A method to perform a predictive search for a given amplitude and phase modulation response in twisted nematic liquid crystal displays is presented. The algorithm is based on a simple physical model that we recently proposed and that considers the effect of liquid-crystal layers located in the vicinity of the edges, which are not able to tilt. This model was demonstrated to explain accurately the experimental transmittance modulation curves. Here the model is applied to perform a predictive search for an optimized modulation by changing the input and output polarization configurations. A generalized configuration to generate and detect elliptically polarized light is proposed. The method is applied for seeking two different configurations useful for optical image processors: phase-only modulation and amplitude-only modulation. The excellent agreement with the experimental measurements validates the potential of the proposed method. © 2001 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.