How to Create an Abstract Wallpaper

Abstract GIF

Ready to get rid of that generic wallpaper on your computer? In this Affinity Photo tutorial, we’ll learn how to create customizable wallpaper that you can be proud of.



Step 0: Downloading the Image

For this tutorial, we’ll be using this beautiful portrait, but feel free to use any of your own images to create this wallpaper effect.



Step 1: Setting Everything Up

The first thing we need to do is create a new document.

If you’re going to use this design as a wallpaper for your iPad or other handheld devices, you can change the type to Devices.

Change Type to Devices


Then, change the Page Preset to your device.

Select your Page Preset


If you are using this design for your computer, a quick Google search for your screen dimensions will tell you what size you need.

Quick Google search dimensions


Since my screen is 2880 x 1800, I will change the Page Width and Page Height to match that. Now we can start our document, so press OK at the bottom of the Dialog Box.

Change Width, Height, OK


Step 2: Creating the Background

Now we’re going to make the background for our wallpaper.

To do this, select the Rectangle Tool, and then click and drag to make a rectangle going across the document.

Rectangle Tool, across document


To give our rectangle a more interesting color, let’s use the Gradient Tool to make a gradient. We’ll make the gradient go all the way across our rectangle. And if you hold down Shift, you can keep your gradient in a straight line across the document.

Gradient Tool, hold Shift


We’re going to use three colors in our gradient.

To add another color to the gradient, just press on the gradient line. I’ll add another color to the center.

Add color stop to center


Now we’re going to change the colors of each one of our color stops. Let’s start with the color stop on the right side.

Just press on the color stop to select it, and then in the Color Panel, change the color. I’m going to make mine a dark grey.

Right color stop, dark grey


Now let’s give the left side of our gradient the same color.

Left color stop, dark grey


Now let’s select the color in the middle of our gradient, and make it a slightly lighter shade of grey than the other colors.

Center color stop, medium grey


If you want to learn more about gradients, we cover them in greater depth in the Color chapter of our beginner’s guide to Affinity Photo.


Step 3: Adding Shapes

For the next part of the project, we will make some shapes that we can place our photo inside of.

I’m going to use triangles for this design, but you can use any shapes you want. To make triangles, I’m going to use the Polygon Tool. To get the Polygon Tool, press and hold on the Rectangle Tool, and then select Polygon.

Polygon Tool


As a side note, we’re using the Polygon Tool instead of the Triangle Tool, because the Polygon Tool can make equilateral triangles, while the Triangle Tool makes isosceles triangles. I like the way equilateral triangles look better, so I’m going to stick with the Polygon Tool.

Equilateral vs. Isosceles


Now we just need to click and drag to make a shape. And if you hold down Shift while dragging out the shape, you can keep its width and height equal.

Shift, click and drag


Then we just need to change the Sides to 3 in the Context Toolbar.

Number of sides, 3


If you want, you can change the color of your triangle in the Color Panel. It doesn’t really matter what color is it though, since it’s going to be covered up by our photo anyways. But personally, it helps me to see the triangle better if I change its color to something different than the background color.

Change color to anything


Then we can use the Move Tool to reposition our triangle to the center.

Adjust to center with Move Tool


To add more triangles, I’m going to duplicate the one we already have.

Have the triangle layer selected, and then press Command J (Mac) or Control J (PC) to duplicate the layer.

Command or Control J to duplicate


With our new triangle, I’m going to resize and position it with the Move Tool.

Move Tool, resize


I’ll also rotate it 180 degrees by clicking and dragging on the circle above the triangle. You can hold down Shift to keep your rotation in 15 degree increments, which makes it a lot easier to rotate it exactly 180 degrees.

Shift and rotate 180


I’m going to continue this process to make a few more triangles.

Repeat to create more triangles


Once you’re fully satisfied with how your shapes are looking, we’re going to group them in the Layers Panel. Hold down shift to select all of the triangle layers, and then press Command G (Mac) or Control G (PC) to group them.

Select all, group layers


Then we are going to rasterize this group. Be warned though, because this will take away your ability to edit the individual shapes, so really make sure you have them all in the right spot.

To rasterize the group, right click on the group layer, and then press Rasterize.

Right click, rasterize



Step 4: Add the Image

Now that we’ve rasterized our shape group, we can place an image inside of it.

To place a photo in the document, go to File, then Place. Then select your photo.

File, Place


Once you’ve selected the photo, just click and drag to place it.

Click and drag


Now we’re going to put the photo inside of our shapes, by making it a child layer. To do this, click and drag the photo’s layer down and to the right of the shapes layer.

Make photo a child layer


This makes our photo a child layer to the shapes layer, so the photo will only be visible where the shapes are. 

If you want to continue resizing or positioning the photo, you can select its layer, and then use the Move Tool.

Move photo


You can also select the entire group, which allows you to move and resize the shapes and photo at the same time.

Move whole group



Step 5: Adding Effects

Next, we’re going to add some layer effects to our shapes. Make sure you have the group selected, and then go to the Effects Panel.

Effects Panel


From here, we’ll turn on Outer Shadow, and increase the Radius slider and the Offset slider.

Outer Shadow, change Radius, Offset


Turn on 3D as well. You can adjust the Opacity and Radius to make this effect more or less extreme.

3d, change Opacity, Radius


At this point, you can export your work, and save it as a custom wallpaper.


Good work, and happy customizing, my friends!

Good Job GIF