Epic Wallpaper
Time 4.7 hrs

Difficulty Beginner
Prerequisites Creativity
Departments Human Technologies
Authors Ross Parker
Groupings Individual
Minimum Year Group None


Learn how to build your own amazing wallpaper to use on your computer. Along the way learn how to use Acorn, and some of the principles of digital image editing.


This work is shared under the following license: Creative Commons BY-SA-NC


The Pitch Why should I bother learning this?
  • Image editing software, such as Acorn and Photoshop, allows us to make something out of nothing, to express our creativity. Do you want to learn how to make some epic wallpaper for your laptop?
Resources What is needed to run this unit?
  • Laptop
  • Internet access
  • Acorn (free for schools via www.flyingmeat.com. Other software, such as PhotoSshop will work fine, but examples are based on Acorn).
Interdisciplinary Links Do not try and force this. What areas of other subjects might this reflect and/discuss language. For IB, links with ToK.
  • Art
  • Graphic Design
  • Human Technologies
  • Visual Literacy
  • All subjects that ask students to use digital imagery (e.g. using images in a presentation).
Teacher Reflection What was successful? What needs changing? Alternative Assessments and Lesson Ideas? What other Differentiation Ideas/Plans could be used?
  • ...
Credits Any CC attribution, thanks, credit, etc.
  • Antigrav technology thumbnail by macrovector on freepik under Freepik License.
  • Moose image by farlane on Flickr
  • Brick Wall image by Coyau on Wikimedia CommonsStripes image by linuslundahl on DeviantArt

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5 mins
Want To Make Some Eye Candy?
The Pitch
  • Image editing software, such as Acorn and Pixlr, allows us to make something out of nothing, to express our creativity.
  • Do you want to learn how to make some epic wallpaper for your laptop?

5 mins
Getting Started With Image Editing
Hands On


  • Acorn is software which allows you to edit graphic files.
  • Can you use Spotlight to find and launch Acorn?
  • When you launch Acorn, you might find that your free trial has run out. Not to worry! Use the key on this document to unlock the full version (it was very kindly given to us by the creators of Acorn)
  • Once you have launched Acorn, create a new image sized at 2560 x 1600 pixels with resolution 72 dpi:

  • Save your new file as a .acorn image.


  • Pixlr is a free online drawing app
  • Can you use Google Assistant and the Search key to find Pixlr?
  • Once you have launched Pixlr, create a new image sized at 2560 x 1600 pixels

  • Remember to save your file!
15 mins
Find A Texture
Web Search
  • The foreground (front) of your wallpaper is going to be a texture (such as a wall, or some wood, or some metal).
  • Can you find a large (see image below for help), Creative Commons licensed texture to use?


  • Once you have found the texture you want, save the largest version of it you can.
  • Also, bookmark the link for the page holding the image, for Creative Commons attribution later on.
5 mins
Why So Big?
Thinking Time
  • Why do you think we want to use only really large images in this project? Think about this, and try and find an answer: look online, speak to a friend or chat with your teacher.
  • Image size is really important!
5 mins
Use Your Texture
Hands On


  • Now that you have saved your texture, drag the file into your Acorn image.
  • You might want to resize your image to fit. You can do this using Layer > Rotate And Transform > Scale And Rotate in the top menu bar.
  • You should now have something that looks like this:


  • In Pixlr, select Add Image in the bottom left, and choose the image you downloaded
  • You might want to resize your image to fit. Click on your image and drag the edges.
  • You should have something that looks like this:

20 mins
Useful Theory
  • Layers in image editing software allow is to create complex images by laying images over another.
  • In Acorn, layers can be controlled in the Tools Window, which looks like this:

  • In Pixlr, layers can be found in the top right of the screen. Click and drag to change their order, and right-click for more options
  • In terms of the image, these three layers look this this (notice how the top layer is not 100% opaque, which means you can see through to the layer below:

  • Layers are especially useful when we want to go back an edit an image: it is much harder to work on if we only have the "flat" (e.g. no layers) version.
  • Did you know that in Acorn and Pixlr you can change the name of your layers to help keep your work organised? It can get really confusing when you have dozens of layers.


  • Think about the following file formats, and how they support layers:
    • .acorn (Acorn) and .pxd (Pixlr) - supports layers
    • .png - does not support layers
    • .jpg - does not support layers
  • For this reason, we save our work in the .acorn format whilst we are still editing it. When we want to share it, we use .png, which makes a smaller image that any computer can open (even if Acorn is not installed).
15 mins
Finding A Silhouette
Web Search
  • As part of your wallpaper, you will cut a hole in the foreground so we can see behind it.
  • To do this you need to A) find a silhouette of the shape you want to cut out B) draw your own shape to cut out.
  • Let's try option A first: please search the web to find a Creative Commons license  of the shape you wish to cut out.
  • Like with the texture, once you find the image you want, download it and also bookmark the page you found it from for your Creative Commons attribution.
  • Hopefully you have something like this:

15 mins
Making A Cutout
Hands On
  • Now we are going to use your silhouette to make a cutout in your foreground
  • Drag your saved cutout file into your wallpaper image in Acorn or Pixlr, and then resize and position as desired.
  • Use the Magic Wand (see image below) tool and shift key, to select all the parts of you silhouette (in Pixlr, this is called the Cutout tool).

  • Now make the foreground layer active:

  • Press the delete key to delete the silhouette shape from the foreground.
  • Now right click on the layer with the silhouette and delete the layer. You should now see through your foreground into the transparent background:

15 mins
Find A Background
Hands On
  • The final main part of your wallpaper will be a background that contrasts against the foreground.
  • Search online to find an interesting background image available under Creative Commons.
  • Remember to bookmark the page containing the image so that you can attribute it later on.
  • As an example, the following image might make a good background:

5 mins
Apply Your Background
Hands On
  • Now take your downloaded background, and drag it into your wallpaper image.
  • In the layers view, drag the background image layer (which will be on top) and move it behind the foreground:

  • Now use the move and resize tools to put your background in just the right position.
20 mins
Useful Theory
  • Filters are effects which you can apply to your graphics to make them look different.
  • Filters can make your work more interesting, creative and original.
  • Try the following fun filters to see how they work, using the Filters menu in Acorn's main menu bar or the Effects tab in Pixlr:
    • Drop Shadow
    • Color Controls
    • Motion blur
    • Tilt shift
  • Experiment with a range of other filters to see what you can achieve.
  • Try to make your top layer active, and then apply a drop shadow. Reapply the same shadow a few times, and it will make the foreground appear to pop out from the background.

15 mins
Go Nuts
  • Take some time now to keep playing with your wallpaper.
  • How can you improve the way your work looks?
10 mins
Creative Commons License
Share The Love
  • As you are almost finished with your wallpaper, now is a good time to apply your Creative Commons License.
  • Go to the Creative Common License Chooser and choose the license you want to use.
  • Copy the license image and text to your work, and then add your attribution.
10 mins
Text Controls
Useful Theory
  • How much time do you spend thinking about text and font? Do you know any history? Watch this video to learn a little about fonts.

  • If you are not convince as to how important font can be, look at the following two logo/slogan combinations for a ridiculous company. Same words, totally different feel...all due to font design:

  • When using Acorn or Pixlr, you have lots of control over text and how it is displayed. Some useful controls include:
    • Font type - what the font looks like (aka the "font face").
    • Kerning - the horizontal space between letters
    • Line height - the vertical space between lines
    • Size
    • Color
  • You can also get more fonts to install on your computer, from sites such as http://dafont.com  and http://www.1001freefonts.com.
  • Can you make the text on your work look more interesting?
50 mins
Go Nuts
  • Take some time now to keep playing with your wallpaper.
  • How can you improve the way your work looks? Review some of the theories and ideas above, and see if you have used them to your advantage.
50 mins
Finish, Export & Submit
Hands On
  • Use this final bit of time to put the finishing touches on your work.
  • Leave enough time to save your work as a PNG file: png files can be opened by people who don't have Acorn, and are also smaller than Acorn files. When you save, you will lose your layers though, so keep the Acorn file as well in case you want to go back and edit some more.
  • Finally, submit your work to Gibbon.
20 mins
Raster vs Vector
Useful Theory
  • Computers display images as collections of pixels, which are tiny colour lights on your computer.
  • Zooming in on your screen allows you to see the pixels making up the contents on your screen:


  • Most digital images are also stored as pixels: also known as raster or bitmap images.
    • This includes gif, jpg and png images, as well as most parts of Acorn images too.
    • Storing images as pixels is easy, fast and good for photos.
    • But, raster images cannot be resized upwards without becoming blurry, or pixelated.
  • However, there is another way to store images on a computer, and that is using lines: also known as vectors or paths.
    • Vector images are great for drawing.
    • Vector images can also be resized up and down without losing any quality (this is like magic ; )
  • Watch the video below, which introduces the software Adobe Illustrator, and explains how raster and vector images are different:

Marvel . Shared on 21/09/2021

Student Work

Click to View Work

Student Comment

I learned that image editing can be really fun and useful. Not only for background but for poster, youtube thumbnail or logos.

Teacher Comment

Really nice work, Marvel! I would actually like to use this image as my wallpaper if I have your permission. I can see evidence of a variety of skills outlined in the unit such as textures, layers and using different filters. 

Moving forward, I encourage you to take some handwritten notes as you work through each of the activities. You can use this as a portfolio to showcase everything you have learned. It's also a great way to retain information. 

Maria . Shared on 22/06/2015

Student Work

Student Comment

Yow Yow Yow

Teacher Comment

Maria, well done on creating a really stylish wallpaper. The position of the cat cutout, and the texture/color of the background fit perfectly. I am really impressed with your work here, as you have some technical problems to start with, and you persisted through them. Then, you took on board the design feedback I gave you and kept making the work better. Finally, your CC license is well applied. In future you will need to try and attribute (give credit to) any items you use in your work, and made doubly sure that all materials you have used are under CC licenses. Overall, excellent work, well done!

Mason . Shared on 22/06/2015

Student Work

Student Comment

This unit is basically about making a cool and awesome wallpaper using a photoshopping application called Acorn, my custom wallpaper appears to be a blured theme with a rhino sihoulettte, at the end I made a drop shadow effect on the sihoulette which improved the wallpaper overall as it makes the wallpaper stand out more.

Teacher Comment

Mason, it took a few submissions, but your design is now looking polished and ready for use as a wallpaper. I love the colours you have chosen, as they contrast really well, and the drop shadow shows up really well against the bright background. Well done taking the time to make this better.

Gianna . Shared on 22/06/2015

Student Work

Student Comment

I learned how to create an epic wallpaper with Acorn

Teacher Comment

Gianna, as you already know I am a huge fan of the wallpaper you have created. It is indeed Epic! I love the way you took the instructions provided, learned the skills they showed, and then made the work your own, adding many layers of complexity. Your licensing work is thorough, and as such, this is a great example of remix: taking existing things, making something new, and crediting those whose work you used. In future, for the comment when you submit your work, please tell me a little more about your experiences during the unit. Excellent, excellent work!

Joaquin . Shared on 02/03/2015

Student Work

Student Comment

Doing this project, I realized how limitless technology is. And how it is so easy to access. Me, an almost complete beginner at Acorn, has produced something that even I would use. Sure I used some tips and followed specific steps, but I'm still proud of it. :D

Teacher Comment

Joaquin, well done on an awesome wallpaper, which shows not only a good eye for design, but also reflects your deep understanding of the nature of technology. Any tool can be used to good, bad or indifferent ends...it all depends on the human using it! Your comment adds to the evidence of this understanding. Your CC license is well applied...the only thing missing is your attribution: it is a requirement of CC, and also very polite, to give credit for the things you have used. Overall, well done on a great unit.

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