Desktop Pictures

The recipe for my desktop pictures: Search for pictures on Google Images. Sort, download, repeat. Mix well in Photoshop, add filters, and voila! Click on the thumbnail to see the entire image (1280x1024).

August 2006, "come it must"

August '06I chose a phrase instead of just a word this month in my annual tribute to the hurricane season. An old saying about hurricanes goes, "June, too soon. July, stand by. August, come it must."

One photo of a man in a beach chair trying to keep the incoming tide from wetting his feet symbolized the phrase so well, I based my entire picture on that. I used the lasso tool to select various parts of the picture and colorized them. Then I hid the original photo and added a little texture to the background to give it a silkscreened feel.

July 2006, "summer"

July '06Desktop Pictures is back from hiatus! The images chosen for the word "summer" were inspired by a friend's description of a camping trip he had planned.

January 2006, "change"

January '06A new year is a time of change, and with a baby due, this month is bringing more than its share for me at work and at home. I liked the stock photo image of the men in dark suits with briefcases; I thought they looked like harbingers of change. Giving that picture an irregular, blurred edge and adjusting its hue to purple gave it just the look I wanted. The engraving is a "wheel of fortune," also a symbol of change. The image in the background is a picture of Saturn, blurred and distorted and layered. Over the top of the cards and the whole picture I put slides of cells from kidney research.

December 2005, "home"

December '05This Christmas I will be staying home (where I live) instead of going home (to my hometown), so I thought "home" was a good concept for this month's desktop. I actually had a particular look in mind before I searched, wanting to create something that looked like a collage cut out of magazines and photos.

I didn't find as many people photos as I wanted, but I think I got something close to what I was aiming for. The house in the background is Louisa May Alcott's childhood home, and the green background is an aerial photo of someplace in Northern California, which I thought was appropriate. The music that the notes are made out of is "There's No Place Like Home."

November 2005, "health"

November '05Having just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, I am concerned about my health this month. I'm also annoyed by the diet I have to follow, so I mostly chose food-related pictures. I am especially pleased by the photo of the goofy guy gamely eating a plate of unappetizing slop.

October 2005, "Jim DeMint"

October '05Last month's picture was scary enough, so I decided to make October's annual homage to a scary person more lighthearted. I chose Senator Jim DeMint and used the images I got to show him haunting a house. I inverted the colors in a picture of a red brick town house to make it look more sinister, and to give the green tree more appropriate fall foliage. The "book covers" on either side are made from an engraving of the apocalypse. Photoshop's emboss filter combined with some brushes made from parts of other pictures are intended to make them look like stamped leather.

September 2005, "wreckage"

September '05With all the storms coming at us this hurricane season, I thought "wreckage" was appropriate for September. Oddly enough, a lot of the pictures I got, including one I used, were from conspiracy sites about the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. I combined that with an image of an action figure named "Wreckage" and used the pen and ink filter to give the whole thing a comic-book-like vibe.

August 2005, "vacation"

August '05I chose "vacation" as the word for this month because I began and ended it with vacations: the first in McClellanville, the second in Salinas. I barely managed to get it finished before leaving for my own vacation, though.

The pattern in the background comes from a scrap of fabric. I thought it would look great to make the scrap into an all-over pattern, but I didn't anticipate how difficult it would be to make the edges match when I was missing so much of the repeating pattern. After extensive copy-and-pasting and liberal use of the stamp tool, I finally got the background done. I nearly stopped there, but couldn't bear to leave out this great picture of a mother and son on vacation, giving the final piece something of the look of an unfinished scrapbook page.

July 2005, "celebration"

July '05I thought "celebration" was a fitting word for July, and it gave me a ton of interesting images to work with. I ended up using an elaborate Indian display, twisted with noise added, for the background. The girl on the right is holding some kind of giant paper tree thing at a celebration in the Philippines, and the picture of the two goddess-like girls in the middle comes from a big deviantART convention earlier this year.

June 2005, "paperwork"

June '05I felt like I had a lot of bills to pay and forms to fill out this month. This actually ended up being one of the quickest and most satisfying desktop pictures I've made in a while. I just piled all the great paperwork images Google gave me (plus a wonderfully random Russian newspaper article) on top of each other and put three different shades of green with different layer blends over everything.

May 2005, "try"

May '05I've got a lot that I want to accomplish this month, so I searched on the word "try." The results were full of rugby photos, but I was more drawn to astronomical and nature images. I used those to construct this picture of a man climbing toward the moon. Something about the colors and textures reminds me of the cover art on old science fiction novels.

I put a plain white circle over the moon with the blend set to Overlay to make it more luminous. But what really brought the picture to life was layering a close-up of muddy algae over everything and setting the layer's blend mode to Color Dodge.

April 2005, "bloom"

April '05Perhaps because last month's cold snap never broke, I mostly selected pictures of blooming deserts to work with. The geraniums in the frying pan were an attempt to reinforce the message that you need heat to make flowers bloom.

I used some "Wicked Worn" techniques to give the paper scrap and postcard some dimension. I'm especially proud of the TV lines in the background. Those were created by using the Noise filter and Motion Blur with another step in between that I've forgotten and can't seem to replicate. More noise added to the final product makes it more TV-like.

March 2005, "lion lamb"

March '05March began unusually cold and windy, reminding me of the old saying that March "comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." My search for "lion lamb" returned piles of cheesy religious imagery, but I managed to find a few gems. The tableau in the foreground is actually a sand sculpture, and the house in the background is the Lion and Lamb Bed and Breakfast.

I made the swirling pattern over the top by using the noise filter, adding a motion blur, then using the twirl filter. Two swirly layers going opposite directions create the cloth-like effect. I used the soft focus technique (copy, blur, reduce opacity) to make the sand sculpture look more like snow.

February 2005, "Lent"

February '05Ash Wednesday falls on February 9 this year, so I decided to search on "Lent" since much of the month will be spent in that season. The monks pictured are at an Easter vigil, and the pattern over the top of the whole thing is actually cells on a slide, which I thought looked kind of like ashes. I gave the picture a purple cast, the color of Lent.

January 2005, "beginning"

January '05With the start of a new year I decided to search on "beginning." I ended up juxtaposing the start of a race with the early stages of a knitting project.

December 2004, "family"

December '04With December being the time so many people get together, I decided to search on "family." I got a lot of great images, both from the past and the present. Unfortunately, I couldn't really think of anything to do with them, so I created a sort of photo album.

November 2004, "denouement"

November '04The word for November is "denouement," which defines as "The outcome of a sequence of events; the end result." I think that's fitting for Election Day.

I used Photoshop's Stamp filter on the picture of Holmes & Watson in the foreground. Behind them are an old document and a scene from an historical reenactment, clues from a mystery to be solved. The texture on the picture comes from slides of tissue samples from a woman who is HIV-positive.

October 2004, "neocons"

October '04Instead of one scary person for October, I went with a whole group. I searched on "neocons" and actually ended up having very few images from which to choose. The scene was supposed to look like a tower in hell, but I'm not convinced I was successful in expressing that.
(This image uses a brush from vered.)

September 2004, "busy"

September '04The word for September was "busy." Clearly, it was appropriate since it took me two months to get around to posting it! I'm particularly proud of the bee brush I made with an illustration from an old pamphlet.

August 2004, "heat"

August '04Since this is usually the hottest month of the year, I searched on "heat." Ironically, we have had record low temperatures so far this month. Google gave me a lot of scientific diagrams and I chose one with concentric shapes in rainbow colors, plus the snake, a Chinese restaurant, and some burned plastic panels.

As you can tell, I went crazy with the Color Halftone filter to make the scientific diagrams more abstract. The Crosshatch filter gave the symbol lifted from the restaurant sign a waxy, almost 3-D appearance.

July 2004, "America"

July '04For July, I searched on "America." I skipped the obvious images of flags and maps, choosing instead pictures which embodied the word in a less obvious way. I ended up with cheerleaders, airplanes, music, and the North American Nebula, all of which I combined in to a spectacular, only-in-America stage show.

I particularly like the way the sheet music from "America the Beautiful" works as a Photoshop brush. I stamped it over the top of the picture then stamped it again as an eraser to make the notes look more ethereal.

June 2004, "hurricane season"

June '04Since this is the month it officially begins, I searched on "hurricane season." The resulting images were an interesting collection of satellite pictures, diagrams, and disaster images.

One satellite image had beautiful colors but was too small and grainy to use, so I ran it through the Mosaic filter to make the colored square patterns that cover everything.

May 2004, "fragrant"

May '04It's May and the roses, jasmine, and honeysuckle are blooming. I searched on the word "fragrant" to create an image that reflects both my environment and my new interest in perfumes. There were a lot of flowers in the results but I found the non-flower images most intriguing.

The woman is from a screenshot of a Bollywood film. Since she's looking in the mirror, I imagined that the jewelry and cookies might be lying on her dressing table. I used Photoshop's Reticulation filter on the water lily image in the back, then traced the shape of the flower and used that path as a mask on the other images.

April 2004, "Easter"

April '04For April, I searched on "Easter" and ended up creating another landscape montage. The standing stones are from Scotland, the texture in the grass comes from an Easter celebration in Antigua, and the people in the sky are at a worship service in Malawi.

March 2004, "travail"

March '04The word for this month is "travail." Because this English word also happens to be French for "work," I ended up with a lot of pictures of French-speaking people working. The image in the background is from Machu Picchu, and has been reflected four ways to make a hive-like flattened globe. Photoshop's Stained Glass filter made a similar pattern of cells on the clay pot in the foreground.

February 2004, "hope"

February '04Once again, the word is in the picture. After John Edwards won the South Carolina primary, I decided that "hope" was an appropriate word for this month. We'll see if that hope holds out.

I ended up using three of the found photos in this month's montage. The District of Hope is actually a real place in Canada, and that statue is in front of one of their municipal buildings. The mountains are located on the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, and the tiny people were on a beach somewhere until I cut them out and stuck them in the middle of the road. I expanded the sky above the mountains with a circular gradient to make room for the cloud statues. To make them look cloud-like, the statues were desaturated, a watercolor filter was applied, and the layer mode set to screen.

January 2004, "primary"

January '04Can you guess what the January word is? Yes, I chose "primary" because so much of my time this month will be taken up preparing for the South Carolina Democratic Primary which takes place on February 3. My favorite picture in the Google results was the one of the old man in the tobacco processing plant, which I used in the upper right of my montage. That doesn't look like tobacco, does it?

I used a lot of Photoshop 6's bells and whistles to make this tongue-in-cheek PowerPoint-esque diagram of how the primary process works (there are no labels on the diagram; use your imagination to fill in the blanks). Each picture has an outer glow and a stroke layer effect. The arrows were created with the built-in line tool and the small arrows have outer glow and bevel-and-emboss layer effects.

Desktop pictures archive: 2002-2003