Creative inspiration is a fickle thing. One minute you have it, the next you don’t.
If you’re a digital creative, one place to constantly find inspiration is on your computer desktop. The temptation for us all is to slap up one of those default nature wallpapers and call it a day, but how inspired do they make you feel to create and innovate?
In this list, you’ll find some of the best desktop wallpapers of all time for creatives, with tips from an expert designer on how you can design them yourself.
01. Find Inspiration With A Powerful Contrast Of Type And Photography
This wallpaper features a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. While the text itself is inspiring, the photograph in the background is undoubtedly powerful. The contrast of the central white text with the black and white photo really makes it stand out, and the lens flares add a unique touch and dimensional element. The subtle differences in the typefaces work together to create something special, and even though they’re different, they feel as if they all belong. To make one similar, choose a stunning background image and combine it with a powerful, inspiring quote from your favorite designer.
02. Set Your Type Apart With Colored Accents
Due to the blurry nature of the background photo, the white type could have easily gotten a bit lost in the mix. The addition of a subtle, dark red background color helps to pull the white type forward, and give it true distinction from the background. It really accentuates the beautiful flow of the letters. The color choice works well with the warmth of the photo, and blends in nicely with the copper tones of the telescope behind the text. To make one for yourself, choose a beautiful photograph, add your favorite quote, and select a color similar to a color in the background to set it apart.
03. Find Simplicity In A Simple Background
While an inspirational photograph could have been used in the background, the solid color truly lets the typography and message shine. The white text reflects very highly off of the background, and the subtlety of the dark black acts as an ‘in between’, creating balance with the stark white text and mid tone background color. The accent lines create action and movement, exciting the viewer and inspiring them to get to work. To create a wallpaper similar to this one, find an inspiring quote and pair it over your favorite color – you can even bring color into the quote itself.
04. Bring A Design Together With Color Washes
A wallpaper can really come together when all of its parts and pieces are harmonious. Instead of using this photograph of a snow-capped mountain as is, a subtle wash of blue was overlaid. Paired with the blue accents in the type and the white color of the text, the two come together to create something whole and inspiring. To make a wallpaper like this one, choose a photograph and put a transparent overlay on it, then simply add your text over top.
05. Be Educational And Informative
This wallpaper is based on Fontshop’s “Typeface Anatomy and Glossary.” It shows the different parts and pieces that make up fonts and typography. It serves to educate the user on what each part is and where it resides. It’s great for those who are a bit more technical with their designs, and can be implemented for a variety of subject matters. The aim is to not overwhelm the design with a bunch of unnecessary elements, and keep it purely functional and informative. If you’d like to make a similar wallpaper, get educated about your topic and display it in a simple and concise way.
06. Relate The Message To The Imagery
This powerful underwater photograph is paired with a simple, yet powerful message. The notion of exploring is depicted in the photograph, as you see waves crashing over the figure while he’s under them. It suggests to look all around you (even if you’re underwater) for inspiration to ignite your creativity, and to constantly keep the process going. The way the typography is handled is very simple, and allows the photo to be dominant. The breaking of the ‘e’ in explore adds in a unique, unexpected twist – just like the breaking of the waves in the photograph.
07. Add Texture To Simple Designs To Create Dimension
This wallpaper is very simple. A white background, uniform circles in a grid pattern, and bright pops of color. What makes it unique, though, is the watercolor texture enclosed in each circle. Each one has its own personality and gives off a unique vibe. The color variants within each circle helps add dimension, where regular color filled circles could fall flat. The subtle ‘get creative’ nestled in the center two circles works well with the organicness of the watercolor, and doesn’t stand out too much or too little.
08. Use Abstraction To Communicate Ideas
This wallpaper was created for DesignLoveFest, and plays off the ideas of dreams versus fears. Dream are conceptualized as white, with fears being blue. You can see the dreams are bigger than the fears, but there is constant back and forth between which one is in control. The simplicity of the design with its hand drawn font and organic imagery work together, and the pink in the background adds a subtle positivity. The end result is encouraging, and helps to remind us all that we can out dream our fears.
09. Use Gradients To Set A Mood
This wallpaper takes a simple idea and amplifies it. Placing uniquely handlettered text in the center of a white background isn’t exactly revolutionary, but the incorporation of a colorful gradient helps push it that way. The flow of color brings all of the text together, and helps make it stand out against the plain backdrop. Typically, gradients aren’t the greatest or most used tools at a designer’s disposal, but used in the right way they can be something really beautiful (after all, the quote is about rule breaking). The color scheme here keeps the message light and carefree.
10. Use Obscurity To Your Advantage
At first glance, it’s a little difficult to tell what exactly the image is in this wallpaper – but that’s the beauty of it. Is it a flower? A cabbage? Maybe some crumpled up paper? Who cares! It can be whatever you want it to be after you read it’s accompanying quote. The quote itself is straightforward, and so is its design. All caps text, just bold enough to stand out and incorporating just a little color from the background help bring harmony between the two. The thin box surrounding the text helps to separate it from the image, and creates interesting overlap. To create your own choose an image you like, dial down its opacity, and lay your quote over top. Select a few words to draw attention to and make them a pop of color.
11. Allow Illustrations To Set The Tone
This wallpaper uses illustrations of flowers to create a beautiful background scape. The contrast of the black peaking through the bright flowers makes them pop, and the subtle band of text in the center is concise and to the point. The text’s meaning relates to the beauty of the background, and serves as an inspiring compliment that you already make beautiful things, so why not make some more?
12. Use Realistic Photography To Send A Message
The repetitive pattern of the paperclips in this wallpaper is strangely intriguing. The pattern is easy on the eye, and is pleasant to look at. When paired with the small and subtle type, the photograph takes on meaning. You can start anywhere, just make sure you start – even if the idea is as simple as a paperclip. To bring this idea to life, snap a photograph of anything you can find inspiration in and find a quote that suits it.
13. Utilize Subliminal Messaging In Your Design
The background of this wallpaper is clearly tropical leaves, an indicator of a beautiful and foreign tropical location. The message on this wallpaper clearly states to work like a boss, meaning to work hard. Pairing these two together suggests that when you work hard, you reap the best rewards. The organicness of the typography plays well with the organic nature of the leaves, and the warm, sand-like texture helps to drive the idea of a tropical paradise home and encourages you to work harder.
14. Create Contrast With Black And White Photography
The white typography pairs very well with the black and white background image. The type stands out, yet works together with the photograph to set the scene. The intricate detailing of ‘hustle’ bleeds into the rocks, and creates an interesting overlap that adds in a lot of dimension. The contrast of the organic, flowing type against the rugged, harsh rocks suggests that by loving the hustle, you’ll ease through the rough patches in life. It could get a little messy (hence the grainy texture overtop), but in the end everything will be groovin’.
15. Don’t Over-Design A Simple Idea
This wallpaper is very simple, and for good reason. The entire message is to continuing moving forward and to not give up. Centralizing the circle cropped image gives you a place to focus, and inside the image are flickers of light, which represent glimmers of hope. The typography of ‘don’t give up’ is intricate and feminine, giving whispers of encouragement.
16. Fuse Typography And Imagery Together
This wallpaper is very inspiring and helpful when all of the day’s troubles seem to overwhelm you. The beautiful sunset/rise paired with the calming waters helps to reduce your stresses, and the motivational message inspires you. The handwritten type makes it feel as though you wrote the message to yourself, giving yourself a push of encouragement. The subtle line of type underneath adds more meaning, and the simplicity of the text works well with the horizontal line of landscape. To create a wallpaper like this, find a beautiful photograph with clear directional movement. Simply apply your text to the photograph in a way that follows the movement.
17. Layer Shapes To Create Unique Patterns
This wallpaper uses different shapes of varying line weights to create a geometrically patterned composition. The interesting dynamic of all of the shapes paired with the phrase ‘be creative’ really helps to drive it home. It creates balance with the calming photograph, and makes it feel relaxing, laid back, and somewhat tribal.
18. Create A Mood With Texture And Contrast
This wallpaper looks dark and moody. The black and white photograph sets the tone, and the dialed up textured grain adds a nice grit to the photograph. The text pops against the background, and the roughed up edges of the font pair well with the grain of the photograph. The curves of the font help to break up the roughness, and add in a much needed softness.
19. Play With Light And Shadows To Create Visual Interest
This wallpaper is bright and cheery. The sun-like oranges provide a happy pop of orange color, and the soft pink background brings in lovely warmth. The harsh light coming from the left of the wallpaper brings in a harsh shadow. The dark purplish-pink helps to ground the bright oranges, and provides a nice contrast with the light background. To create a similar photograph, arrange your objects on a light colored piece of paper, shine a light from one side, and snap your photo. To increase contrast and saturation, you can use Canva’s photo editing tools.
20. Create Harmony In Your Typography By Linking Letters
This beautiful quote from Jimi Hendrix is paired with a haunting illustration of a dark, chilly city. The white text flows beautifully, as if it’s the snow in the storm in the illustration, and the texture within it ties the picture and type together. The careful intertwining of the ‘g’ and ‘d’ creates harmony between the two words, and shows that knowledge and wisdom must work together.
21. Experiment With Collage To Communicate Different Ideas
This wallpaper features a number of images collaged together. The green plant life, the woman lounging, and the soft pink triangle all work together to set a scene. The modpodge of these images gives the wallpaper a retro vibe, but the harsh link of the triangle helps to bring it into the modern world. It is both contemporary and nostalgic. To create your own, find a selection of images you enjoy, cut them together, and overlay a transparent shape of color.
22. Bring Multiple Elements Together To Tell A Story
This wallpaper is very reminiscent of the previous one, with the collaging of images and a pop of baby pink. What sets this one apart, however, is the contrast of the black and white image of the woman with the color in the rest of the imagery. These images paired together tell the story of a woman caught in a rain storm, yet her face is obscured so you can project your own emotions onto it.
23. Relate The Style Of Your Typography With Your Photography
This wallpaper pairs a blurry background image of a wheat field with the soft, hand drawn typeface Velik. The style of the font works well with the style of the photograph, but stands out just enough to allow the message to appear loud and clear. It alludes to the idea of being present in the moment, even if everything around you is a blur.
24. Explore Abstraction And Don’t Rely On Transparency
The entirety of this wallpaper is very abstract and random. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason for the placement or shape of the objects, yet it creates one consistent piece that gives off a fun, carefree vibe. The different shades of blue, green, and red/pink are sprinkled throughout, which ties everything together. The subtle blue texture in the background helps to give weight to the shapes, and brings them down to earth. To create an image like this, let all of your creativity flow. Choose a few colors, make a few shapes, and play around with arranging them on the page in a carefree, random manner.
25. Be Inspirational In Every Way Possible
This image is truly inspiring. The welcoming scenery, the self-assuring quote, it really gives off a sense of refreshment and easygoing-ness. The text is nestled right in the image, almost as if it was actually there when the photo was snapped. The font is light and whimsical, which pairs perfectly with its message.
26. Create Something Unexpected By Bringing Two Unrelated Things Together
This wallpaper is a collage of beautiful flowers with sparkling stars nestled inside of them. The pairing of these two incredibly different items works very well, and gives off a unique spirit and feel. The dark burgundies of the flowers pairs well beside the light cream background, and truly stands out front and center.
27. Implement Texture Into Type
This bright and cheery wallpaper pairs textural text with a textural background, but keeps it from getting too gritty with bright, sunrise inspired colors. The action lines above the word ‘always’ represents the rising sun, and make you feel as if you should already be hustling when the sun peeks out to begin a new day. To create an image like this, find a bright, textured image, and pair an inspiring quote over top. Include some action accent lines to add movement and dynamic.
28. Create Imagery Within Your Typography
This handlettered piece truly becomes an illustration of its own with all of the graceful, careful linework. It is incredibly intricate and ornate, and stands out against the midnight blue background. The message pairs well with the background color, suggesting that it is now nighttime and a time for rest after a hectic, productive day. Flex your handlettering skills by sketching out one of your favorite quotes, or taking paint to paper. If you’re not the creative type, you can use one of the many decorative fonts in Canva’s collect and arrange each letter to create a composition.
29. Use Simple Shapes And Colors To Convey A Message
This wallpaper is inspired by M.C. Escher’s Drawing Hands. It suggests the idea that even when we’re busy creating, something is creating us, and the cycle goes on and on – constantly inspiring our next burst of creativity. The colors are incredibly simple and bright (almost strictly a primary color palette), yet still convey the message in an un-juvenile way. You can create similar symmetry by creating one image, then flipping it over and lining it up to match.
30. Use Real Life Instances To Inspire You
This wallpaper was created by a designer famous for handlettering, and that is shown incredibly well. It appears to be a little snapshot of his workplace, carefully arranged so that the work is central, surrounded by the tools that helped create it. It is inspiring and urges the viewer to create, and document their process.
31. Pair Warm And Cool Colors Together To Create Interest
This wallpaper is playful, and even a little tongue in cheek. Most people aren’t thrilled at the sight of snow, so this image reads as a bit sarcastic. The bright, pinky-orange pops out against the dark, navy background. The in-between shade of blue gives the text a three-dimensional appearance, and gives the snow something to really hold on to. Making your own three-dimensional letters is relatively easy. Simply pick a simple, block-like font, create two copies, and position one behind the other in a different color.
32. Skew Text To Create Movement
The background of this wallpaper image is understated, yet still important with its paint-like strokes. These skewed strokes melt into the skewed text of the quote. The angles of the quote and the background strokes complement the meaning of the quote, and are full of action and forward movement.
33. Add In Pops Of Metallic Finishes
The juxtaposition of the bright, golden text against the subdued, black and white background in this wallpaper is stunning. The text catches the light, and makes the idea of believing in something magical. The flowers add in a natural element, which balances the shine of the gold text and relates to the subtle, feminine curves of the font.
34. Create Energy With Exploding Action Lines
The messaging on this wallpaper POPS. The contrast of the vibrant red against the black text, and the black text against the pale backdrop creates an energy next to none. The red action lines aren’t anything crazy on their own, but when paired with the text they add in a fun, vibrant, and exciting element – truly supercharging the statement. To create a wallpaper with as much energy as this one, choose a quote, play with vibrant colors and accents, and determine where your action lines will make the most impact.
35. Turn Typography Into An Illustrated Piece
This wallpaper takes a quote and turns it into something more. The handlettering and the placement of the text creates an almost stamp-like illustration. The splatters of texture inside the letters creates a luxurious feel, and the high contrast of the light text and the dark background forces the message out at you. When creating a wallpaper similar to the style of this one, arrange your text around a shape of your desire. Pick some important words to highlight and put them in a large, scripted font.
36. Use Patterns To Create Contrast
This wallpaper takes candy-cane like text and pairs it against a stark, arctic landscape. The bright cheeriness of the actual word cheer provides a whimsical and delightful scene, reminiscent of Winter holidays. If you’d like to pair text with patterns, choose a pattern that matches the mood of the text you’re working with.
37. Turn Something Into Something Else
The illustration on this wallpaper starts out as something simple – a bike. The texture adds a nice tangible feeling as your eye travels down, and then it hits you. The wheels are actually the globe, and on this bike you can travel anywhere. The colors are warm, but subdued. They gently encourage you to get excited and take off – anywhere your two peddling feet can take you. Creating a similarly conceptual piece is relatively easy. Consider what you want your message to be, and think of a number of objects that can portray that, then, put two of them together that fit.
38. Don’t Use Words Where They Aren’t Needed
This beautiful wallpaper takes lovely plants and flowers and arranges them on a simple, white background. The natural colors pop and add a wonderful sweetness to the image. The imagery speaks for itself, and doesn’t need any accompanying text to help it along.
39. Make A Statement With Graphics
The designer of this wallpaper explained this image as ‘a reminder that sometimes we do need to disconnect every now and then,’ meaning that we shouldn’t let technology remove us from our traditional roots. The display of all of the tech gadgets carefully lined up and arranged provides a nice contrast with the simple open book. Without words, we understand what the message is, and it truly makes a statement without needing to be overly detailed.
40. Use Simplicity To Its Full Advantage
The imagery in this wallpaper is both soothing and enigmatic. The pattern of the carefully arranged stones brings a sense of peace, yet it is unclear why they are arranged in this way. It doesn’t get more primitive than a bunch of rocks (perhaps tools of the Stone Age?), and the white backdrop only adds to the simplicity.
41. Create A Series Of Similar Wallpapers To Add In Fun Change
This wallpaper is a representation of the month of July. The month is handlettered in bright red, suggesting the heat we feel during one of the hottest months of summer. The lettering is carefree and fun, much like the experiences we have during this time. Small little descriptive words and illustrations are used as a backdrop, each relating to something about the month. A great way to expand on this concept would be to do a different one for each month, which is a fun way to showcase the passing of the seasons.
42. Illustrate A Message
This wallpaper is similar to the last due to the fact that it showcases another month in the year. It depicts a cute illustration of a leprechaun (a nod to St. Patrick’s day) ‘marching’ through the scene tugging bright greenery behind him. It is an allusion to the warm and fruitful spring to come, and the bright greens and yellows bring joy to the scene.
43. Showcase Characteristics Of Who You Are
This wallpaper depicts a man burning the midnight oil and toiling away at his computer, while his dog anxiously awaits his owner’s end of the night. The simple shapes and coloring of the illustration make it clean and structured, but still with an air of playfulness. The light emanating from the desk lamp warms up the central area of the image, and reveals a nice texture.
44. Tell A Story With Illustration
This wallpaper of a ‘redneck cookout’ features a humorous vignette of a man and his dog enjoying the warmth of the beginning of summer. The illustrative style isn’t incredibly realistic, but the small detailing and textural work helps bring the scene to life. The colors are muted, yet still warm and pleasant – an indicator of the heat of summer to come.
45. Indulge Yourself With Humor In Design
This funny wallpaper takes a lighthearted approach on something most of us struggle with daily – eating healthy and skipping delicious desserts. The typography is as playful as the messaging, and the use of the three different typefaces adds in whimsy. The colors are light and warm, just like a slice of fresh apple pie. To create a wallpaper in a similar manner to this one, simply find a quote, choose a warm, inviting color scheme, and apply some fun typefaces to each line of text.
46. Take Inspiration From Classic Imagery
This wallpaper is reminiscent of classic ‘help wanted’ and ‘we’re open’ signs businesses used in the past. The bright red/orange pops against the black, and there is a wonderful dimension within each letter achieved by various shades and tints of red. Something similar can be achieved by pairing bold red or orange text against a dark background, and choosing a font with a retro feel.
47. Use Saturation To Make A Point
The amount of bright color and sass in this wallpaper is up front and in your face. The bright yellow goes surprisingly well with the deep, rich burgundy, and the subtle splatter of burgundy texture in the background ties the two together. Without the thin white accents on some of the letters, the text wouldn’t pop as much. The message really is getting ‘pushed’ out at you, and inspires you to push yourself every time you see it.
48. Add A Backbone To Text With Shadow
The text on this wallpaper would be fine on its own, but paired with the rich, dark red shadow becomes something powerful. It pushes itself off of the page and screams ‘don’t give up’. The blush color in the background helps bring the dark red down a bit, and acts as a soothing transition.
49. Pair Simplicity And Intricacy To Achieve Harmony
The beautifully intertwined typography in this wallpaper is something special. The highly detailed letters create little banners for the smaller, simpler words to fall into. They help to ground the intricately illustrated text, and the rich golden yellows balance the deep dependability of the blue.
50. Play With Type’s Size To Create Balance
This wallpaper pairs a lovely image of ocean waves with the concise message to stay steady. Perhaps you’re surfing on the waves of life, or setting sail on a new adventure. Either way, the image gives off a sense of meditation and motivation. The gritty text matches the texture in the background, and the size difference between words creates a balance that might otherwise be lost. If steady were as big as stay, the text would be too overpowering, and the calming of the ocean waters would be decreased. To create a wallpaper with staggered text, choose your favorite font. Decide what word(s) you’d like to draw attention to, and then shrink and enlarge the words until they fit together in a harmonious way.
Hopefully this article and the examples we’ve included inspire you to create your own desktop wallpaper from scratch, and, luckily for you, Canva now has a desktop wallpaper design type, so you can start creating right now.
If you’ve designed your own desktop wallpaper that you would like to share, please link to it in the comments’ section, below.