Background Wallpaper How To

Published on December 13, 2022 at 9:46 pm by LEW


Have you ever wanted to use one of your pictures as a background for your phone or computer, but when you try to use it is just comes out wrong? I am going to attempt to address some common issues with creating your own wallpaper backgrounds and making them look correct.

I have had multiple discussions with many people who have had issues getting a particular graphic or picture they have to work as a background on their device. Most of the time I am able to get their desired wallpaper to work the way they expect, or at least explain the limits of backgrounds on their device. In this post we will discuss several aspects of displaying a picture or graphic as wallpaper on your device.

I am not an artist, so I am going to be focused on the technical aspects of backgrounds, and not on the aesthetics.

Note that I will be using background and wallpaper interchangeably in this post, but they mean the same thing, the image that is the background to your desktop metaphor.

Size Matters, But Aspect Ratio Matters More

There are two important principles you need to be aware of concerning wallpaper; Size and Aspect Ratio.

Size: In general when creating wallpaper, the best results are achieved if the image is larger than the target container. It is much easier to reduce the dimensions of an image, and have it look good, than it is to increase the dimensions. Increasing the size of an image can highlight minor flaws and cause pixilation and distortion. So if at all possible, use an image that is bigger than your screen.

Aspect Ratio: Your device displays all have an aspect ratio. Some that can be rotated have two related aspect ratios. For best results you will want your background image to have a similar aspect ratio to your device.

Example: It is best if I present an example here to help clarify the above information.

Lets say we have a tablet PC with a screen resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels. Because this is a tablet, we can rotate it to portrait mode which gives us a screen resolution of 1440 x 2560.

If we perform a little math, we can reduce the resolution to its aspect ratio, which in this case is 16:9. You can double check this by dividing 16 by 9, and it should give you the same results as dividing 2560 by 1440.

So for best results with the tablet that can display landscape and portrait, the size should be 2560 x 2560 (which gives us an aspect ratio of 1:1). If we are limited to either portrait or landscape, then we would need an aspect ratio of 9:16 (1440×2560)or 16:9 (2560×1440) respectively.

Issues with incorrect Aspect Ratios

Generally when selecting a background you have a few display possibility (depending on your Operating System and installed programs). If the wallpaper is the same size and aspect ratio as the screen, you do not have to worry to much about these. However when you have different aspect ratio and/ore size, things can get a bit interesting. Depending on your software, you may have options to do nothing, stretch, scale, or tile your image to make it fit.

Stretching should stretch your image in one direction to make it fit. This an lead to some distortion in the image as this will change the aspect ratio.

Scaling should change overall image size until the screen is filled. Note that depending on how scaling works, this could leave black bars on the sides or top and bottom (scale largest image dimension to smallest screen dimension) or cutting off parts of your image (scale smallest image dimension to largest screen dimension).

Tiling uses multiple repetitions of the image to fill the screen (some backgrounds are made for tiling)

Note, these terms are really not standardized across different software, and I have run across cases where they are switched up, and I ended up trying each combination to see what it actually did.

Templates to Determine the Display

A good way to not be surprised by your wallpaper is to create a template to allow sizing and positioning of the elements you want to see on your desktop. This is fairly easy to do, and I am going to run through the process using GIMP (Photo Shop users are on their own).

Start by looking up the aspect ratio you are interested in on Wikipedia. For our example above we are using 16:9. Wikipedia shows us several sizes and their respective standard. For example 1920x 1080 is Full HD. We will use 2560×1440 (QHD) for our template.

Next open a new image in GIMP with the size selected (2560×1440 in this case). Make sure to set your fill to white and your stroke to black.

From the Select menu chose All, then from the Edit Menu chose Stroke Selection. Set a line width of 6 to 10 and Stroke. This should give you a White background surrounded by a black line. Save the file. And if you need it make another one in Portrait mode.

Now load the image you want to use as a background. Then form the file menu select Open as layer, and open your template file. Select your template layer (it should be on top of your image) and in the layer pain reduce its opacity to 50%.

You can now see through to the underlying image. You can now scale the template layer and move it around tell you get the exact image you want. Then use the crop tool to cut out the part you want. Delete your template layer, and save your wallpaper.

For tablets that rotate you can combine a portrait and landscape template into one. You should note that in this case there will be sections of the image that are never displayed (the four corners).


In this post we have walked through some of the issues we find when using our own images as wallpaper on our devices. We have also walked through how to create a template to let you properly crop your wallpaper to get the exact image you want.

Add New Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *