Make Your Desktop Stunning With an Interactive Live Wallpaper
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The work of perfecting the look and feel of your Windows desktop How to Change the Look and Feel of Your Windows 10 Desktop How to Change the Look and Feel of Your Windows 10 Desktop You just upgraded to Windows 10 and you're wondering how you can customize and personalize it. We help you turn your desktop into a virtual Windows experience, one step at a time. Read More is never done. For some, changing the background wallpaper is enough to quench the itch of customization. For others (like me) looking for the next best way to customize your desktop experience is something of a passion.

One of the greatest exercises in customization is creating a live and interactive Windows background. Programs like highly popular Windows application Rainmeter are a godsend for the geek who enjoys spending hours customizing an immersive desktop How to Customize Windows 10: The Complete Guide How to Customize Windows 10: The Complete Guide You decorate your office – why not your computer? Find out how to make Windows look just the way you want. Make your computer your own, with free tools. Read More .

But why spend hours fiddling with Photoshop, when with these simple tricks you can have an impressive live background in minutes?

rainmeter_loud_example

Install Rainmeter

Once you installed and launched Rainmeter, it will work in the background and can be accessed in the system tray near the Taskbar clock.

rainmeter_icon

Before messing with Rainmeter, it’s best to familiarize yourself with its features. The Rainmeter manager has three categories: Skins, Layouts, and Settings. The skins menu holds all of your icon packets and tools and will be used the most when customizing your desktop. You can add new skins and folders to this menu in This PC > Documents > Rainmeter > Skins.

rainmeter_Ui

Rainmeter uses INI files to create custom icons and skins. The best feature of INI files is their easy editing, as INI files open with any text editor and their parameters are easily changeable.

1. 3D Sound Visualizer Effect

Our goal is to imitate the visualizer effect seen below:

3d_visualizer_example

The foreground of the wallpaper obscures the Rainmeter sound visualizer, which creates a cool 3D effect with the wallpaper. Although it may seem complicated, the process for this is both easy and lightweight on your computers processing power.

Step 1: Pick a Background

Pick a wallpaper that has both foreground and background elements from the get-go. The example above shows a white and blue mountain with a blue sky, which goes perfectly with the white sound bars. Color scheme is also important, but not necessary.

I’ve picked out a minimal wallpaper from Simple Desktops, which provide hundreds of free, minimal desktop wallpapers. In order to facilitate the process, create a folder named cut in the Rainmeter Skins location (This PC > Documents > Rainmeter > Skins) and save your wallpaper to this folder.

rainmeter_wallpaper
Source: Simple Desktops

The simpler the background, the better; this particular desktop wallpaper is only composed of three colors and uses one color as the foreground. This will make it easier to edit, so we can create the proper 3D effect.

Double-click the wallpaper to open the Windows 10 gallery. Right-click Wallpaper > Set as > Set as background to set the first layer of your background.

Step 2: Cut Out the Foreground

In order to block off the parts we want, create a copy of your wallpaper and edit it by erasing the background of the image. Using the image editor of your choice, erase the background from the wallpaper Clipping Magic: Remove The Background From Any Photo In Just A Few Clicks Clipping Magic: Remove The Background From Any Photo In Just A Few Clicks Removing the background from a photo is something Photoshop pros can do in their sleep, but if you find the process hard – and Photoshop expensive – you can be forgiven. Thanks to Clipping Magic,... Read More . I am using GIMP, a free and dynamics image editor. You can use a Wand or Color Select tool to select and cut the background from the image. (It’s even easier if you use Photoshop Learn Photo Editing in Photoshop: Get the Basics Down in 1 Hour Learn Photo Editing in Photoshop: Get the Basics Down in 1 Hour Photoshop is an intimidating program—but with just one hour, you can learn all of the basics. Grab a photo you want to edit, and let's get started! Read More .)

edited_wallpaper_background

Once you’ve cut out the background, save or export the file as a PNG Know When to Use Which File Format: PNG vs. JPG, DOC vs. PDF, MP3 vs. FLAC Know When to Use Which File Format: PNG vs. JPG, DOC vs. PDF, MP3 vs. FLAC Do you know the differences between JPG and PNG, or MP3 and FLAC? If you don't know which file formats to use, let us guide you through their distinctions. Read More in order to preserve its transparency. If the part you cut out looks white or black in a thumbnail, don’t fret; your image is still cut out. Name this edited file anything you’d like, but try to name it something you can remember.

background_files

You can view the file extension in the file name under Windows key + X > Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > File Explorer Options > View > Uncheck Hide extensions for known file types.

Step 3: Create the INI File

Next step is to create the INI file, which will add our newly made background onto the background. In our cut folder, right-click in the window and select New > Text Document. Open the file and add the following:

 [Rainmeter]
Update=-1

[Background]
Meter=Image
ImageName=wallpaperfilename.png
W=resolutionwidth
H=resolutionheight

The Update=-1 parameter prevents the background from updating automatically, which decreases the processor use of the skin. The Background parameter lists the type of meter (ergo Rainmeter) and references your edited wallpaper. Change wallpaperfilename.png to your wallpaper’s actual file name.

The W and H parameters stand in for your monitor resolution. Replace resolutionwidth and resolutionheight with the appropriate numbers.

When you’re done, go to File > Save As and save the file under whatever name you prefer with the added extension .ini at the end.

If every parameter is correctly entered, Rainmeter will be able to read the INI file and show up in your Configuration panel. Click on the drop-down menu beside your cut folder and double-click the INI document to load the skin.

background

Next, adjust the Rainmeter settings for your cutout wallpaper.

rainmeter_settings

Set the Position to On desktop and the Load Order to 2. The position will set where the wallpaper should be placed, and the load order will layer your skins so they achieve the desired effect. Check the Click through option to dismiss right-click options.

Note: Opening the Rainmeter options will temporarily hide your task bar behind your edited wallpaper. Rainmeter assumes you are editing your skins content. Close your Rainmeter options to reveal the Taskbar properly.

Step 4: Download the Sound Visualizer Skin

To finish the effect, download a Rainmeter sound visualizer skin. I prefer using Fountain of Colors for its extensive customization options and sleek design. Download and run the MRSKIN file to get started.

rainmeter_skin_intaller

Load the Fountain of Color INI file in your Rainmeter settings. Place the skin on or near the cutout area of your wallpaper. Change the Load order to 1 so it’s loaded before your cutout and change its Position to Bottom.

Optional: Fountain of Colors makes it very easy to change the color of the visualizer, creating dynamic color ranges for an enhanced look.  In the Rainmeter program, open Fountain of Colors > SettingsWindows > SettingsWindow.ini to access the settings.

rainmeter_foc_settings

The easiest way to pick an aesthetically pleasing color for your sound visualizer, is to toggle the Wallpaper colors – Avg option, which gives your sound visualizer the average color of your wallpaper.

Step 5: The Finished Product

Here is the effect without the visualizer color change or layering.

3d_visualizer_off

Here is the effect after color change and layering.

3d_visualizer_on

You should have the desired effect with your own background and sound visualizer. If not, remember to check the layering settings in the Rainmeter window.

2. Mouseover Background Change Effect

This effect is great for adding a mouse over feature to your desktop.

honeycomb

Download the popular Honeycomb Rainmeter skin, which comes with preset icons and background. Simply install and load Honeycomb’s INI files to create the mouseover effect.

honeycomb example

A more difficult method is shown below, which allows for custom icons and backgrounds along with the addition of logo PNG files. Nevertheless, it is very similar to the 3D Rainmeter effect method.

It may take a little longer, but learning the ins and outs of Rainmeter is an invaluable skill, which opens up a world of customization opportunities.

3. Video Wallpaper

For those who would rather have continual movement in their background, you can play videos as your wallpaper using VLC. Usually treated as a top-notch video and music player The 5 Best Free Media Players for Windows The 5 Best Free Media Players for Windows The best media player for you is the one you most enjoy using. Here are the best media player apps to consider on Windows. Read More , VLC also has the capability to set videos as wallpaper. It’s as easy as opening up a simple video in VLC and going to Video > Set as Wallpaper. Here’s an excellent example by reddit user /u/teebane:

live_wallpaper_example

While this is just one method of creating a live wallpaper, there are many others ways to create animated live wallpapers for Windows How to Set Live Wallpapers & Animated Desktop Backgrounds in Windows 10 How to Set Live Wallpapers & Animated Desktop Backgrounds in Windows 10 Want to liven up your Windows 10 desktop with some animated backgrounds? Here's what you need to do. Read More .

Breathe Life into Your Desktop Background

I’d like to thank the sub-reddit community of /r/rainmeter, which provides continually updated inspiration for new Rainmeter skins and techniques.

Why settle for a boring, static background when you can make your desktop experience that much more dynamic? All of these methods have been thoroughly tested for both performance and low processor usage, so you can enjoy your live wallpaper without much lag on your computer.

Note that if you don’t want to use Rainmeter, you can still set an animated GIF as your wallpaper How to Use an Animated GIF as Your Wallpaper in Windows 10 How to Use an Animated GIF as Your Wallpaper in Windows 10 On the one hand, static wallpapers are boring. On the other, video wallpapers are too extreme. Here's the compromise you need: animated GIFs! Read More  using other tools and methods. And if animated wallpaper isn’t for you, check out these striking dark wallpaper sites for your desktop 12 Striking Dark Wallpaper Sites That Are Perfect for Your Desktop 12 Striking Dark Wallpaper Sites That Are Perfect for Your Desktop Dark wallpapers can make everything on a busy desktop standout. Here are some choice picks if you like dark desktop wallpapers. Read More instead.

Explore more about: Rainmeter, Wallpaper, Windows Customization.

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  1. Tristan Villareal
    January 29, 2018 at 11:18 am

    need some help. the rendered picture is always on top of the background and the visualizer skin. i set to load order 2 but its still on top of everything thanks in advance

  2. Daniel
    July 17, 2017 at 9:57 am

    Hi! Im just a 11 year old kid wanting to pimp up his laptop background since its my last year of Primary school! Thanks alot! Works soo well and its actually really simple. Did it with no help needed! If a 11 year old did it then everyone can!

    • Tristan Villareal
      January 29, 2018 at 11:56 am

      i realized that i'm using a jpeg image when i change it to png it finally works!!

  3. Jesse
    March 2, 2017 at 7:24 am

    this is cool but now i cant use any of my desktop icons because they are hidden behind the background image! also how do you get that starry look on the visualizer?

  4. Mary
    December 5, 2016 at 6:19 am

    Would love to learn how to do this for the mac. Thanks for info~

  5. Joaquin H.
    May 15, 2016 at 6:38 am

    Any way to do this on a mac?

    Thank You

  6. Syed
    May 11, 2016 at 6:05 am

    Thanks man.