How To Add Your Own Background Images To Your Gmail Account

Justin Pot 27-06-2012

background images gmail accountIt’s finally possible – you can now set any image as your background in Gmail. Two new themes give you complete control over the image behind them, allowing you to use your own picture or pick your own from a wide selection.


Gmail launched in 2004. Longtime Google geeks doubtlessly remember where they were when they finally got an invite to the then-exclusive service. Offering a complete 1 GB of storage space to Hotmail’s 2 to 4 MB, Gmail was kind of a big deal. Fewer probably recall when Gmail added “themes” to its email service, which was in 2008. Well, now there are custom themes in Gmail.

Is it the most important interface change Google has ever made? Of course not. That was a silly question to ask. However, being able to customize Gmail themes with your own photos is, while not essential, a nice feature to have. If you love personalizing things, I recommend you check this out right now.

Using Custom Themes

To get started, open Gmail. Click the gear in the top-right corner, click “Themes” and scroll until you see this option:

background images gmail account

Pick “Light” or “Dark“; it doesn’t matter for now. When you do, you’ll be able to pick your picture:


background images gmail

You have a few options – Featured photos, your photos from Picasa, photos from your phone (assuming you use the Google+ app), uploading photos or adding a URL. Find a picture you like.

Uploading is easy because of a drag-and-drop interface:

background images gmail


Once you’ve picked your image, play with the settings to find out whether the “Light” or “Dark” theme works better for you.

There are a few caveats:

  • You cannot set Gmail to automatically rotate your own images, slideshow style. Hopefully this is coming.
  • You cannot adjust the image to fit better on Gmail’s end; you’ll need to do that before, if you think that’s necessary.
  • Vertical images will probably look weird with this, unless you primarily use a vertical monitor.
  • Some people may not have this feature yet. Just wait: everyone will have it eventually.

A Few Examples

The first thing I did, naturally, was try this with one of my favorite wallpapers. I wasn’t disappointed with how it looked:

background images gmail


Then I tried it with a photo my wife Kathy took during a recent vacation. I like how it turned out too:

background images gmail account

That structure is in Hovenweep National Monument and dates back to 1500, well before Europeans got to America. The people who built these structures left them behind, and no one knows precisely why. Seeing this image reminds me that technology is temporary, and occasionally something entire societies leave behind.

That’s why customization is nice – you can add your own ideas and memories to something that is otherwise impersonal.


Do you need ideas? This video shows off a variety of different photos behind Gmail’s interface. Check it out:


What’s there to say? It’s Gmail, with your favorite pictures. I’m sure some people will use this to make grotesque, MySpace-esque monstrosities, but that’s fine. Only they have to look at it.

Please share links to any particularly awesome wallpapers or photos you create or find in the comments below. I can’t be the only one looking for something awesome to try out.

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  1. Phoenix
    August 24, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    Is there a way to download the image you used? I have a pic in mine currently that I don't have copies of anymore.

  2. BitBug
    May 13, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    If you want it to show up for just your current system, match you image size to your display resolution.

    So if you monitor resolution is 1920x1200, make you image those dimensions.

    You may need to slightly tweak the image if the content you want to see runs right to the edge of you image. In my case, I have everything I want to see at least 10px away from the edges of my image.

    Hope that helps.

  3. Luke Temple Walsh
    September 10, 2012 at 12:10 am

    Yes I just discovered this for myself. But I was wondering is anyone else having this problem? I have been trying to get this image to fit the background...

    [Broken Link Removed]

    ...and the idea is that Seth and Anthony should be sitting at the bottom of the screen away from the Gmail boxes, and central to the overall frame. But no matter how many times I have resized, cropped and adjusted the image, it always ends up with either just the top of their heads, only Seth in the picture, or some other totally unsatisfactory layout. Resetting the page size to 100%, 120%, 144% etc. makes for no practical solution either (i prefer my screen at 144% for Gmail).

    Any solutions?

    • Justin Pot
      September 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm

      No, not really. The problem is that Gmail could be many different sizes and shapes due to resolution, so no single image could consistently show up beneath; for that you would need multiple images and the ability to edit the code itself. Maybe Gmail will offer a tool like this in the future, but for now they don't. Sorry.

      • Luke Temple Walsh
        September 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm

        Thanks for explaining that to me. Damn Google... again.

  4. defaulter
    August 14, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    thank u soooooooooooooooo much............

  5. Dave
    July 14, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    I tried uploading a wallpaper image I have (my monitor's resolution is 1024 x 768). But it loads in Gmail much larger ('zoomed'). I tried downloading a different (higher) resolution but that didn't change things. It seemed the same, enlarged size as the other one. I haven't found any tutorial saying how to go about choosing, uploading, selecting the right size, so.... what am I doing wrong ?? :-(

    • Dave
      July 14, 2012 at 7:12 pm

      Oh, btw, I don't have a widescreen monitor, if that matters. (Does Google's custom image assume everyone uses widescreen these days ?)

      • Justin Pot
        July 15, 2012 at 2:04 pm

        It seems like you'll only see so much of your image with that resolution. Check out your Gmail on a larger screen and you'll see all of it. That's just how it is; sorry.

        • Dave
          July 15, 2012 at 4:22 pm

          Thanks for the comment, Justin.

          Yeah, I figured is was another "Google's Way Only" scenario. :-\

          FWIW, I did try resizing the photos with Infranview as well, but that didn't work. No matter what the size of my pics/photos, no matter what the resolution, Gmail still crops it.

          So, I guess I just need to find a photo that I *want* to have cropped to the size Gmail allows. :-)

        • Cemil
          September 12, 2012 at 6:33 am

          Hey Dave,
          I have the same problem, u managed to resolve that yet?

        • Dave
          September 13, 2012 at 12:13 pm

          {I have no "reply" link on Cemil's post, so I'll respond here.}


          Nope. I'm afraid not.

          Since Gmail's resolution/formatting modifies both my uploaded photos and their own 'featured' ones in a way that cuts off the bottom, I have to look for a photo that has nice content in the top 1/2-2/3 of the pic. Any photo with a focal point in the bottom third (like a beach scene or something) is one I know I can't use. :-(

          It's just something I've learned to live with at this point.

          If any actual solution does present itself I'll report back. :-)

        • Dave
          September 13, 2012 at 10:52 pm

          P.S. FWIW, here's one of my favorites (which works well on my monitor).

          [Broken Link Removed]

  6. ferdinan Sitohang
    July 4, 2012 at 3:05 am

    Very Helpfull tutorial. Thanks

    July 3, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    This is great, now if we can convince gmail to do a l;ab in which I can alphabatize my emails to and from columns. GMAIL WOULD RULE!!

  8. Shehan Nirmal
    July 3, 2012 at 5:48 am

    I just used Google's default HD images for my Gmail's background... but, unfortunately, it has become so slow to load those images. So now I am using the normal "Dark Black" theme, as it loads so fast...

  9. Peter James Escobar
    July 1, 2012 at 3:09 am

    Thanks! MakeUseOf I've been searching an article about putting themes in Gmail!

  10. Emory
    June 28, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Your site says the brick wall "dates back to 1500, well before Europeans got to America." Wasn't Columbus an European? And did he not sail to America in 1492? And was that not BEFORE 1500? Inquiring minds want to know... ;-)

    • Justin Pot
      June 28, 2012 at 6:12 pm

      Columbus made it to America in 1892, but it took a long time for Europeans to make it to Colorado. The point: these buildings predates Europeans making it to the area.

      Buy yeah, I screwed up. :)

      • Roberto
        November 27, 2012 at 11:53 am

        Was searching for the "crop" problem and came here. Just wanted to point that Cristobal Colon (he was Spanish so that's his real name) "discovered" America in 1492, I think there's some gap in the date you posted ;)

  11. Fayz
    June 28, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    I like my backgrounds. Good thing Google allows us this! c:

    • Justin Pot
      June 28, 2012 at 5:39 pm

      It's a recent change, and I'm happy about it.

  12. Mederbek Aidarov
    June 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Nice! I'll go ahead and do it right now.

    • Justin Pot
      June 28, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Care to share what picture you used? I'm sure others are interested.

  13. venkatp16
    June 28, 2012 at 2:04 am

    very nice.....

  14. Yudono Ra
    June 27, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    i will try that, thanks for the info

    • Justin Pot
      June 28, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Just doing my job! :)

  15. Dany Bouffard
    June 27, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    Changed mine too, I always prefer to be in my stuff.

    • Justin Pot
      June 28, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Customization is amazing. Enjoy!

  16. Dan Beaman
    June 27, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    very cool! I just updated my background!