sRGB and AdobeRGB monitors. The two brands I usually go with are Dell and BenQ because they are value for money compared to EIZO, NEC and other brands.

The Dell U series are the sRGB monitors and the UP series are the AdobeRGB monitors. For BenQ, their DesignVue monitors are sRGB and PhotoVue are AdobeRGB.

By the way, all links below are to Amazon so you can check the latest prices there.

20 to 24 inches

Dell U2415 is a 99% sRGB monitor that has a resolution of 1920x1200. Usually monitors around 20-24 inches have 1920x1080 resolution. The extra vertical pixels are very welcome for lower resolution monitors.

The Dell U2419H and Dell U2419HC are pretty similar to the Dell U2415 except these two monitors have the 16:9 aspect ration resolution of 1920x1080. These are better in the sense that when you watch videos, you'll have less or none of the horizontal black bars at the top and bottom of your video. Personally, I would still recommend U2415 for the extra resolution. The C in the U2419HC represents USB-C connectivity. The other monitor uses USB type A.

The sRGB offerings from Dell are fantastic. From BenQ, I would recommend BenQ SW240 for its 99% AdobeRGB colour support.

25 to 27 inches

From Dell:

  • Dell U2518D: sRGB, 25-inch, 2560x1440, HDMI, DP, USB 3
  • Dell U2719D: sRGB, 27-inch, 2560x1440, HDMI, DP, USB 3
  • Dell UP2516D: AdobeRGB, 25-inch, 2560x1440, HDMI, DP, USB 3
  • Dell UP2716D: AdobeRGB, 27-inch, 2560x1440, HDMI, DP, USB 3

From BenQ:

  • BenQ SW271, AdobeRGB, 27-inch, 4K, HDMI, DP, USB 3, shading hood, SD card reader
  • BenQ SW270C, AdobeRGB, 27-inch, 4K, HDMI, DP, USB 3 type C, shading hood, SD card reader
  • BenQ SW2700PT, AdobeRGB, 27-inch, 2560x1440, HDMI, DP, USB 3, shading hood, SD card reader
  • BenQ PD2700U, sRGB, 27-inch, 4K, HDMI, DP, USB 3
  • BenQ PD2700Q, sRGB, 27-inch, 2560x1440, HDMI, DP, USB 3

30 to 32 inches

From Dell:

  • Dell U3219Q, sRGB, 31.5-inch, 4K, HDMI, DP, USB 3 type C
  • Dell UP3216Q, AdobeRGB, 31.5-inch, 4K, HDMI, DP, USB 3
  • Dell UP3017, AdobeRGB, 31.5-inch, 2560 x 1600, HDMI, DP, USB 3

From BenQ:

  • BenQ PD3220U, sRGB, 31.5-inch, 4K, HDMI, DP, USB 3 type C, Thunderbolt 3
  • BenQ PD3200U, sRGB, 31.5-inch, 4K, HDMI, DP, USB 3, SD card reader
  • BenQ PD3220U, sRGB, 31.5-inch, 2560x1440, DVI, HDMI, DP, USB 3, SD card reader

My overall recommendation are these.

For 24-inch monitors or smaller, get the Dell U2415 because of the 1920x1200 resolution which is higher than typical 1080P.

For 25-27-inch monitors, for sRGB, get Dell U2719D as the design looks sleeker compared to the BenQ of similar specs. For AdobeRGB, get BenQ SW2700PT because it also comes with shading hood.

For 30-32-inch monitors, definitely go with 4K resolution. For sRGB monitors consider the Dell U3219Q. If you're using a device with Thunderbolt 3, get the BenQ PD3220U. For AdobeRGB monitors, consider Dell UP3216Q.



I see you recommend the

I see you recommend the SW2700PT, so I imagine you don't think the SW270C with upgraded HDMI / USB3 / USBC ports make it quite worth the $200 increase, but have you had a chance to actually review it? The updates seem relatively minor, but also potentially important especially with more laptops / computers using USB C. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Hi Teoh,

Hi Teoh,
I'm looking to get a monitor for a 2019 Macbook Pro. I work extensively with both print and digital design. I was leaning towards getting a BenQ PD3200U before reading your post. Now I'm unsure... Definitely would like a 30-32" & best colour calibration to suit both print and digital projects.

I've used an iMac before this, so have no prior experience to Dell/BenQ monitors.

What would your personal choice be from your shortlist? Thanks in advance!

Hi Teoh,

Hi Teoh,
I can not choose a monitor. Need a monitor for #1 for photo #2 for graphics #3 for video processing.
The first thing I look at is the Benq PD2720U & Benq PD3220U but they are currently not available for purchase in my country due to the pandemic and the delivery time is not known.
So, I look towards Dell UP2720Q (100% Adobe RGB, 80% BT. 2020 and 98% DCI-P3) which is available in my country for purchase, for myself minus but I don’t understand, I read that it has a bad contrast, not good enough black and low brightness, total Brightness 250 cd / m2. Do you have information about this monitor?

The old Benq pd2700u is also available for purchase, but it does not have Adobe RGB.
I'm confused. I need 100% Adobe RGB a lot of print work and 100% sRGB for the web, and Resolution 3840x2160 4K

Thanks, Teoh. At my location

Thanks, Teoh. At my location, U2720Q is more pricey than UP2716D, difference
around US$130. I'm not sure if I should pay that extra for USB-C connectivity and 4K display (27" monitor ). FYI, I'm using a Lenovo Thinkpad P52 and most of the time work with Rhinos and InDesign. Is UP2716D enough for my purpose or any alternative suggestion for a 27" monitor (given my desk size)?

Hi Teoh, i am a digital

Hi Teoh, i am a digital artist and illustrator that will mostly use the monitor for photoshop. I have a macbook pro 13 inch ( early 2015) and was wondering which monitor you'd recommend for a budget of around 500$. I will be using the monitor along side with my 22HD cintiq which will also be connected to the macbook pro

Your video/post is very

Your video/post is very helpful, but I still need further advice.

I'm a graphic designer/art director and I use photography in almost everything I do, but the majority of my work is intended for the digital space. Only on occasion will I need to print something such as a brand book. That said, I want to get into video production in the future and often work with Pantones for printing my designs on clothing.

I like the idea of 4K resolution but I've determined 32" is too big for my workspace, and likely too expensive.

1.) Do you think I need access to AdobeRGB or is it safe to say I can save a little money?

2.) Pantone Validated - according to Pantone.com, most BenQ and Asus monitors are Pantone validated, does this mean Dell does not match Pantones just as well?

NOTE: My credit card bonus gives me $100 off of all Dell products.

Therefore, I'm leaning towards getting the Dell U2719D.

But, if I will ultimately benefit from AdobeRGB, which would you get (given that I get Dell discount and like the sleek silver design): BenQ SW2700PT ($600) or Dell UP2716D ($550 after rebate)?

Also, is there a chance new products will come out towards the end of the year and I should wait? Any reason to consider Asus ConceptD CM3 or CP3?

Hi.. I leave comment in your

Hi.. I leave comment in your youtube channel too.. Thanks for your review.. I need 32" monitor eith min res 1440p for 3d design..Basically, I need monitor that what I see is what it printed in a paper. Would you recommend with budget around $350-400$?

I just look in a store, lenovo thinkvision T32p-20, it is 32" monitor with 4k res. In my opinion it is great monitor, but strangely, I cant find any review to this monitor. There is only review with newer model P32U (more expensive). Have you ever heard this T32p-20 monitor? In my country it sells in around $420, while worldwide is around $600 (not much store sell it). Thanks

Hello Teoh. First off I want

Hello Teoh. First off I want to thank you in advance for the video and article they're very helpful also, my needs are simple...
Im a graphic novel artist and not really focusing too much on printing but need at least a decent monitor for graphic art the thing is I only have a budget of 100$ USD. I'm just starting out with digital art professionally so I could always invest in a better monitor later down the rode and thanks again.

Wow Teoh, what a great

Wow Teoh, what a great resource! So much straight forward information that just isn't obvious when looking at manufacturers specs. But I have a question about how to prioritize resolution vs color gamut. I am looking for a good general use monitor that I can also use for some photo editing and graphic design (as an amateur/student).

I am looking at the BenQ PD line-up (2705Q, 2700Q, 2500Q), OR the Dell u2520d. But I'm also wondering about the BenQ Sw240 for the same price. Is it worth dropping down to 24" 1080p to get 100% Adobe RGB? How will the lower resolution affect the day to day experience (surfing, word processing etc.)? Will everything on my macbook feel crammed together?

Also, do you know how much of the Adobe RGB space the other monitors have? Obviously not 100%, but is it 90% or more like 50%.

Sorry for the long question, when you are on a tighter budget it is hard to know what to sacrifice.Thanks

Hi Teoh!

Hi Teoh!

I'm video content creator, looking for 4K resolution sRGB monitor for my 2019 16inch MBP. I'm considering Dell U3219Q and BenQ PD3200U.

I seldom film in HDR or RAW video do you think I should consider HDR 10bits color monitor BenQ PD3220U (it is very expensive in my country) for long run.

Yuan Chin

Thank you Teoh for your reply

Thank you Teoh for your reply.

90% of my time is spent on FCPX, does FCPX has issue with scaling? Should I get monitor below 27 inch?

I would love to have LG 5K 27 monitor but sadly it is out of my budget :(

Thank you very much

hey teoh,

hey teoh,

any thoughts on Dell’s UP2720Q? not to be confused with U2720Q, this one comes with an in-built colour calibrator which is quite tempting.. I mostly do digital illustrations and graphic design, but i’m very tempted to start printing out my illustrations as regular prints or stickers, so i’m looking to adobe rgb monitors

just to add on to my previous

just to add on to my previous comment before, i know the UP2720Q is incredibly expensive, but i’m looking at a refurb model which is going for less than half the price. :’) i’d probably never consider buying it at full price, so i just wanted to know if you think it’s a good option for digital artists/graphic designers, or if it’s overkill and i should go with another model instead

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