Tutorial — How to Make a Wallpaper

Looking for something fresh on your computer desktop?  Have you thought of all those hundreds of Second Life photos you’ve been accumulating since you first learned how to use the snapshot camera?  If you have a graphics editor, and your photos are large enough to work with, there should be no great problem, and the process is very easy to do.  Here’s a tutorial for relative newcomers to photo editing, and can be used for RL photos as well as Second Life.

Wallpaper tutorial 1

1.  I’ve used GIMP in the past because it’s free, but I much prefer Paint Shop Pro; this was the program I started out with long ago, so I’m most comfortable with its controls and function names.  Any photo editor that can do resize/resample and crop is fine; the key is that you have a large enough photo to work with in the first place.  It must be equal to, or exceed, the screen size of your monitor in both dimensions for you to create a non-fuzzy wallpaper.  I routinely shoot my work at 4000 pixels width, so this is almost never a problem.  So the first thing to do, of course, is to choose which one you want to edit, and load up your photo into your editor.  Then copy the entire image, paste it into the editor as a new image, and close the original.  You’ll make all your changes on the copy, and have the original to fall back on if you make a goof.

Wallpaper tutorial 2

2.  My screen is 1920 x 1080 pixels, or approximately 16:9 ratio.  I choose Resize in Paint Shop Pro (your editor may call it Resample; they’re the same effect, though resampling usually gives better quality).  Your first focus is on the smaller of the two dimensions.  I almost always shoot a custom screen size with the Snapshot tool in whichever SL client I’m using, which works out (by keeping the dimensions constrained in the Snapshot function in the client) to 4000 pixels wide by 2119 pixels high.  The height is the smaller — it usually will be — and this is what I will alter with the Resize.  In the Pixel Dimensions section of the toolbox, I change 2119 to 1080, my actual screen height, and click OK.

Wallpaper tutorial 3

3.  Now that I have the height established, I need to crop the photo down to the correct width.  If I don’t, and leave it as it is, the image will spill off the right side of the screen.  If I try to avoid that by using settings like Fit in Windows 8 in the wallpaper area, the picture will scrunch and look…strange.  If it’s too short, the Stretch function will also make the end product look peculiar.  So I must do a final crop to get the correct width of 1920 across.  After deciding what I can lop off, I click on the Crop tool (it will usually look like the tool icon in the left sidebar on this photo), and stretch the grid that produces to cover the entire photo up and down.  (Remember, we want that full height as well!)  In photographing in world, I usually try to emphasize one side or another for this purpose during the shoot, as well as to follow the Rule of Thirds that many photographers, SL and RL, say improves composition of a photo tremendously.  As an example of the Rule, see the next photo, from my last Hair Fair article:

Wallpaper tutorial 5

Here, I’ve already resized the photo of me, which I shot with myself at an offset from the center of the photo as well — to specifically help the editing side along for this purpose.  I’ve selected the grid subfunction of the Crop tool, because it breaks the crop panel up for me into thirds, with guide lines to aid me in the positioning of the composition so that I’m on one or the other of the “third” splits of the photo.  (For wallpaper of modeling photos, I normally place myself on the right, since all of my desktop icons snap to the left of the screen.)  I adjust the size to the width of 1920, then move it with the mouse so that my body is splitting the grid line as evenly as possible; this puts me square on the mark, and draws first attention of the viewer — the “eye” of the viewer — to me.  I approve the position, after checking the dimensions in the upper toolbars, by clicking the check mark on the small toolbar you see on the photo, or by double clicking inside the grid, and the areas outside the grid are cut off, leaving me with the finished size.

The same would be done with the landscape photo above.  A good crop site, if you have enough width to choose from, would perhaps place the upper left crosshair over the mansion door, or as close to it as possible, emphasizing the entrance and its stairway and drawing the viewer’s eye more rapidly to that location.  For followers of the Rule, the crosshair intersections are “power points,” and greatly desired.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to use the Rule of Thirds; you can have everything centered if you wish, or not worry about anything but size.  There is some debate over whether the Rule is truly valid, and it can be as much a personal call as anything — what looks good to you?  I, myself, use the Rule in wide shots, especially when I’m modeling and want to show the entire outfit I’m wearing.  But I’ll ignore the Rule when I feel it’s justified; and, if I’m cropping in for a closeup, then I’m obviously going to be central to the photo.  It all depends on the moment and the need, and experience will tell you what works best for your situation.

In any case, you’ve cropped your shot to the proper size now.  You did check your dimensions before accepting the crop, right?  You didn’t???  Hopefully you worked on a copy, and haven’t saved over the original!  Backup with control-Z if you can, or shut the bad copy and make a new copy, and start again.

Wallpaper tutorial 4

4.  All that’s left is to sign your work, if you choose, and save it.  Then you can share it with other Residents via the usual platforms, such as Facebook, SLSN, Plurk, Twitter, or, especially, Flickr.

There are plenty of wallpaper groups on Flickr, but only one I’ve found specifically for Second Life, and it’s rather inactive.  Time to join and fatten that collection up, eh?  I submit my own wallpaper to it, but I also add them to the group 16:9 Widescreen Creativity, and nobody has given me the Dickens about adding virtual-world photographs and fashion shots yet.  If you do add to such a group, make sure it’s appropriate to the subject, or general, and that it’s meant for the size of wallpaper you’ll be submitting.  Throwing 1920 wallpaper on a 1024×768 group doesn’t work, and contributes to screen envy and flamage.  It’s also polite (and helps drive hits) to add a tag to your photo with the size.  Remember to put it inside double quotes, so that Flickr doesn’t split it up!  And, of course, if you do share your wallpaper this way, make sure that it’s set for sharing, so that people can download it!  Locking a wallpaper with an “All Rights Reserved” copyright (a) defeats the purpose, and (b) can be circumvented with a little knowledge of how to use the browser, or with other tools.  (That’s how I’ve added some winners’ photos to the Oscar Fashion Photo Contest winner articles over the years.)  Far better to be generous, and put it up under Creative Commons.

Hopefully you’ll share some of your work with other Residents, and with the world!

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