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

© Copyright Alert!

  • For this unit, you'll be downloading images from the internet and editing them to make your own wallpaper.
  • But, did you know that nearly all the images on the internet are copyright?!
  • This means that, by default, you do not have permission to use these images in your own work :(
  • Just because you can download an image from the internet doesn't mean you have permission to use it.

Creative Commons to the rescue

  • Luckily, there's a license called Creative Commons, which means some very kind people on the internet have provided their images free to use.
  • For this unit, you'll be searching for and using Creative Commons images in your wallpaper.
  • 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?
    • One option is to use Google image search and use the Tools menu:

    • Another option is to go to Pixabay, where all the images are free and Creative Commons:

  • Once you have found the texture you want, save the largest version of it you can.
Note: Bookmark the URLs where you find each of your images. You'll need to refer back to them later when adding Creative Commons attribution to your wallpaper.
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
  • Creative Commons is the opposite of copyright: it's a special license that tells other people that they can use a piece of media without needing to ask for permission.
  • Creative Commons licenses may limit how people can use the work, such as NC meaning Non-Commercial, or SA meaning Share Alike using the same license.
  • In this unit, you made sure to use only Creative Commons images so that you know you have permission to use and edit them.

  • As you are almost finished with your wallpaper, now is a good time to apply your Creative Commons License.
  • Visit the Creative Commons License Chooser and answer the questions about how you would like other people to be able to use your work.

  • Once you have a license, copy the license text and this to the bottom of your wallpaper.
  • You could also add the matching license image from the CC Licenses page.
  • See the Moose Wallpaper for an example of how this looks:

  • We remix media when we take work that other people create and combine it to make something of our own.
  • When remixing, it's important to give credit to the people who created the original images. These credits, added as text to the bottom of your image, are called Attribution.
  • Visit the Creative Commons Use & Remix page to learn about what attribution text looks like.
  • Using similar text and formatting as your own CC license, add the attribution text for each of the images you used in your wallpaper.
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:

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Unit Students

Shared on 22/06/2015

Shared on 22/06/2015

Shared on 22/06/2015

Image Courtesy of Joaquin Dela Cruz, Shared under CC BY
Shared on 02/03/2015
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