Personalize the Mac's Desktop Wallpaper With Your Own Pictures

Choose your own desktop wallpaper images and control how they display

You can change your Mac's desktop wallpaper from the standard Apple-supplied image to almost any picture you care to use. You can use a picture you shot with your camera, an image you downloaded from the internet, or a design you created with a graphics application.

Changing the desktop wallpaper is one of the easiest ways to personalize your Mac. It ensures everyone knows it is yours, different from all the other Macs using the standard wallpaper supplied by Apple.

Information is this article applies to the following operating systems: macOS Catalina (10.15), macOS Mojave (10.14), macOS High Sierra (10.13), macOS Sierra (10.12), OS X El Capitan (10.11), OS X Yosemite (10.10), OS X Mavericks (10.9), OS X Mountain Lion (10.8), OS X Lion (10.7), OS X Snow Leopard (10.6), and OS X (10.5) Leopard.

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Picture Formats to Use

Desktop wallpaper pictures must be in JPEG, TIFF, PICT, or RAW formats. Raw image files are sometimes problematic because each camera manufacturer creates its own RAW image file format. Apple routinely updates the Mac OS to handle the many different types of RAW formats, but to ensure maximum compatibility—particularly if you're going to share your pictures with family or friends—use JPEG or TIFF format.

Where to Store Your Pictures

You can store the pictures you want to use for your desktop wallpaper anywhere on your Mac. One way to stay organized is to create a Desktop Pictures folder to store your collection of images and place that folder on your desktop or within the Pictures folder that the Mac OS creates for each user.

Photos, iPhoto, and Aperture Libraries

In addition to creating pictures and storing them in a designated folder, you can use your existing Photos, iPhoto, or Aperture image library as a source of images for desktop wallpaper. The Mac includes these libraries as predefined locations in the system’s Desktop & Screen Saver preferences pane. Although it’s easy to use these image libraries, it's a good idea to copy the pictures you intend to use as desktop wallpaper to a specific folder, independent of your Photos, iPhoto or Aperture library. That way, you can edit images in any of the image libraries without worrying about affecting their desktop wallpaper counterparts.

Desktop Wallpaper Albums

  1. Launch System Preferences by clicking its icon in the Dock or by selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu.

    System Preferences icon in the Mac Dock
  2. In the System Preferences window that opens, click the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane.

    System Preferences screen on a Mac
  3. Click the Desktop tab if it isn't already chosen. In the left pane is a list of folders that have been preassigned for use as desktop wallpaper. The Apple folder contains the desktop images you've seen before, along with folders for Nature, Plants, Art, Black & White, Abstract, Patterns, and Colors. You may see additional folders, depending on the version of the Mac operating system you use.

    Desktop & Screen Saver preferences screen on a Mac

Add a New Folder of Images to Desktop Preferences

  1. Click the (+) at the bottom of the list pane to add a new folder.

    Apple's default desktop images in preference
  2. Navigate to the folder that contains your desktop pictures.

  3. Select the folder by clicking on it once and then click the Choose button to add the selected folder to the wallpaper preferences pane.

    Selection of a folder for desktop wallpapers on a Mac

Select the Image You Want to Use

  1. Click the folder you just added to the list pane. The pictures in the folder are displayed in the view pane to the right.

    Desktop & Screen Saver preferences screen on a Mac
  2. Click the image in the view pane you want to use as your desktop wallpaper. Your desktop updates to display your selection.

    Selection of a wallpaper image on a Mac

Display Options

Near the top of the sidebar is a preview of the selected image and how it will look on your Mac's desktop. Just to the right of the preview is a drop-down menu that contains options for fitting the image to your desktop.

Images you select may not fit the desktop exactly. You can select the method used by your Mac to arrange the image on your screen. The choices are:

  • Fill Screen
  • Fit to Screen
  • Stretch to Fill Screen
  • Center
  • Tile

Try each option and see its effects in the preview. Some of the available options cause image distortion, so be sure and check the actual desktop as well.

Fitting wallpaper image to Mac screen

How to Use Multiple Desktop Wallpaper Pictures

If the selected folder contains more than one picture, you can choose to have your Mac display each picture in the folder, either in order or randomly. You can also decide how often the images change.

  1. Put a check mark in the Change picture box.

    Change Picture setting in Desktop preferences on a Mac
  2. Use the drop-down menu next to the Change picture box to select how often to change the wallpaper image. You can choose a predefined time interval, ranging from every 5 seconds to once a day, or you can choose to have the picture change when you log in or when your Mac wakes from sleep.

    Drop-down menu for change picture settings in Desktop preferences on a Mac
  3. To have the desktop pictures change in random order, put a check mark in the Random order check box.

    Selecting random order when changing wallpaper images

Click the red close button at the top of the screen to close System Preferences and enjoy your new desktop pictures.

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