My top five sites for the coolest desktop backgrounds

Eventually, it gets pretty boring looking at the same old desktop background day in and day out.

If you’re using Windows, then you’re probably already familiar with the litany of insipid backgrounds that ship with the operating system.  The default Windows 8 background is a lonely white daisy against a soft focused sea of blue.  On Windows 7, the default background is the Windows Logo, against an emotionless cerulean background and Windows Vista and XP are no better as their default backgrounds are equally banal.

But your desktop doesn’t have to be so dull.

You can personalize it but sometimes it’s hard to find high quality, high definition (HD) wallpapers because most desktop background sites are replete with more advertisements than wallpapers making it nearly impossible to cull your coveted images.

After weaving your way through the labyrinthine clutter of pop-ups and flashy advertisements, you might download the image only to discover that it looks atrocious on your screen because the graphic is stretched or squished.

How disappointing.

In this article I’m going to show you my top five websites for downloading top quality desktop backgrounds. Here are my favorites:

5. Wallbase

@Wallbase on Twitter has the following profile blurb:

Humbly boasting to definitely maybe be the best source for all your wallpaper needs, and more.

The irony is amusing because Wallbase really is, categorically, one of the best sources for wallpapers on the internet.

Wallbase has a voluminous image database that pulls wallpapers from 4chan (a popular image based bulletin site) and allows users to moderate and tag them.  There are over 1 million HD desktop backgrounds in the database yet relevant results are often returned in a fraction of a second.

Wallpapers are divided into three major categories:

  • WG (General Wallpapers)
  • W (Manga and Anime Wallpapers)
  • HR (High resolution wallpapers)

Other Wallbase nomenclature you should know are:

  • SFW (Safe Wallpapers)
  • Sketchy (Not really safe for work)
  • NSFW (Not suitable for work or school)

In addition to filtering images based on safety, the options bar just beneath the Wallbase masthead lets you narrow the results based on screen dimension and resolution.  Also, if you click the last search filter you can randomize the results or filter by date added or even sort by the number of views.

If you haven’t been to Wallbase yet you should definitely check out what it has to offer.

Wallbase Desktop Background Site

Update (December 15 2014)

Roncha, one of my readers, recently emailed pointing out that Wallbase is no more!  While we lament the loss of Wallbase, Roncha mentioned he has three favorites that I should check out.

I think these are pretty good, especially Ultra HD Wallpapers.  Let me know what you think in the comments

wallpaperfx.com

Wallpaper FX

https://www.reddit.com/r/wallpapers/

Reddit.com Wallpapers

 

http://www.uhdwallpapers.org/

Ultra HD Wallpapers

4. Interfacelift

Interfacelift has been around longer than Wallbase but with only 3,000 desktop backgrounds, it doesn’t have as many wallpapers in stock.  But don’t let that turn you away.  The 3,000 wallpapers on the site are top quality and some of the images are composed with professional equipment by professional and pro-amateur (Pro-am) photographers.

Like Wallbase, you can choose your resolution and sort by the highest rated graphics.  Conversely, unlike Wallbase, you can download complete wallpaper packs (some containing hundreds of wallpapers) in bulk for just one penny.  This is nice because it obviates the laborious process of clicking through each image and downloading them individually.

You can also get the Interfacelift desktop background collection for iPhone, iPad and Mac.  The bad news is that it costs $2 to purchase the iPhone App and $3 to buy the iPad version; however, the advantage is that:

  1. All the images are individually curated (hand-picked) by a team of editors who scrutinize each photo and only release the high-quality images.
  2. In addition, each wallpaper is specifically formatted for the exact specifications of your iDevice so it’s pixel perfect.
  3. Also all the images are work and family safe so you don’t have to wade through a bunch of explicit photos.
  4. Finally, the iPhone app is optimized for the iPhone 5 and the iPad version is specifically built to leverage the retina display so your images will always be crisp and pin sharp.

Interface Lift Desktop Background Site

3. Desktopography

Desktopography isn’t as popular as Wallbase or Interfacelift, but that’s certainly not because the desktop backgrounds are inferior.

Desktopography is one of the best places to get creative, nature-themed backgrounds.

This is how the authors of the Desktopography website describe their project:

At their best, desktop wallpapers bring animation to often lifeless computer screens, reflecting the personality of the user and acting as a calling card for creative talent. The Desktopography project arrived in 2005 as a place to download nature / topological themed wallpapers with edits from selected designers.

For the designer, creating wallpapers is a great way to perfect your craft and create images specifically for different environments from desktops and laptops to mobile phones and MP3 players.

Ever since its conception, Desktopography has been a non–profit, fun project and we would encourage you to share this site with family, friends and people you know, there is something here for everyone not just designers. All of the wallpapers here can be downloaded in a variety of sizes

As you browse the collection you’ll get the feeling of walking through a museum of images.   The images are simply beautiful and some may actually take your breath away.

On the flip side, you’ll only find a fraction of the sheer number of images Wallbase and Interfacelift offer; however, I’m convinced that the few background you do find here are the most unique and dazzling works of digital art on the internet.

Desktopography

 

2. Simple Desktops

The Simple Desktops mantra is: minimalism.

Tom Watson, Product Designer at Facebook, actually hand selects each desktop background based on his aesthetic sense for simplicity.

The nice thing about this site is that it offers an alternative to the status quo.  Most desktop background sites give you either pure digital art such as Digital Blasphemy or photographic landscapes such as Interfacelift; however, Simple Desktops presents distraction-free, minimally photoshoped desktops backgrounds that will leave your work-space feeling fresh and clean.

If you want something basic, beautiful and bold you should visit Simple Desktops.

You can also download iPhone, Android, and Mac apps.  The iPhone and Android apps are $2 each and the Mac app is $4.

Simple Desktops Desktop Backgrounds

1. Digital Blasphemy

With over 950 original renders and desktop background images dating back to the year 2000, Digital Blasphemy offers a prodigious array of pictures to pick from.

Some people have described the images on Digital Blasphemy as:

an amazing journey through your mind

Others have said:

just.. wow. You have amazing skills with the software you use, but your visions… those are a true gifting.

And people with stressful jobs often come here because the images are so transcendent and frequently conjure thoughts of serenity and utopia.

Ryan Bliss, artist and creator of Digital Blasphemy, explains his vision for the site:

I came up with the name Digital Blasphemy when I first started making graphics, long before this site existed. The feeling I got when I first starting making virtual worlds could only be described as godlike. I was adding (and deleting) worlds at will, and deciding which stars would shine and how bright. One of Webster’s definitions for the word blasphemy is “the act of claiming the attributes of deity”. Since this was exactly what I was doing on my computer, the name sort of fit. It’s how I signed my images before I ever posted a single image online (or even had a modem).

No religious affiliation or outlook is implied. I realize that some people are offended by my use of the word “Blasphemy”. This is unfortunate, because I can’t really change it now. Even if I could though, I probably wouldn’t.

And that’s what you’ll see when you peruse the annals of Digital Blasphemy: hundreds upon hundreds of godlike, otherwordly, ethereal images.

Digital Blasphemy was actually the first wallpaper site I heard of when I was just a freshman in college.  Check out Ryan’s work and you will almost definitely bookmark this site.

You can pick-up the Android App for $1.51 in the Google Play store.

Digital Blasphemy Desktop Backgrounds

 

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Posted in Linux, Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Vista, Windows XP