John Heidemann / Other Stuff / Android Tips / Android Wallpaper (HOWTO, tutorial)

After years of waiting, I finally got a smartphone of the Android ilk. One big advantage of Android is that the devices are fairly open, so a normal human can make their own wallpaper, ringtones, and software (OK, a mostly-normal human).

I was astounded that, although there is lots of free wallpaper available, and there is even a video (update: as of 2011-04-12 this video was marked private and so is unavailable; it’s not mine so I can’t fix it; however I suggest you put “making android wallpaper with photoshop” into a search engine to find newer videos) walking one through using Photoshop, there’s no simple text page that summarizes what one must do. In fact, there are a couple of tricky points in the process. This Is Now That Page.

Please be advised this page assumes some level of technical background. Nothing that can’t be filled in with some trips to a search engine and Wikipedia.

What is Wallpaper?

Wallpaper is the image shown behind the icons on the home screen. Search for “wallpaper” in Marketplace if you want to get pre-made ones. (Please note I’m talking about static wallpaper; Android 2.1 (Froyo) in Feb. 2010 introduced “live wallpaper” that is quite different.)

To make your own wallpaper, be aware that wallpaper is just a simple, fixed size raster image. The exact size depends on your device. When I made this page in Nov. 2009 there were two public Android phones, but today there are dozens. I won’t list all here, but some:

phone model screen / workspaces image size
MyTouch 3G 320x480 / 3 or 5 640x480
Samsung Galaxy S 480x800 / 7 960x800

When I say 640x480* below, please read that as 640x480 or whatever size your device takes. For other devices, sizes may vary, bug a search engine will likely tell you a reasonable size.

It seems like several raster image file formats can be used as wallpaper, including PNG and JPG. I recommend PNG because it’s lossless (see wikipage about image file formats for details), but JPG (JPEG) works well too. (Other common formats like TIFF, GIF, and BMP may work, but I haven’t tried them.)

Making Your Wallpaper

You should make your image however you want. Just make sure you end up saving it as a 640x480* size raster image. (Actually, you can use other sizes and fix things in the phone, but you should try to do all the hard work on a real computer.)

Some tools you might want to look at are Adobe Photoshop (see the CoolPsTuts video if you want photoshop handholding, except update: as of 2011-04-12 this video was marked private and so is unavailable; it’s not mine so I can’t fix it), Gimp (free), or even Microsoft Paint. There are also on-line tools that do editing, although I haven’t used them. Or just take a nice photo with a digital camera and resize it to be 640x480*.

Getting Your Wallpaper to Your Phone

There are several ways to get your wallpaper to your phone. I describe each at a high level because the exact details differ depending on what computer you’re using with your phone.

After you’ve completed these steps, the image should be in the downloads directory on your phone. When you run the Gallery application, there should be a download section with your images in it.

Getting Your Wallpaper to Your Home Screen

Finally you need to get your wallpaper on to your home screen. Several paths, all alike:

Android now pops up your picture with an orange box to let you crop the wallpaper. This is Dumb. Your image is 640x480*, but Android wants you to take a subset of it. Don’t do that, since it will then expand the image and make an ugly, pixelated mess. (Google: why doesn’t this default to the size of your screen?!)

Instead: slide the orange box to a corner of your image, then touch and drag the opposite corner until the orange box covers your whole image. Finally, click the “save” button. You will get a “saving picture” alert, then a “setting wallpaper” alert, then finally a new home screen wallpaper.


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