What monitor ghosting is and how to fix it

Monitor ghosting, a phenomenon synonymous with frustrating image artifacts, can significantly mar your PC experience, particularly during fast-paced scenes. These phantom trails behind moving objects can dramatically compromise image quality, especially in dynamic scenarios like action-packed video games or sports. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the intricacies of monitor ghosting, untangling its intricacies from other similar image anomalies, identifying its root causes, and presenting potential remedies to minimize or eliminate these bothersome visual artifacts.

What monitor ghosting is and what causes it

Monitor ghosting is an image artifact that shows as a trail of pixels or “ghosts” behind moving objects. Since they follow moving objects, they are especially noticeable in scenes with many fast movements, such as first-person shooter games or fast-paced sports like hockey.

Thankfully though, monitor ghosting doesn’t cause permanent changes to the display like similar effects such as image retention or burn-in effect. Instead, ghosting is only noticeable during fast-paced scenes that include moving objects as a blurry trail without any permanent effect on the image.

Ghosting is usually caused by the slow response time of certain types of LCD panels. When the image is refreshed the physical pixels cannot update as fast as the image causing a smearing image effect on the display.

Out of the three most common types of LCD monitor panels, ghosting is most noticeable on VA panels since they have the slowest response time. Only the most expensive VA monitors (usually gaming ones) don’t show noticeable ghosting artifacts.

Cheaper IPS monitors can also show ghosting artifacts but to a much smaller degree. In other words, ghosting is inherent with some LCD panels and cannot be removed entirely. The good news is that most monitors have some setting to reduce ghosting artifacts but more on that later.

The monitor panel itself might not cause monitor ghosting. They can also be caused by a faulty monitor cable or other devices (believe it or not even a printer) that interfere with the monitor if they’re placed close enough. Next, specific monitor settings can cause ghosting or similar artifacts such as coronas or inverse ghosting (an artifact that manifests as bright trails behind moving objects). 

Overclocking your monitor for higher refresh rates can also cause image artifacts that are similar to ghosting.

How to fix monitor hhosting

There are a few ways to fix monitor ghosting, and most include tweaking specific monitor settings. The most common fix is turning on the overdrive function. The setting has different names depending on the monitor manufacturer and is known as:

  • Overdrive for Acer monitors
  • AMA for BenQ monitors
  • Trace Free for ASUS monitors
  • Response Time for LG and Samsung monitors

For other manufacturers, it’s usually shown as Overdrive or Response Time in the monitor settings. To accurately correct this problem, you should try the TestUFO motion test and then tweak the overdrive setting accordingly.

Change the levels of overdrive until ghosting is minimized as much as possible without a noticeable corona artifact. The recommended setting is usually medium or one level below when inverse ghosting or the corona artifact appears.

Some other settings called “Perfect Clear,” “Dynamic Contrast,” “Motion Smoothing,” or “Noise Reduction” can also cause ghosting, especially in darker scenes. These settings enhance the image. They are added over the raw video signal, increasing response time and can add noticeable image artifacts. They are usually found on TVs but if you experience artifacts such as monitor ghosting, check your monitor control panel for these settings and if you find any, turn them off.

Also, Nvidia Control Panel hub has a setting called “Noise Reduction.” It is recommended to turn this setting off to avoid ghosting or other image artifacts.

When faulty cables or other devices cause monitor ghosting artifact (if changing overdrive settings didn’t work), you should remove all devices close to your monitor (such as printers or modems, speakers are safe) and then test the monitor for ghosting. If the problem pertains change your monitor cable, that should fix the issue.

Suppose ghosting is still visible even if you changed overdrive settings, removed other devices near the monitor, and changed the cable. In that case, the issue can be a faulty monitor or faulty video ports. In that case, the only option is to take the monitor to a service or replace it (if it’s under warranty).

Do note that, as we already mentioned, cheaper VA and IPS panels can show ghosting artifacts because their pixel response time is too low. In that case, nothing you can do can remove ghosting. Another possible solution includes updating your graphic card drivers, which sometimes can help with monitor ghosting issues.

Similar Image Artifacts That Are Often Confused With Monitor Ghosting

Image Retention

Image retention happens with LCD monitors and TVs and is displayed as a faded image permanently shown on the monitor. The issue isn’t permanent and can usually be solved by turning off the monitor for a few minutes and then turning it back on.

Burn-In Effect

The burn-in effect is the same as image retention, but it only happens on OLED displays. Sadly, this issue is permanent, and once it appears, you cannot do anything to remove it. To prevent this, you should avoid leaving the display on with static images showing for a long time.

Motion Blur

Motion blur is shown as an image smearing both on trailing and leading edges, not just on trailing edges like ghosting. It is found on every monitor to a degree, but high refresh rate monitors (120Hz or higher) have lower levels of motion blur.

Some monitor settings such as 1ms Motion Blur Reduction (LG), ELMB (ASUS), or ULMB (available on Nvidia G-Sync monitors) can reduce motion blur but do note that, on most monitor models, motion blur reduction cannot be used while G-Sync or FreeSync is active.

Inverse Ghosting Or The Corona Artifact

Inverse ghosting is an image artifact similar to ghosting. It is different in that trailing object edges are followed by bright coronas instead of “ghost” trails. The artifact is caused by setting the overdrive option to the maximum level and is easily fixed by lowering (or turning off) the overdrive setting.