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Master Desktop Images in OS X Mavericks

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This post is part of a series called OS X Mavericks.
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Pay more than fleeting attention to any Apple Mac advertising and you can not help but be struck by the incredible and engaging photography used to show off the capabilities of the screens of iMacs and MacBooks.

In this tutorial, I’ll uncover some breathtaking hidden photography – that is already on your Mac – and show you how to set this as your Desktop.


Desktops Detected

OS X standard desktop images
OS X standard desktop images: Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion and Mavericks

Personally, I tend to stick with whatever desktop image is supplied with that version of OS X. I’ve had various galaxies – in Snow Leopard, Lion and Mountain Lion – and now have a big wave in Mavericks.

Desktop preferences in the System Preferences pane
Desktop preferences in the System Preferences pane

But there is no requirement to stick with OS X’s default Desktop image. Changing your Desktop image is straightforward and is done from  > System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver.


How to Change the Desktop Image

Selecting standard images for the Desktop
Selecting standard images for the Desktop

Navigate to  > System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver and ensure that the Desktop button is selected.

In the lefthand pane, ensure that the Desktop Pictures folder is selected and, in the righthand pane, you will see a number of thumbnail images that can be used for your Desktop image.

A single click on any of these images will change your Desktop image immediately. You should be able to see the effects of the selection beneath any open windows on your display.


Uncovering More Stunning Photographs

There’s a collection of 43 National Geographic images that are used, by Mavericks, for screen savers. If you wish to view these, you will need access to the Library folder.

The 43 National Geographic images that are used, by Mavericks, for screen savers
The 43 National Geographic images that are used, by Mavericks, for screen savers

Tip: For more information on viewing the ~/Library folder, refer to How to Reveal Your Library Folder in Lion or Mountain Lion

Ensuring that you have opened Finder, and it is in focus, press the Command Shift G keys to reveal a window into which you can enter the path of the directory you’d like to visit. Copy and paste, or type carefully, the following:

/Library/Screen Savers/Default Collections/

… and press the return key. This will open up the folder, within ~/Library that contains the National Geographic images.


Automatically Change the Desktop Image

Changing the Desktop images automatically
Changing the Desktop images automatically

If you like to change the Desktop image, periodically, you can tell OS X to change change to images within a particular folder and to change them every fixed time period.

The fixed time periods range from as little as five seconds up to one day.

If you want to use the National Geographic images alongside the existing choice of images, simply drag the folder(s) from Finder to the Desktop & Screen saver preferences pane. This will add that folder of images as available for Desktop images.


Using Images From iPhoto

Choosing a Desktop image from iPhoto
Choosing a Desktop image from iPhoto

If you already use iPhoto to manage your photography then this is a superfast way to use your own photo, especially if you have created any smart folders.

Navigate to  > System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver and ensure that the Desktop button is selected. In the lefthand pane, select the iPhoto folder and navigate to the Events, Faces, Places or smart folder of your choice. Select any photograph to become your Desktop image.

Tip: You may consider setting up a special folder, in iPhoto, in which to save all the photos you wish to use as Desktop backgrounds. This will make it easier to select in the System Preferences > Desktop & Screen saver preference pane.


Using Your Own Images

Setting up a Desktop Images Folder
Setting up a Desktop Images Folder

If you are using images, from other sources, that are not stored in iPhoto, I’d suggest setting up a folder for the purpose.

Create a new folder, called My Desktop Images within the ~/[Your user name]/Pictures folder.

Open a new Finder window and navigate to ~/[Your user name]/Pictures/My Desktop Images

Navigate to  > System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver and ensure that the Desktop button is selected.

Add your own folder of images
Add your own folder of images

With Finder open, drag the My Desktop Images folder to the Desktop & Screen saver system preferences pane. When you see a white plus symbol inside a green circle, release the mouse and the folder will be added.


Using a Solid Colour

Choosing a solid colour
Choosing a solid colour

If your preference is for a clean Desktop, you may find that some images provide too much of a distraction to the extent that it is difficult to locate icons.

If this is the case there is, instead, an option to select a solid colour.

Navigate to  > System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver and ensure that the Desktop button is selected.

In the lefthand pane, select Solid Colors to reveal ten blocks of different colour in the righthand pane. Click on any of these to change your Desktop to that colour.

If none of the colours work for you, click on the Custom Color button to reveal the colour wheel from which you may choose your desired colour and assign it to the Desktop.


Multiple Desktops, Different Images

Multiple Desktops
Multiple Desktops -- each can have their own image

If you employ multiple Desktops, on your Mac, it is possible to assign different images for each. Some people find that it aids their workflow to have different apps residing on different Desktops. It may also help to have a different image on each Desktop to provide points of reference.

New Desktops will inherit the image that is being used on Desktop 1. If you reorder the Desktops, it will be the new Desktop 1 from which the Desktop image is inherited.

If you already have a number of Desktops, you will need to go to each, navigate to  > System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver and ensure that the Desktop button is selected, then select your chosen image for that Desktop.


Conclusion

In this tutorial, I have shown you how to uncover some stunning photography that is already on your Mac. How to set your Desktop image to change automatically, how to set custom Desktop images from iPhoto and how to set different images to each Desktop space. Make your Mac your own and personalise the Desktop quickly and easily.

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