Running multiple monitors has become something of a necessity for serious PC users. You don’t have to take it to the sort of extremes we do in this month’s display challenge, but anything less than two monitors is risking serious damage to your nerd cred.
Unfortunately, running multiple monitors can make it difficult to keep your desktops looking nice with custom wallpapers. If you’re running displays of two different resolutions (a laptop display and a 24-inch monitor, for instance), you’re likely to end up with a wallpaper that looks good on one, but ugly on the other (below).
So how can you solve this problem and get good-looking backgrounds for each of your displays? The functionality is built into several free and commercial multimonitor management programs, such as DisplayFusion, but that involves installing one more bit of software on your computer. It’s not hard to do it manually, with an image editor. We’ll show you how.
1. Take Some Measurements
To begin, remind yourself what resolution both of your monitors are running at by right-clicking the desktop, and selecting Screen Resolution from the context menu (below). Write down the resolution of each of your monitors, and note their relative position (vertical and horizontal). While you’re at it, calculate the combined horizontal resolution of all displays. You’ll need that later.
2. Find Your Wallpapers
Now, for the fun part. Hunt down wallpapers in the proper resolution for each desktop. If you’re having a hard time finding images in the proper resolution, check out Desktop Nexus or InterfaceLift, or go to Google Image Search and use the Advanced Options to specify the resolution you’re looking for. If you have a single, large image you’d like to use on both desktops, open it up in an image editor, and crop out sections that are exactly the right size for your monitors.
3. Stitch Them Together
Now, for the trickiest part: stitching together the two images. Windows will only accept a single image to use for its wallpaper. It will, however, paste that single image all the way across multiple monitors, if the size is big enough. The trick is to create a large image that fits across your display collection like a glove.
Here’s what to do: Open the wallpaper that will go on your primary monitor in Photoshop or any other competent image editor. When applying a wallpaper, Windows will always treat the main monitor as if it were on the far left, no matter how your monitors are arranged in the screen resolution options menu. Therefore, we want to extend the canvas (in other words, increase the image size by adding blank space) to the right, so that the total canvas size is equal to the combined horizontal resolution of all displays, and the vertical resolution of the tallest monitor (above).
Though Windows disregards the horizontal layout of your monitors, it does pay attention to the vertical layout. So if your two monitors are aligned along the bottom, you’ll want to stitch together the two wallpapers with the bottoms aligned. If the displays are aligned at the top, the wallpapers will need to be aligned at the top.
So drag the second wallpaper into your image editor, align it with the first appropriately (above), and save the product. Right-click the desktop again, select Personalize, and set the desktop background to the stitched-together image you just created. Make sure to set the position setting to Tile, and you’ll be good to go.