Where to Find Great-Looking Desktop Wallpapers

I must admit that the desktop wallpapers that come bundled with today's operating systems are much better than the ones we had ten years ago, with names like ARGYLE.BMP and CIRCLES.BMP. But one can still get sick of the small collection of oversaturated landscapes and nebulous patterns that come with the latest versions Windows, and in order to cure your desktop innui it may be necessary to strike out onto the World Wide Web. In this article I'll point you to some of my favorite sites for decorating one's desktop.
Published: Nov 30, 2007
Author: Jordan Running

The first thing you need to consider in choosing a new wallpaper is the resolution and shape of your screen. (If you already know, these, skip ahead to the next paragraph.) Resolution means the number of pixels on your screen. To find out your resolution in Windows XP, right-click on an empty spot on your desktop, click on Properties, and then click on the Settings tab in the window that appears. In Windows Vista, right-click on the desktop, click on Personalize, and then click on Display Settings. In the lower left you should see your screen's resolution displayed as two numbers: the width of your screen in pixels, and its height. While Windows will let you use an image of any size as your wallpaper, it will look best if you use one that has the same width and height in pixels as your screen or greater. Whether you have a widescreen monitor or not is also worth considering. While a widescreen wallpaper will still work on a standard (non-wide) screen, and vice versa, some elements might get cut off at the edges. Now that you know what size and shape of wallpaper you're looking for, you can hit the wallpaper sites and find one that suits you.

National Geographic wallpaperYou might guess that a wallpaper gallery by National Geographic would be stocked full of stunning images of nature and culture, and you'd be right. National Geographic has page after page of beautiful photographs, all available several resolutions.

deviantART wallpaperOne of the biggest online libraries of digital art is deviantART, and they've got a huge wallpaper selection that's constantly growing. From the main wallpaper page you should check out the Categories drop-down, where you can choose from thirty different categories from Science Fiction to Architecture. Clicking on a thumbnail will take you to a page with a bigger picture and details about the wallpaper. Most have a Download button on the left that will let you the full-sized image in one or more resolutions, often in a ZIP or RAR file.

Flickr wallpaperIf you're fond of photographs for your wallpaper, popular photo-sharing site Flickr is a great place to look. A quick search for the term wallpaper turns up thousands of results. A good way to narrow them down is to chose the Most Interesting view, which sorts the pictures accordig to Flickr's cool "interestingness" algorithm. If you're into a particular subject matter, you can add it to your search, for example fish wallpaper. Once you've clicked on the thumbnail of an image you like, you can click on the "All Sizes" button with the magnifying glass icon to get the full-sized image.

NASA JPL wallpaperIf outer space is your thing, there are several sources for great cosmic vistas, both real and imaginary. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a great selection of interstellar pictures as well as some more down-to-earth ones, as does Space.com. Finally, NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day releases a new mind-blowing image every day, most of which are plenty big and plenty pretty to serve as your wallpaper.

Digital Blasphemy wallpaperFor otherworldly computer-generated desktop pictures, Digital Blasphemy is a great source. While you'll have to pay $25 a year or $99 for a lifetime membership to get access to the full selection, its small free gallery features twenty lovely images that should keep your desktop looking great for a few months at least.

Caedes wallpaperCaedes sums itself up tidily as "a close community of artists, designers, and photographers who share their work through the medium of computer desktop wallpaper." It has dozens of categories from Underwater to Holiday and media including photography, computer graphics, and illustration. There's no shortage of lovely and striking images to be found at Caedes.

Wikipedia wallpaperAs the online encyclopedia that has its fingers in everything, it should come as no surprise that Wikipedia has its own wallpaper gallery. In this case, most of the images are pictures from Wikipedia's millions of articles, but some of them make brilliant wallpapers. It also has a widescreen collection. Most of the pictures are of the natural world, but you'll also find a bit of art, architecture, technology, and more.

These seven sites offer a superb collection of wallpapers and should keep your desktop fresh and exciting for many months, if not for the rest of your computer's natural life.

About Jordan Running

Blogger since 1999, Jordan Running went pro in 2005 and never looked back. Sometimes programmer, occasional photographer, and serial tinkerer, he decided to to switch to Linux in 2001 but just hasn't quite gotten around to it yet.

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