Vision affects your mood more than most of us realize. For example, have you heard the dieting tip that eating food on calmly colored blue plates can help you lose weight? Or that keeping your bedroom free of clutter and electronic devices will help improve your sleep? The same approach works for your computer screen. Whether you need to have your stress soothed or to get extra motivation to dive into a challenging project, switching to the best desktop backgrounds for productivity could be the secret to success.

Product FAQ

1. How Can Desktop Backgrounds Improve my Productivity?

2. My Computer Came With an Assortment of Desktop Backgrounds. Why Should I Download a New One?

3. Some Desktop Backgrounds are Free While Others are Available for Purchase. Is it Worth it to Pay for a New Desktop Background When so Many are Available for Free?

4. Can I Make My Own Desktop Background From a Photo I Took?

How We Reviewed


Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

The following desktop backgrounds were selected for review because they met the goals of reducing stress, generating inspiration, and increasing focus and productivity. Desktop wallpapers that stood out in terms of flashy artwork or aesthetics but failed to fit with our goal of increasing productivity were not reviewed.

Overall Price Range

In general, desktop backgrounds range in price from free to several dollars. However, we only reviewed free desktop backgrounds for this article, and we were pleased with the quality of the backgrounds we downloaded.  While some free backgrounds will match the quality of paid backgrounds, paid backgrounds can provide more consistent quality and offer features such as being able to install the background easily on multiple devices. Some free backgrounds also included obtrusive watermarks, which paid backgrounds lack. (The backgrounds we reviewed did not include watermarks.)

Some good sites for paid backgrounds include Etsy and Deviant Art

What We Reviewed

  • Solid colors
  • Mountain
  • Travel-inspired
  • Grand Canyon
  • Orange queue
  • Color quadrants
  • Lush landscape
  • Self-affirmation
  • Cute animals
  • Goal-oriented
apple computer

Image by ptra from Pixabay 

Solid colors

A solid color desktop can improve your mood and productivity by giving you a clear space on which to arrange your folders and icons. These desktops are very basic. You can even create your own desktop background using a simple program such as Microsoft Word! Color psychology charts  (See to get started) can provide tips for selecting the colors to use based on the mood you are trying to evoke. Some of the most well-known color and mood connections include blue for calming, green for inspiration and red for passion.

The Solid Color Backgrounds website is a good place to start:


It’s likely that your laptop or desktop came with at least one mountain image in its set of pre-loaded wallpapers. This is no accident. Mountains symbolize a challenge to be surmounted. Furthermore, because mountains are in nature, they can inspire you to look beyond your immediate physical space and take the big picture into consideration.

Wallpapers Wide offers a variety of mountain wallpapers:


Vacation-themed wallpaper provides the best desktop backgrounds for many of us, and one of the most popular image categories is beach scenes. Not only do these scenes remind us of calming visits to the ocean, but the blue of the sky paired with the blue of the sea offers a double shot of the soothing color. Moreover, if you’re motivated by a future vacation or a past trip, selecting a background of a city skyline or scenic location can help you keep your goals in sight.

HD Wallpapers offers many vacation-themed locations to choose from:

Grand Canyon

Desktop backgrounds featuring the Grand Canyon are quite popular…and for good reason. Not only does the canyon represent awe-inspiring nature and a vast challenge, but also many photographs of the Grand Canyon combine yellow, red, and orange in the picture for a triple blast of energy, enthusiasm, and focus. The colors of the canyon can provide a subtle jolt of inspiration for you as you work and increase your productivity.

Wallpaper Abyss provides a wide selection of Grand Canyon backgrounds:

Orange Queue

Using different shades of a single color, arranged in columns from lighter to darker, can provide a useful background. For example, they could label columns in increasingly darker shades of orange with different categories such as unsorted, current, archive, and permanent, to organize your files, folders, and apps. What's more, the orange color isn’t an accident. Orange is an energizing color that helps keep your mind alert after long hours spent working at the computer.

Color Quadrants

Like the Orange Queue, this background offers space for sorting your apps and files. The colors are subtler than the Orange Queue, however, and there are no section titles. You decide what goes in each quadrant. The Color Quadrant option is good if you want a background specifically designed to increase your productivity, but aren’t necessarily looking for major color impact.

Color Quadrants is available from Lifehacker:

Lush landscapes

Some of the best desktop backgrounds feature forests, jungles, or other landscapes. There are a number of reasons why a wallpaper that provides a window into the natural world can benefit your work. The green color of the leaves, grass, and plants in these landscapes promotes optimism and inspiration. A lush world of growing plants symbolize a fertile mind with a rich growth of ideas and energy. Finally, the deep emerald shades of most plants are a great choice for the best desktop backgrounds because this color is easy on the eyes, and it reduces the eyestrain brought on by many hours spent in front of the screen.

Check out Wallpapers Crafts’ assortment of forest backgrounds here:


Many of the best desktop backgrounds also feature self-affirmations that speak to our mental and emotional state. Images combined with color affect us, and language is equally as affecting. Mantras, poems, and prayers are more to us than just words. Therefore, a desktop wallpaper that highlights the words of an inspiring phrase, the favorite line of a poem, or a biblical verse can help you focus on what’s most important.  If you can’t find a ready-made affirmation page, you can always create one of your own by adding text to a solid color wallpaper or a favorite photo.

Personal Excellence offers several self-affirmation wallpapers to inspire you: /

Cute animals

You never outgrow having a favorite animal, and no matter which critter you like the best, as science has shown when that critter is young, it’s at its cutest.  The “rules of cuteness” include highlighting helplessness, representing inquisitiveness, and showing off eyes that are large in proportion to the head.  

It might sound silly, but looking at pictures of cute animals can have a positive effect on your outlook. Since children love cute animals, looking at pictures of your favorite baby animal can give you access to a child’s sense of openness and joy. This can help you be more productive. Therefore, the best desktop backgrounds might include pictures of cute baby animals to help you if you’re overstressed and unfocused at work. Taking a minute to visit the cutie on your desktop can give your brain an uplifting break, and when you return to work, you’ll likely be ready to tackle challenging tasks.

HD Wallpapers has a variety of cute baby animal backgrounds:


We all have goals we would like to achieve. The key to realizing our goals—as anyone who’s ever tried to stick with a New Year’s resolution past January knows—is to stay on track. Having little reminders, such as a Post-it notes on your bathroom mirror, can make a big difference in getting things done. A desktop background that reminds you of your goals can also serve the same purpose. You can create your own goal-oriented background by googling the goal together with the words “desktop wallpaper” or “desktop background.@

For an example of a goal-oriented desktop background, look at the goal of smoking cessation represented on backgrounds at the Wallpaper Cave. See:


The Verdict


Image by rawpixel from Pixabay 

The best desktop backgrounds for you are the ones that meet your unique needs. The first step in choosing the right background is to decide what you’d like the background to accomplish besides filling up your computer screen when you downsize your browser window.

Do you want a tool for organizing your overflowing desktop? In that case, go for something similar to Orange Queue or Color Quadrants. Do you need an extra boost to help you stay inspired? Then a background featuring self-affirmations or a goal-oriented message might do the trick. Looking for a playful break? Go for the cute animals.

In our review, the travel-inspired and lush landscape backgrounds came out as the top choices. The combination of an exotic or natural location plus the refreshing power of the blue and green colors, served as reminders of the natural world, outside of the office.

On a positive note, desktop backgrounds are not permanent! A new background can always be downloaded to suit your needs. The next time you want to change things up at work, try a new desktop wallpaper.

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