I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of guy who needs to change things up on a regular basis. If my environment stays the same for too long, I get tired of it. And that’s why I change my desktop wallpaper every week (among other things).
Wallpapers are an excellent way to personalize your computer, and for me, I’ve done it so often that finding, tweaking, and creating wallpapers has become like second nature now. It’s really not as difficult as you might expect.
Before I share my tips with you, you may want to first go ahead and clean up the files on your desktop. What good is a beautiful wallpaper if it’s cluttered up with icons and shortcuts? Once that’s done, keep reading!
Step 1: Check Your Screen Settings
The worst thing you can do is use a wallpaper with an aspect ratio that differs from the aspect ratio of your screen. The aspect ratio of a rectangle is simply the proportion between width and height. The most common are 4:3, 16:9, and 16:10.
The second worst thing you can do is use a wallpaper with a display resolution that does not match your screen’s display resolution. If it’s too small, it will appear blurry because it has to be stretched out to fit your screen. If it’s too big, it will appear fine but take up unnecessary disk space.
To find your screen resolution in Windows 10:
- Right-click the desktop and select Display settings.
- Scroll down and click Advanced display settings.
- Under Resolution, you’ll see your current screen resolution. You should stay on whichever one is marked Recommended, but feel free to change it to any of the other resolutions if you wish.
To find your aspect ratio, divide the width over the height. For example, if my resolution is 1920 x 1080 then I would divide 1920 over 1080 to get 1.778, which indicates a 16:9 resolution. Similarly, 1.333 indicates 4:3 and 1.6 indicates 16:10.)
Keep these in mind because they are the targets you want when creating wallpaper images.
Step 2: Find an Image to Use
A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed. — Ansel Adams
There’s no accounting for taste. Your ideal wallpaper may be too distracting for me while my favorite wallpaper might make you cringe — we like what we like and that’s the end. I can’t just hand you a good source image. You have to find one that suits your tastes.
And make sure the image you find is high resolution, by which I mean 1920 x 1080 or higher. Starting with a high resolution is important because you can always compress it down and maintain quality, but you can’t stretch an image larger without losing quality.
Where can you find high-resolution images?
Free stock images are your best bet. We’ve compiled a list of high-resolution stock image sites that you can use. Most of them use copyright-free CC0 licenses, meaning you’re free to do whatever you want with the images. Always check an image’s licensing so you don’t accidentally infringe on copyrights.
Reddit is another great source for images. If you haven’t already, check out the SFW Image Network where you can find all kinds of subreddits dedicated to high-res imagery across dozens of topics: Sea, Fire, Space, Cityscapes, Roads, Architecture, Weather, and more. Almost every image is good wallpaper material.
For personal sentiment, shoot your own photos! You don’t have to be a professional to take pleasing shots, and nowadays even smartphones are good enough for amazing photography. One style that’s perfect for a wallpaper is night sky photography.
But whatever you do, think about how it will look. Lots of contrast might be hard on your eyes, and darker images are usually easier to look at. Also, if your desktop icons are all on one side of the screen, avoid images that may interfere with that.
Step 3: Resize or Crop the Image
If the downloaded image’s resolution matches your screen resolution, you can skip this step. Otherwise, you should download and install GIMP before continuing (unless you prefer another image editing app).
If the source image’s aspect ratio is the same as your screen, then all you need to do is resize. To resize in GIMP:
- Open the image file.
- In the menu, click Image > Scale Image…
- Under Image Size, make sure the chain icon is connected. If it isn’t, click on it. This makes sure that the aspect ratio will remain the same during the resize.
- Change the Width to the width of your screen resolution, then hit Enter. The Height should automatically adjust and stay the same aspect ratio.
- Click Scale to finish.
If the source image has a different aspect ratio than your screen, you’ll need to crop it. Cropping just means cutting out excess bits of the image. Here’s how to do it in GIMP:
- Open the image file.
- Select the Crop tool in the toolbar.
- In the Tool Options panel, check the box labeled Fixed and then select Aspect Ratio in the drop-down menu. Right under it, type in your aspect ratio (for example, 16:9).
- Click-and-drag your mouse on the image to make a selection. Everything within the selection will stay, and everything outside of the selection will be cut away. You can drag the selection box around if needed.
- When you’re ready, double-click the selection box to finalize the crop.
- Resize the image to your screen resolution using the instructions above.
Lastly, you can complete the finished image by going to File > Export As… and saving it as either JPG (for optimal file size) or PNG (for optimal image quality). Now just set the image as your wallpaper. Done!
Or Just Download Pre-Made Wallpapers
If this is too much work for you, no worries. You can always hop over to one of these free wallpaper sites and download one that appeals to you. Remember to keep your screen resolution in mind, and feel free to filter by aspect ratio if you’re using a relatively small resolution like 1366 x 768.
Also note that Windows 10 supports “live wallpapers” (i.e. animated). Instructions for creating those are beyond the scope of this article, and they’re a lot more work, but you can always grab some premade ones from the web to try them out.
What are you using as your current wallpaper? What kinds of wallpapers are your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!
Originally written by Saikat Basu on 28th July 2009