June 14, 2024


The Joy of Technology

How to manage wallpapers in Linux


On the Internet we can find pages that collect wallpapers of all kinds.

Every Friday on Twitter and other social networks, thousands of Linux users share screenshots of their custom desktops with the hashtag #DesktopFriday. Since my absolute laziness does not give for anything other than activating the dark mode (and that only because my visual impairment requires it) I have a deep admiration for those who take the combination of icons, themes and wallpapers to the height of an art.

That’s why, like a tribute to them and the time they take, let’s see how to manage wallpapers in Linux.

What is a wallpaper

A wallpaper, desktop or wallpaper is a digital image (photo, drawing, and now also video.) used as a decorative background for a graphical user interface on the screen of a computer, smartphone or other electronic device. On a computer, wallpapers are generally used on the desktop, while on a mobile phone or tablet they serve as the background of the home screen.

A Little History

Windows XP Wallpaper

Perhaps the most famous wallpaper in history is the Windows XP wallpaper. The little-known story is that this image is the result of a pestilence that devastated grape crops in Napa Valley.

How could it be otherwise, the origins of wallpapers go back to the creators of the desktop. The Xerox Palo Alto Research Center who designed an office system known as OfficeTalk.

in OfficeTalk the patterns used for the images were built with pixelated gray dots since there were no color monitors.

At the next milestone, open source led. The system X window (still used in various Linux distributions) was one of the first systems to include support for choosing any image as the wallpaper. I did it through the program xsetroot, that already in 1985 allowed to choose between an image or a solid color. Four years later two free software programs were published, one called xgifroot which allowed an arbitrary colored GIF image to be used as the wallpaper, and another called xloadimage that could display a variety of image formats as a desktop background.

The original Macintosh operating system it only allowed a selection of 8×8 pixel tiled binary image patterns. In 87 the possibility of using small color patterns was incorporated. But, Only in 1997 with the appearance of Mac OS 8 did its users have built-in support for using arbitrary images as desktop images.

In the case of Windows, version 3.0, in 1990, was the first to include support for wallpaper customization. Although Windows 3.0 only included 7 small patterns (2 black and white and 5 16-color), the user could supply other images in the BMP file format with up to 8-bit color.

How to choose a desktop background

Although there is a wide availability of wallpapers to download on the web, You have to take into account some factors to find the right one for your Linux distribution.

The sizes or dimensions of wallpapers are standardized. Common sizes are: 1024 X 768; 800X600; 1600X1200; and 1280 X 1024. That is, joins are divisible by 256. This is because 256 is the lowest bit of color monitor pixels. Doing the math we discover that the first number is always 4 and the second number is always 3. For example, for a resolution of 1024 X 768, 1024 divided by 256 is 4 and 768 divided by 256 is 3. This is because this is the most desirable pixel ratio on computer monitors.

However, when we use larger screens, they have a higher resolution, so the aspect ratio changes to 16:9 or 16:10. 

In the event that two monitors are used with a single CPU, it is necessary to double the width of the wallpaper by two. This can be done with The Gimp by creating a blank image the height of the wallpaper and twice the width and then pasting the wallpaper twice side by side.

How to manage wallpapers in Linux

KDE wallpaper settings

KDE Plasma has a tool to get and manage wallpapers.

Each of the different Linux desktops include tools to manage the wallpaper change. In general, the fastest way to access them is to place the pointer somewhere on the desktop and select the corresponding option with the right button.

KDE Plasma

From Desktop folder preferences We can select a wallpaper in three areas:

  • Presentation: Change of periodic images.
  • Simple colour.
  • Dynamic: (The image is updated according to the local time.
  • Image.

In the case of presentations, it is possible to establish the period for the change and the order in which it is made. For Dynamic we can select a latitude and longitude and the update period, while for images we can select one from the disk and decide how it is displayed.

KDE Plasma allows us to download wallpapers created by users or downloaded by us or install plugins that add additional features to your management.


To change the wallpaper on this desktop we follow the same procedure of selecting the option with the right button. A window will open where the folders with available images are listed on the left side and thumbnails of the images on the right.


Again we rest the pointer and choose the option to change the background. The application will show us the thumbnails of the corresponding images and different display options. We can also add our own images.


In this desktop we must look for the Desktop icon in the menu within the Configuration application. Here we can choose the storage folder, the image, the form of presentation and, if we want a periodic change, the span.


The GNOME desktop, from the setup application, allows us to independently select a wallpaper for both the lock screen and the desktop background. It is also possible to use solid colors and downloaded images.

Where to get wallpapers for Linux

KDE Store screenshot

In the KDE Store we can get various customization resources including wallpapers.

Any image that has the proper measurements can be used on Linux, however, there are pages that collect specifically designed wallpapers. These are some:

  • GNOME-LOOK.ORG: Compilation of themes, icons, and wallpapers for the GNOME desktop.
  • KDE Store: Resources customization for KDE.
  • WallpaperAccess: This wallpaper site has a selection for Linux.

Useful apps

There are applications that make it easy to download and create wallpapers. These are some.

  • Dynamic Wallpaper Creator: This program allows you to create a dynamic wallpaper for the GNOME desktop from static images.
  • Wallpaper Downloader: With This application it is possible to download and select wallpapers from different sites like DeviantArt, Wallhaven, Bing Daily Wallpaper, Social Wallpapering, WallpaperFusion, DualMonitorBackgrounds or Unsplash.
  • HydraPaper: If you use more than one monitor with a single CPU, this program It will help you manage your wallpapers.
  • wonderwall: This is A program paid, although it can be used on a limited basis after the trial period. It has a powerful search engine and is compatible with all desktops.
  • wallpapers381: Application that generates wallpapers with deep messages in English.
  • Trianglify Wallpaper; This program produces wallpapers built with triangles and changes them periodically.

Using videos as wallpapers

Wallset is an application that allows us to use videos as wallpapers. Of course, on computers that have enough power. The required packages are:

  • Go
  • feh >=3.4.1
  • imagemagick >=
  • xrandr >=1.5.1
  • xdg-utils >=1.1.3
  • bash >=4.0
  • thirst >=4.5

We download and install the application with:
git clone https://github.com/terroo/wallset down-wallset
cd down-wallset
sudo sh install.sh

In case we receive an error message, we solve it with:

sudo ./install.sh --force

To play a video in mp4 format as wallpaper, we use the command:

wallset --video /ruta/al video/nombre.mp4
We stop it with:
wallset --quit
When the video is stopped, the last frame played remains as the wallpaper. This can be changed with the command:
wallset --use número de imagen

This will select an image from those previously loaded into the program.

We can see the list of videos previously added to the application with:

wallset --list-videos

And choose a video from the list with:
wallset --set-video número de video

The full list of Wallset commands is available at the project page.

one last suggestion

Wallpaper doesn’t have to be just something pretty. With The Gimp or LibreOffice Draw you can create wallpapers with reminders such as the shopping list, useful telephone numbers or mental maps or flash cards with things you want to learn.

Or you can follow the advice that a website recommended at the turn of the century and not have any wallpaper at all. For some reason that I don’t remember (I guess optimization of resources) the author considered that the desk should be as sober as a Franciscan’s cell.


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