If you’re on the hunt for the perfect wallpaper for your PC or tablet, I’m going to show you how you can take your own picture that’ll be as good or better than any wallpaper you could download from the web.
There are some things that professional photographers are great at, but I am convinced that only a small percentage of them truly appreciate what makes a good desktop wallpaper. I say this as someone who is not a professional photographer, but an avid computer user who spends 15 to 17 hours on a computer every day.
“Who cares? It’s just a wallpaper.” The truth is that a well-chosen image can lift your mood and boost your productivity. Plus, it can inspire the feeling of a clean, organized, and well-managed workspace. A bad background image does just the opposite.
What Makes a Bad Wallpaper?
How can a background image be “bad”? There are several elements that can have detrimental effects on you, such as:
- Lots of alternate light and dark shading that make icons difficult to see.
- A cluttered image makes your workspace feel cluttered, which can make your mind feel disorganized.
- Poor colors can affect a viewer’s mood and make them want to turn away.
All of these things can make a photo like the one below completely mess up your overall mindset when you’re trying to get work done on your computer:
Organizing work and getting stuff done is hard enough as it is. Why not create your own background image that enhances your efficiency and peace of mind? It is possible.
After two decades of playing with background images in combination with different methods and apps to better organize the desktop, I’m going to share some of the tricks I’ve learned — and the images I’ve used — to create a clean, organized, and peaceful workspace.
What’s In a Good Wallpaper?
There are two types of background images that work best — plain patterns and colors or themed images with a common color scheme. The preference really comes down to how easily distracted your mind is, and whether you prefer artistic imagery to be an inspiration for your own creativity. Everyone is different.
Starting off with plain patterns, you can easily walk outside your house and capture the perfect background image for your computer just by shooting a simple field:
That’s all there is to it. Now, when you place icons all around your desktop, both those images and your taskbar will really pop. It adds a bit of color and warmth to your desktop, but it also provides for an open and empty workspace for you to fill up with your work.
If you’re the kind of person who prefers a bit more creativity and emotional depth to your desktop, then just pick the camera lens up a little higher and capture the treeline. Make sure to keep the sky itself a minor part of the image. You want the color green to fill the majority:
If the simple pattern-style background is your preference, there are a lot of options right around your property for images that’ll work well. Ideally, you’ll want to take close-up images of different surfaces, so it’s a good idea to set your digital camera to macro mode.
The following image is a closeup shot of pavement:
Again, a pattern that’s clear of contrasting colors and objects offers a big open space on your desktop that’s pleasing to the eye.
If you prefer wood patterns, you can do something like a close-up snapshot of cedar siding, or really any wood siding on a house or barn:
If you’re looking for something really rustic and unique, walk up to any old tree with your camera set to macro, move close to the tree trunk, and snap a shot. You can capture some amazing patterns this way:
Really old tree-bark creates some of the more interesting patterns for a desktop background image:
Again, the common color scheme across the entire desktop makes the pattern pleasing to the eye, but at the same time lets you place your icons around your desktop without them getting lost.
If you’re not really into abstract images, but you are the outdoorsy type, you may prefer to back away a little bit from the tree and see if you can bring in some of the old knots at the edge:
You’d be surprised by some of the images you can capture when you start getting up close and personal with trees. And once you get these loaded up on your desktop, everyone who sees it will be fascinated.
Everyone loves a good picture from nature as their desktop background. They’re perfectly fine, but they also introduce a lot of problems that can interfere with desktop organization.
The shadows throughout these images create bright and dark areas so that if you place light icons on top of the light areas, they practically disappear. The same is true for dark icons on dark backgrounds.
It’s just one example of how beautiful nature images can actually make terrible desktop wallpapers.
There’s a reason the default background image for the Microsoft OS for so many years was a blue, cloud-filled sky over a large, expansive field. Love blue skies? Point your camera up and capture a few images of your own:
On the flip side, if you point your camera straight down, flip it in to macro mode, and get right down close to the ground, you can capture another great nature image for the same purpose:
The secret here is to walk around and look for any image you can take that includes at least 75 to 80 percent of the image made up of one common color. It’s okay to frame that area with other colors along the top, bottom or sides.
Another neat trick is to get up close and personal with pine trees. When you take a picture of the whole tree, you get the ground, the tree trunk, the sky — a bunch of contrasting colors and distractions. Instead, move closer until you’re just a foot from the tree:
Really, the same is true of all trees. When you point your camera up into the tops of the trees, you get that 75 to 80 percent green color balance that you need for a good background.
As you can imagine, with that much green, it won’t be a problem seeing your icons no matter where you place them. At the same time, you’ll feel like your looking outside the window on a warm summer day. What could be better than that?
Landscapes as a Background
It can be tempting to take certain landscape images as you’re walking through nature. Things like old rock walls, for example, always make for a nice, rustic picture:
As a background, however, you’ve got all of the same problems as mentioned above. Too many shadows, the image is just too busy, and it’s distracting to the eye when you need to get work done.
On the other hand, if you get up close to that rock wall, now you’ve got the makings of a useful background image:
Everywhere you look, you’ll have opportunities like this to get an image that you wouldn’t mind looking at every day when you sit down to your computer.
If you keep the 80 percent color scheme in mind, you can’t fail. In this case, if you zoom in so that the skyline is only at the very edge of the photo, now you’ve got an image that’ll work:
It’s also cool sometimes to have a focal point in the image, like an old gate, a barn, or anything like that. These don’t really distract from the icons you’ll have on your desktop because it’s only one object, but they do make the image a little bit more interesting to look at than just a simple pattern.
Putting It All Together
At one point during my nature walk, I spotted a pitch-black cow in the middle of a field. At the road, the image ended up framed with branches and leaves.
There are enough green shades in the photo so that it could potentially work as a background image on my PC, but all of that clutter around the edges would clash with any icons that are placed there.
However, zooming in just a little did the trick. Now there’s an interesting focal point at the center with the curious cow gazing in my direction. This leaves a nice, clean green all around it — plenty of room to spread out the workspace and organize the desktop.
As you can see, you really don’t have to be a professional photographer to take images that’ll work well as your desktop background or wallpaper. All you have to do is follow just the few rules above so that your attention and focus aren’t broken by the image itself.
Are there any unique images that you’ve ever used as your PC desktop background? What’s the weirdest? Do you prefer patterns or images for your background? Share your thoughts and creative ideas in the comments area below!