How to Create Top Quality Computer Desktop Wallpapers

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ThumbnailPersonalization – that’s the mantra for anyone who is too attached to his computer. Some take it to the extreme of case mods but for us pedestrians, using a theme or changing the wallpaper is as far as we dare to spice it up. But even here with a bit of design savvy we can make a graphic statement.

Dressing up our screens with quality custom wallpapers gets the oohs, aahs and the stares. Memories come in pixels and custom wallpapers are just a cool simple way to put it on the screen. Perhaps you need not look any further than your last vacation trip or the captured moments spent frolicking with your kids for some wallpaper design inspiration. You can even put some motivational quotes or a GTD list on a dark background.

Creating custom desktop wallpapers for your computer is actually a breeze. Though, a better than basic familiarity with an imaging program like Photoshop, Paint.net or GIMP really helps. Stripped to the basics, it’s a 1-2-3 process.

Step 1: Find your screen resolution

The size of the image needs to match the size of the desktop so that the image does not stretch or tile across. Finding this figure (the screen resolution) is dead easy.

  • Right-click on any blank area on your desktop and select Properties from the context menu.
  • Click the Settings tab on the Display Properties box. Note the screen resolution in pixels.
  • 1_Display Prop

Step 2: Get Your Image

A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed – Ansel Adams.

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If you have such an image in your pictures folder then you have your wallpaper. But why only a snapshot? It could be a stock photo, a collage, a funky gradient or some text on a background. But there are always these rules of thumb to consider.

  • For the crystal clear look, use high quality, high resolution photos. For best results, shoot images with resolutions more than that of the monitor (or use stock photos with the same or greater resolution).
  • Avoid pictures with image artifacts and blurs. Artifacts are the uneven patches of color here and there in images.
  • 2_Artifacts

  • Look at the placement of your icons on the desktop. If they are on the left of the screen, look for photos which have an even colored background on the left. The idea is to not lose your icons in a flurry of background colors.

Step 3: Match image proportions to screen resolution

  • Fire up the image editor. We need to use resize the image to match the screen resolution. Usually, the commands we need to resize an image can be found under the Image menu. For instance ““
  • In Photoshop: Image – Image Size
  • In GIMP: Image – Scale Image (use the chain icon)
  • In Paint.net: Image – Resize – check Maintain Aspect Ratio
  • In IrfanView: Image – Resize/Resample – check Preserve Aspect Ratio
  • Image editors generally have a setting called – Constrain Proportions or Preserve Aspect Ratio. This keeps the width and height proportional as we change sizes. Not using this setting results in a distorted image as one dimension changes without a mirror change in the other. ‘Squished’ is the word designers’ use.
  • 3_Constrain-Proportion

  • Even with Constrain Proportions checked, resizing may not give us the exact match for our target resolution. We can get by with a close match – a difference of 10-20 pixels.
  • If the size doesn’t come close, then we are left with the alternative of cropping the image gradually so that we come close to the required resolution. Cropping may mar the scene, then we can, as another option, resize it and drop it onto a similar colored background. Though it usually takes something away from the look.

Finishing Touches

With the work on the image complete, all we need to do is save it. Generally, a 1024×768 wallpaper is around 100kb – 150kb in size. Images with rich colors will be heftier in size.

If you plan to upload or email it, then it’s better to keep file sizes small. But wallpapers are all about “˜rich’ quality so when saving it as a JPEG file, remember that it’s a lossy format i.e. compression takes away some quality from the file. Experiment with the compression settings till you have a balance of quality and size. Save it with a quality setting that’s about 80% of the original.

4_Quality-Setting

A good practice to follow is to save the master file as a PNG lossless format. This can be reused and converted to take advantage of JPEG’s smaller sizes.

The final step – Right-click on the desktop – select Properties from the context menu – go the Desktop tab – Browse and open the image you made – position the image (Center, Tile or Stretch) –  click on OK and you have your desktop décor.

5_Set Wallpaper

Making your own desktop wallpaper for your computer is as easy as browsing for an image and setting it from Desktop Properties or it can be as intricate as a work of art. This basic how-to is just a start. A web search will return a multitude of tutorials on how to make the fanciest of wallpapers. Most of them will make you go wow. But to reach that summit calls for some dedicated hours spent with your favorite image program.

Do you make your own wallpapers or do you take them off the web? If you do make them, what other quality tips can we put to use? Share your craft with us in the comments.

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