Vector image of colorful squares forming ornaments on wallpaper.

Choosing wallpapers and backgrounds with low vision

Favorite tips for choosing device wallpaper and backgrounds that provide good contrast for users with low vision.

One day while I was interning at a major technology company, I turned on my computer to discover that about half of my program icons had disappeared on my home screen, but were still visible in high contrast mode. I asked another employee to take a look at the screen, and quickly realized that the programs themselves hadn’t disappeared, but the colors of the icons had changed overnight and blended into my computer’s wallpaper- there were blue icons against a blue background, which provided poor contrast. Since that incident, I’ve learned a lot about choosing wallpapers and backgrounds with low vision, and today will be sharing some of my favorite tips for choosing wallpapers and backgrounds for phones, tablets, and computers.

Solid black background/default high contrast mode

High contrast mode is a display feature in Windows 10 and Windows 11 that removes non-essential display graphics and formatting, allowing users to select color schemes for their device’s display, text, links, and similar items. By default, high contrast mode has no wallpaper/background image on the home screen and uses a solid black screen, while preserving the colors/appearance of icons.

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Solid color background

Solid color backgrounds are simple and can be a great option for users with low vision that prefer a more minimalist design. I recommend choosing a color that is different from the mouse pointer/cursor and common desktop icons so that these items are easy to locate on the screen. Since my mouse pointer is turquoise, I would avoid shades of teal, green, and aqua so that my mouse pointer wouldn’t blend in.

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Visual organizer background

A visual organizer background/wallpaper is divided into sections, so users can drag icons to different areas of the screen for easier access. Some visual organizers have labels or other visual elements such as a calendar, while others are colored shapes or lines on a simple background. Users can search for a visual organizer wallpaper online or make their own in an app like Microsoft PowerPoint, PicsArt, or another art app.

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High resolution image/high resolution art with distinct colors

When choosing an image or digital art online, I recommend choosing the highest resolution possible or a resolution that closely matches the device display for best results. One way to make this easier when searching for online image is to long press or right-click on the image in the web browser and select “search for this image” to view the image in multiple resolutions. Again, it’s important to make sure the colors of the image are not similar to the colors of desktop icons or the mouse pointer/cursor.

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Wallpaper of the day from Microsoft

Bing Wallpapers/Wallpaper of the Day from Microsoft is a free app that allows users to view high resolution photos from Bing and set them as their device wallpaper, or have a new wallpaper automatically chosen every day. Images include animals, nature, architecture, cultural images, historical images, and many more. Bing Wallpapers is available for Windows, MacOS, and Android, and is also built into the Microsoft Launcher for Android. I have this feature enabled on Microsoft Launcher and love seeing new photos daily- especially when the photo of the day is a fun animal!

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Choose art from a visually impaired artist

While art is typically considered a highly visual medium, there are many artists with low vision, visual impairments, and no usable vision who create unique and interesting works of art, as well as classic artists that lived with vision loss. Everyday Sight has a great list of blind/visually impaired painters, many of whom are still creating art today, and I’ve included my list of classic artists who were influenced by their visual impairments as well.

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Commissioning an artist for custom wallpapers

There are several independent artists on Twitter, Tumblr, Fiverr, Etsy, and similar social media websites that offer inexpensive commissions for designing custom wallpapers and backgrounds for phones, tablets, and computers, including several disabled artists. Most commissions I’ve seen for wallpapers have been around $5-$10 for simple designs or color schemes, though prices vary depending on the artist. I recommend checking out hashtags like #DisabledArtist or browsing through commission tags on social media for more information.

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Other tips for choosing wallpapers and backgrounds with low vision

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes,

Updated November 2023; original post published June 2019.

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