Change Desktop Pictures

Change Desktop Pictures
Mac Tip #395, 29 July 2009

Desktop Pictures are just for fun. Here’s how to control what is displayed and what it looks like.

Save a desktop image from Safari.

Save a desktop image from Safari.

Maybe while surfing the web you see a picture you’d really like to have as the background of your Mac Desktop.

Set a web page image as the Desktop Picture

Control Click on it and choose the menu item Use Image as Desktop Picture. That’s what Safari offers. If you use another web browser the wording may be slightly different.

The image I used in the movie for this Tip showed Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the Moon.

Safari downloads the picture, stores it in your Library folder as a file named Safari Desktop Picture.jpg, and sets it as your Desktop Picture.

Unless the picture is exactly the right size though, you may find it appears distorted, or it’s repeated to fill the screen.

Change Desktop Picture display settings

Control how it’s displayed though by visiting the Desktop & Screen Saver System Preference.

Choose a display option such as Fit, Fill, Stretch, Center or Tile. There’s no golden rule for which option works best. Just try them all for your image and see which works for you. Many of the options ‘cut off’ the astronaut’s head in my image.

Choose other images

I select an iPhoto image.

I select an iPhoto image.

Apple supply many images you can use for your Desktop Picture. Select one from the many collections listed on the left side of the Desktop & Screen Saver System Preference window.

Your own iPhoto images are also listed. Select one of them if you prefer.

Viewing Options

Viewing options are listed below the thumbnails in the Desktop & Screen Saver System Preference window.

  • Change picture every allows you to select an interval for changing the picture. This option works through all the pictures in your selected folder in sequence.
  • Random order does the same thing, but chooses pictures at random, instead of moving through them in sequence.
  • Translucent Menu Bar allows you to choose whether you like the Desktop Picture showing through the Menu Bar or not. If you turn this off the Menu Bar simply stays white, as it did in older versions of Mac OS X.

Remember to watch the movie (about 3.5 minutes) where I demonstrate these various choices:


Do you have any comments on this Tip? Add them below.

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  1. texas law said:

    I had no idea it was that easy= being new to mac i have been using Snag it to capture pages- now i know mac does it with out the add on!

  2. arnold chapman said:

    Hi MacTips. I’ve looked for hours to find out how to transfer pictures
    out of my Desktop picture file back into a regular picture or document folder.
    All sites directed me to help on ‘how to remove a picture from the desktop’
    which wasn’t my question. I’ve tried rewriting the question in all sorts of ways,
    but the question is still ignored. Can you help me? I’d appreciate it very much.
    Thank you. Sincerely, Arnych

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Hi Arnych, I’m not entirely sure what you need to do. Do you mean that you open the System Prefs and go to the Desktop part of the Desktop & Screensaver pane and then can see a picture you want to save in maybe your Documents folder?

      In that case open the main Library Folder on your Mac and look inside the Desktop Pictures folder. Copy or move the picture you want from inside that folder.

      If that’s not what you mean perhaps you could make a small movie that explains what you want. See MacTip: Make a screencast or audio recording with QuickTime Player 10 – for help with doing that.



  3. Jessica T said:


    I have a dual monitor display set up, and I am trying to keep two different photos on each monitor. My only problem is that my main monitor keeps changing images even though I have not selected for the image to be changed. Do you know how to correct this?


  4. Dave said:

    Thanks so much for the tip! Worked like a charm.

  5. Miraz Jordan said:

    Great question, Dave! And I’ve found the answer.

    I saved a NASA photo from Safari, using the Use Image as Desktop Picture contextual menu command, and then went looking to see which files were changed at that moment. I eventually discovered the file in this location:

    /Users/miraz/Library/Safari/Safari Desktop Picture .jpg

    Change ‘miraz’ for your username and you should find the currently set image. You can then copy it, or move it or something to save before changing it to another image.

  6. Dave said:

    If I have a picture from Safari as my desktop photo, is there a way to save that photo to my computer so that I can change the desktop photo without losing the one that’s currently displayed?

  7. Thomas A. Ritter said:

    I would like the desk site called Desk Scene for a desk top photograph

Comments are closed.