How to Create Top Quality Computer Desktop Wallpapers

Joel Lee 08-12-2016

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 3 Better Ways to Store Your Files Than on the Desktop The Windows desktop isn't meant to be a folder for your files. Here are some of the better options to store your files. Read More . 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:

  1. Right-click the desktop and select Display settings.
  2. Scroll down and click Advanced display settings.
  3. 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 The 15 Best Sites for Free High-Resolution Stock Images Free high-resolution images are hard to come by. Wouldn't it be nice if you could get free stock images that are curated for quality and resolution? You can! Read More that you can use. Most of them use copyright-free CC0 licenses What Is Creative Commons and Non-Commercial Use? What is Creative Commons? What does "non-commercial use" mean? Learn about Creative Commons licenses and how they work. Read More , 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 6 Reasons Your Smartphone Is the Best Camera You Own It might not be a digital SLR, but your smartphone is punching well above its weight when it comes to photography. The next time you go out, leave your old point and shoot at home. Read More . One style that’s perfect for a wallpaper is night sky photography Take Better Night Sky Photographs By Getting The Basics Right Tired of taking night-time photos that come out dark, empty, and boring? Read More .

Or you could just follow these amazing nature photographers Get Inspired: 10 Amazing Nature Photographers To Follow On Instagram With 130 million users and counting, the world has never seen such a tsunami of photography aficionados. Is it possible to draw out ten amazing nature photographers who are snapping the beautiful world around us... Read More and these skilled wildlife photographers 10 Amazing Nature & Wildlife Photographers That You Should Follow Nature and wildlife photography entices all of us. But we know so little about the creative people behind them. Let's take a look at some of the best wildlife photographers you should follow. Read More . But again, keep copyrights in mind and always ask permission when in doubt.

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. (You can find inspiration in these sites for striking dark wallpapers for your desktop.) 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:

  1. Open the image file.
  2. In the menu, click Image > Scale Image…
  3. 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.
  4. Change the Width to the width of your screen resolution, then hit Enter. The Height should automatically adjust and stay the same aspect ratio.
  5. 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:

  1. Open the image file.
  2. Select the Crop tool in the toolbar.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. When you’re ready, double-click the selection box to finalize the crop.
  6. 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 or check out these wallpapers to inspire your work 7 Kinds of Desktop Wallpapers to Inspire Your Work Every Day While your desktop wallpaper isn't likely to make or break your work performance, it might just inspire your productivity. Read More . 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 8 Fascinating Live Wallpapers for Your Windows Desktop A live wallpaper can help you relax, improve your mood, or even get you hyped ahead of a big event. We show you the best animated wallpapers you can get on your Windows desktop. Read More 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

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  1. Susie Jefferson
    April 2, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    Thanks so much - this is really useful. However, I've got a couple of queries:
    I notice the gimp pic shows 72px - is this good enough, or would a higher pixel size be better for clarity?
    The second query - optimum sizes for tablets and mobile phones??

    Thanks again,

  2. jerry
    February 14, 2016 at 4:06 am

    Bluffing the wallpaper is a good idea

  3. Wallpapers
    November 23, 2009 at 1:45 am

    People ask me all the time how to do exactly what you've outlined here. Now I can give them a link instead of repeating myself. Thanks!

  4. Jseen
    July 29, 2009 at 4:38 am

    This article should be titles "How to Create Top Quality Computer Desktop Wallpapers for DUMMIES"

    • wafwot
      August 1, 2009 at 4:18 am

      JSEEN, do you feel better now?

    • MelangeX3
      August 2, 2009 at 9:54 pm

      Very nice basic article. Love the simple stuff because I refer people to these all the time. Friends ask a question and I'd rather show them than do it or talk down to them. Give a man a fish or teach a man to fish...
      Everyone is a noob to something at some point.

      • Saikat
        August 2, 2009 at 10:33 pm

        That's so true. Every article has its own audience. And here at we have a wide variety. A power user can most often find his own solutions. The basic user is the one who need direct info the most.

    • Paciano Osias
      April 2, 2015 at 7:13 am

      Jseen, because you're on this site, I assume you're a dummy.

  5. Jerry
    July 28, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    This is a really cool way to make wallpaper, and i wanna share a method - how to facture a wonderful screensaver below:

    Using wondershare video to flash encoder to make your preference of screen saver is cool, but this rummy function is always being ignored by many users, because the output format .SRC is unnoticeable. Today, I will show you how to make your own screen saver.

    1).pick an appropriate video like this:

    2)load this Flash video converter and select the output format .SRC

    Meanwhile, you can edit this video until you happy. It supports trimming video length, cropping black video sides, adjust aspect ratio and customize output file size and picture quality to an ideal effect. You also can set the video effect as gray, emboss, negative or old film.

    3).click “start” to start conversion and you will get your screen saver for a moment. Now, do you hardly wait to set this as your screen saver, just do it.