Fitting Photo for Computer Wallpaper

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Today’s Question: My wife wants to put a family photo on her laptop’s desktop [as the wallpaper photo]. Unfortunately it is in portrait orientation and part of their heads are missing when we set the photo as her desktop wallpaper. Please let me know what the best method to use to resize the image to fit on a laptop desktop.

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can simply use the option to have the image fit (rather than fill) the available space for your desktop wallpaper. You could also resize the image to fit the display dimensions using the Canvas Size command in Photoshop.

More Detail: When you use a photo as the wallpaper on your computer, the default is often to have that photo fill the available space. If the image has a vertical orientation, that can result in severe cropping of the image.

A quick solution is to set the wallpaper image to fit within the dimensions of your display, rather than to fill the display. On Macintosh, for example, you can choose the “Fit to Screen” option from the popup found on the Desktop & Screen Saver tab of the System Preferences dialog. On Windows you can select the “Fit” option from the “Choose a fit” section of the Background window, found on the Personalization tab of the Settings dialog.

Another option is to create a customized image that fits the dimensions of your display. This can be done easily using the Canvas Size command in Photoshop, for example. After opening the image you want to use as your wallpaper, you can first use the Image Size command (Image > Image Size) to resize the image so that one of the dimensions fits your display resolution.

For example, let’s assume a 1920×1080 pixel resolution. If you had a vertical image, you could resize it so that the height is 1080 pixels. That would ensure that the image fits within the dimensions of the screen resolution.

To adjust the image so that it actually matches the precise dimensions of your display resolution, you can use the Canvas Size command (Image > Canvas Size). In the Canvas Size dialog, you can first set the unit of measure for the Width and Height to “Pixels”, using the popup to the right of those fields. Then set the Width and Height values to match the display resolution you are using.

You can also specify a color you want to use for the additional canvas area that will be created as part of this process. Simply choose the desired option from the “Canvas extension color” popup at the bottom of the Canvas Size dialog.

After clicking the OK button to apply the change to the canvas size for the image, you can save the result so it can be used as the wallpaper on your computer, perfectly matching the dimensions of your display based on the display resolution you have set.