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Finding and Changing Wallpaper

This article is all about wallpapers. Once implemented, you will learn how to:

  • Change the wallpaper
  • Search online for a specific wallpaper
  • Two ways to make your own

Arco Linux comes with a nice collection of wallpapers but if you are like me then you don’t care for what the masses use. Instead, I fire up duckduckgo which is perfect when it comes to searching for images and see what is out there.

The banner image on top of this article shows how I found my favorite wallpaper which is perfect for my needs.

I simple typed these words into my browser’s search field: dualscreen wallpaper ashton martin

Dualscreen Wallpaper

Because I have two monitors connected to this computer, I am only interested in dual-screen wallpapers. There are many reason why I prefer the XFCE desktop environment and one of them is that XFCE lets me span a wallpaper over two monitors. Nice!

aYou can search for anything you like but finding the right wallpaper is tricky. What looks good at first most likely won’t work for your desktop. I like the look of transparent terminals on my screen. For that to work, I need a wallpaper that isn’t busy and includes large areas that are dark. Those dark areas are ideal for placing a terminal.

Two ways to make your own wallpaper

If you happen to be a creative individual then you have everything you need to create a wallpaper. Almost all Linux distributions come with Gimp which is a fantastic image manipulation tool. Graphics design on Linux without Gimp is not ideal.
Gimp lets you create and paint anything you can imagine. The good news is that you don’t have to be an experienced artist to make a unique wallpaper. If you scribble something random and then go to Filters > G’MIC, you have tons of options to turn anything into something cool. Just keep trying different filters and adjust your main canvas.

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Rip an image from movies

Sometimes I watch a movie an see an incredible frame that would make a great wallpaper. To grab a specific frame, I maximize the movie window so that it displays in full-screen mode. I also load the screen-capture utility which I set to “Active Windows”. This setting will take a picture of the movie frame as soon as I click the OK button.

Screen capture is hidden behind the movie
Small problem. When an online movie is maximized, all other applications that show on the monitor are hidden behind the movie. But we are Linux users and have a way of showing both, the movie as well as the screen-shot utility. Here is how it’s done.

Load “Screencapture” which should be available on any Linux system. Set the options to capture the active window and then go back to your browser and watch the movie in full-screen mode.

To see the screen-capture utility, press alt+tab
This will show everything that currently runs on your computer. Select the screen-capture utility to move it to the foreground. It’s just a small window so you easily move it out of the way while you watch the movie. When you see something that you like, click the OK button and it will snap the current frame which you can save or open in Gimp to make changes.

How to get rid of the time line and play buttons

Anytime you pause or continue playing a movie in full-screen mode, it will temporarily display the controls at the bottom of the screen. After a few seconds, those fade away. If you come across a frame that you want to capture, simply rewind the move to 30 seconds or 1 minute prior to where you want to capture the image and press play.

Then bring the screenshot utility to the foreground and wait. The controls will face away and as soon as that frame pops up, your trigger finger is ready to fire. If you miss that moment, simply repeat the steps. Once you get good at this, you can build a nice collection of wallpapers.
If you have two monitors, you can keep the screenshot utility open on the second monitor which might be a bit easier to access.

How to change your wallpaper

Now that we know all about finding and creating wallpapers, we need to know how to actually switch it. First, let’s make a directory to store them in.
By default, XFCE stores the wallpapers you see in /usr/share/wallpapers
Which is a protected location and therefore not writable unless we override the process with sudo. Some suggest to place wallpapers into the proper directory but I put them into a sub-directory inside my Pictures directory which is in my /home directory.
The advantage of storing them inside the Pictures directory is that all of the wallpapers I put in there will be backed up so that I don’t lose then should I reinstall for what ever reason.

To create a storage directory, open Pictures, right-click and select “Create Folder”. Name the folder wps which has the advantage of placing it towards the end as the Pictures directory fill up.
Naming directories is important and you should think once in a while about how you want to manage your data. Eventually, you will find a good naming convention that works for you.

OK, we have a wps directory inside Pictures. Now we right-click on the Desktop and select Desktop Settings. Below the pictures is a drop-down which lets you specify a custom directory and that is the option we want.
To navigate to the wps location, click “other” and then select Pictures from the left hand tree. Once Pictures opens, double click the wps directory and finally, click the OPEN button at the bottom of the browser window. Now the location has changed and if you have a wallpaper inside the wps directory then it will become as an option. If the directory is empty, then you should put some in there now.
If you have a dual-screen setup, then you can select from the style drop-down who to display the wallpaper. It’s self explanatory so experiment with settings and keep the one that looks best.

Wallpaper size

Many beautiful wallpapers are huge. There are several which approach 5 – 10 Meg in size. I don’t want a huge wallpaper taking up memory and therefore, I load captured or downloaded wallpapers into Gimp and export them as jpg files with a compression ratio of around 60 – 75%. It depends on the picture but doing so, squeezes the picture from many megabytes down to less than 0.5 Meg.


The right wallpaper will complete the icon and style theme. All three must match to achieve the WOW effect. If you want that, then be patient and keep hunting for perfect images. If you feel creative then make them and if not, take them. If you take then remember to not post them online for others to download because that would probably be illegal. Instead, show others how and where to grab it. At the top of this post, I showed you the search phrase to get my favorite wallpaper which is a dark green background that shows an Ashton Martin on the right half.

Arco Linux comes with a big variety of wallpapers but one of the first things I do after I install is delete those. My main reason for removing is that none of them make transparent terminals look good. I need to be able to read the text easily because I use the terminal a lot.

Furthermore, I also disable variety and remove with the package manager. Variety is a wallpaper changer which fetches nice wallpapers at a specific interval. If that is what you want then leave it running. If not, then remove it because less is more.
I will talk in great detail about removing packages in Chapter 2, Section 7.

Thank you for reading and good luck hunting down your wallpaper.

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