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Have you ever left your TV or monitor on for days, stuck on the same image? You return to your screen, only to find an image burned into the display. No matter what you do, it won’t go away. It is a permanent image burn.
Why do monitors and TVs get image burn? Why can’t manufacturers prevent LCDs and plasma screens from a burnt image imprint? Moreover, what can you do to fix an image burn?
In some cases, you can minimize the image burn effect. In others, you can remove the image burn completely, so long as it hasn’t been burning too long.
What Are LCD, LED, and Plasma Screens?
Before flat-screens and crystal displays, most TVs and monitors featured CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) technology. In CRTs, individual pixels comprise a red, blue, and green phosphor component. Depending on the intensity of each phosphor component, the pixel appears to the human eye as a unique color.
When a particular still image remains for too long, the intensity of each phosphor component diminishes at an uneven rate. The result is a ghost image on the screen, which is known as image burning.
Plasma displays use plasma, a gaseous substance containing free-flowing ions. When the plasma is not in use, the particles in the plasma are uncharged and display nothing. With the introduction of an electric current, the ions become charged and begin colliding, releasing photons of light.
This is a very simplified version of how a plasma screen works. However, the main thing to understand is that plasma screens use phosphor material (like CRTs) to turn those photons into images.
LCD and LED do not work in the same way as CRTs, either. LCD and LED screens use backlit liquid crystals to display colors. Although manufacturers market screens using LED and LCD, an LED screen is still a type of LCD. The white backlight filters through the liquid crystals, which extract particular colors per pixel.
LCD and LED displays don’t suffer from the same type of image burn as CRTs and plasma screens. They’re not completely clear though. LCD and LED screens suffer from image persistence. Read on to find out more about image persistence.
Why Do Plasma Screens Burn-In?
Before you can fix screen burn-in, take a second to understand why these images burn in the first place. LCDs and LEDs don’t suffer from burn-in as seriously as plasma screens. But static images can leave an imprint on both display types if left alone for too long. So, why does image burn happen?
First, let’s tackle plasma screen burn-in. Remember why CRTs experience image burn? When a still image remains on the screen for too long, the phosphor components in each pixel wear out at different rates. The uneven burn rates leave behind a ghost image, forever etched into the screen.
Plasma screens also suffer from phosphor deterioration. Plasma burning occurs when pixels on the screen are damaged through long exposure. The phosphor loses its intensity and only shows the light it was fed repeatedly. In this case, the still image, which causes the burn.
Do LCDs and LEDs Experience Image Burn?
LCD and LED screens can also experience image burn, though the image burn process can longer to develop into a permanent issue. LCD and LED screens suffer from another issue, known as image retention (also known as image persistence or an LCD shadow).
Image retention is a temporary issue that you are more likely to notice before it becomes a permanent issue. However, proper image burn can still affect LCD, LED, and OLED screens.
Image retention is a different issue to image burn (although it is a precursor to image burn). For example, you’re using a single image of a steam train as a reference point for a drawing. You have the steam train image on your screen for a few hours, before you decide to play a video game instead.
So Happy Right Now that My OLED didnt have permanent burn in, just image rentention and break in, need to be really careful w/ these oleds
— Timdog (@XcloudTimdog) June 5, 2016
When you load up the video game on the screen, you can still see the faint outline of the steam train on the screen. The steam train image will remain for a short while, but the movement and color changes of the video game (or film, TV show, or other media type) should erase the retained image.
The other thing to consider is that LED and OLED image burn-in, when it happens, is irreversible. That’s because of how LED and OLED screens work. Individual pixels within an LED display decay when they emit light.
When the screen fixes on a single image, those pixels decay at a faster rate than those around it. Once the pixel itself is dead, there is no recovery.
1317 hours on this oled. 98% gaming hours. No permanent image retention (yet). I’m fully prepared to see burn in sometime next year. Then I will run pixel refresh for 6 months ? pic.twitter.com/SPNCwp5Of1
— Modernwize (@modernwise) November 18, 2018
Under normal use, an LED, OLED, or QLED screen won’t suffer image burn. If you leave your screen on a single channel for hours every day, then burn-in can become an issue, as it would with almost any screen.
Issues arise when a screen shows a single news channel 24 hours a day, every day, causing channel logos to burn-in, along with the outline of the scrolling news ticker and so on. News channels are a well known source of television burn-in, no matter the screen type.
Check out Kannon’s article on LED, OLED, and AMOLED image burn-in and how you can avoid it. It has some handy tips in there for smartphones, too!
LCD and Plasma Screen Burn-In Fixes
Image burn-in fixes exist for LCD and plasma screens. How effective an image burn-in fix is depends on the screen damage. Depending on the length and severity of the image burn, some displays may have permanent damage.
1. Prevent LCD and Plasma Screen Burn
The best fix for screen burn is to prevent it in the first place. Okay, that isn’t super useful if your screen is already experiencing image burn. However, you should always try not to leave your screen on a still image for too long. The time it takes for an image to burn-in varies from screen to screen, between manufacturers, sizes, and panel type.
My personal rule of thumb is to turn off and display if I plan on being away for more than 15 minutes. That way, it is difficult to get caught out, plus you save yourself money on electricity costs and monitor or TV wear and tear.
2. Reduce LCD and Plasma Screen Image Burn
Another prevention method is to reduce screen contrast as much as you can. Most screens aren’t calibrated correctly, often pushing the contrast and brightness settings too high.
Lower contrast means the lighting across your screen is more even. This means less strain on specific areas of the screen, which in turn helps protect against image burning.
3. Use Static to Fix LCD and Plasma Burn-In
If your plasma or LCD screen already has image burn-in, you can try turning on white static for 12 to 24 hours. The constant moving of white-and-black across your screen in random patterns can help remove the ghost image from your screen.
Unfortunately, this won’t work for extreme cases. Some TVs will have a built-in pattern swiping option that basically accomplishes the same thing (by filling your screen with random patterns).
4. Use Pixel-Shift to Fix LCD and Plasma Image Burn
Some TVs and monitors feature pixel-shift or screen shift technology. Pixel-shift constantly slightly adjusts the image on your screen, which varies the pixel usage enough to counteract image burn. You might have to enable a pixel or screen shift option in your screen settings. Pixel-shift is a handy feature for LED and OLED screens that cannot recover from image burn, and should help counteract an LCD shadow.
Other modern screens feature built-in screen refresh functions that the manufacturer will advise using to remove image retention and image burn issues.
5. Use JSCreenFix to Fix LCD and Plasma Screen Burn
The best tool that I’ve found for fixing ghost images is JScreenFix. Though the original program design was to help fix monitors with dead pixels, they now have a JScreenFix Deluxe which uses advanced algorithms to repair burned screens and prolong plasma and LCD longevity.
There is a free version available, but if you want to run the program for more than 20 minutes at a time, you’ll need to purchase a license for $25 USD.
If you’re unsure if you have a dead pixel, try one of these dead pixel locating programs to find out. Some options have built-in fixes, too.
6. Use a White Screensaver to Fix LCD and Plasma Image Burn
Another option is to set a completely white desktop background and leaving to run for a few hours. The solid color might reset the image burn. A solid color background is more likely to help with image persistence than image burn, but it is still worth trying.
If you have television burn-in, you can attach a laptop to your TV using a HDMI cable, extend your desktop to the television, and share the white screensaver. Hopefully that will shift your television burn-in.
The Best Way to Prevent Screen Burning
There are several ways you can attempt to fix screen burn-in. The results will vary between the screen type and the level of burn-in. A screen with extensive image burn may not clear entirely, although you might see an improvement.
Some screen degradation over time is understandable. However, if you follow the steps in this guide, you’ll protect your screen from image burn before it becomes a permanent issue.
Interestingly, screen burn-in brings us back to a nostalgic computer feature: the screensaver. Are screensavers still relevant? And could a screensaver protect your screen from image burn?