I’m bored with the wallpaper images included with my iPhone XR and would like to create some new ones. I have a Mac, can you step me through the process?
Turns out that there’s nothing magical about wallpaper images on your iPhone or other device. In fact, you can actually use any photo that’s on your phone as a wallpaper, though in my experience, most don’t end up working all that great due to dimensions, layout and where the various elements end up on top of the image. But we’ll get back to that.
Since it is so easy to use images as wallpaper, you can also just grab photos off the Web, save them to your phone and use those too. In fact, there are vast archives of beautiful images, whether you like scenic landscapes, sports cars, super models or images of distant planets. And shhh, you don’t really need to license them for personal use either; how would a movie studio find out you’re enjoying a photo of Ryan Reynolds on your phone? 🙂
Still, I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so let me show you the process I go through to turn a great photograph into a great wallpaper. To do this, I’m going to start on my Mac system and tap into the amazing NASA Photo Archive (which is public domain, as it happens!). The following image is of Buzz Aldrin standing on the moon, with Neil Armstrong reflected in his visor. It’s known as NASA Archive Image #6900952.
I think that’s an awesome photograph. Literally awe-inspiring. On the moon!
Just as importantly, notice that the top background is black and featureless. Space = an easy element to stretch out because wallpaper images with a dark top portion lend themselves well to becoming a wallpaper.
To save this image locally, I’ll click on the blue “Download” button. A few choices are offered:
Since the iPhone has a high resolution screen, I’d recommend you choose Large as a compromise between it being ridiculously huge in the original size and being low res that won’t look crisp on your phone. We’re going to trim and tweak it anyway, so this is just a starting point.
The first thing that’s important is to remember that while the photo is more square – and most online photos are horizontally oriented too – we’re going to end up displaying it in a tight vertical orientation. In fact, the native resolution of the iPhone XR is 1,792×828-pixel resolution so ideally we’ll aim for something in that ballpark.
Now for the image editing, I’m using my fave shareware program GraphicConverter, but you could do this in Preview too, and that’s included with MacOS X. To start, a crop:
The more fun part is when I then add 500 pixels of solid black to the top of the image so that we have a bit of play to line things up optimally on the phone itself. The result is this image, just a small tweak from the NASA original:
Now let’s save it and copy it over to the iPhone,. The fun, cool kids way to do that is with the undersung AirDrop Bluetooth-based sharing system on all Apple devices.
To start it up, a right click on the photo image file (e.g., not in the program any more, we’re done with the graphic editor at this point) offers this choice:
You can see it’s under the “Share” menu, listed after the other options. I hope you already knew about the Share feature, actually, as it’s darn handy.
A list of potential recipient devices shows up. If you’re in a public place it’ll likely include people you don’t even know!
There’s my phone, right on the top. A tap and then on my iPhone, the image shows up and is copied into my photo gallery.
Really, it’s as easy as that. Then in Photos on my phone (yup, we’re done with the Mac now), I can see it:
You can see, it looks pretty sweet with that extra black on top to open up the image a bit.
The square with the upward-pointing arrow is your next step. Tap on it to get to all the sharing options, then swipe along the bottom row until you can see “Use as Wallpaper”, as highlighted:
We’re almost done, so stick with me for this last bit!
Once you tap “Use as Wallpaper” it’ll show you a mockup of how the image will look as your screen wallpaper on your iPhone XR. It’ll look basically like this:
Just about perfect, but we’ve given ourselves a bit of extra image to play with, so instead of just tapping “Set”, tap and drag the image up a bit so that Buzz is a little higher on the screen. That’ll look like this:
To my eye that looks a lot better, but of course we each have our aesthetic tastes so you might prefer the former. Regardless, move the image around until it looks good and the superimposed time and date are easily readable. Looks good? Great. Tap on “Set” to lock it in.
Now you can choose if you want the image for your lock screen, behind all your icons on your main screens, or both:
And, finally, in all its glory, my new lock screen:
Fantastic. I love it! And as you can see, it’s a few minutes of fiddling, but you really can turn any image from the Web into an attractive and attention-getting wallpaper that looks great on your iPhone.
Pro Tip: I have been writing about the iPhone since the very first one made it to market. Please check out my extensive iPhone help area while you’re on the site!