How to Create a Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

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Ever seen those flowy, innocuous desktop backgrounds that to show up on default computer screens? That’s the exact image I thought of when I messing around with Photoshop for this tutorial. Though they aren’t exact, these simple gradients and shapes come together to spur on a little nostalgia.

This project is pretty straightforward – but it introduced me to a couple techniques I had never come across before. Photoshop has opened up worlds of image-making technology. But when you boil it all down, the culmination of a photographer’s work is in shades of light dispersed within shapes.

I had a good time putting together this tutorial  – I even tried out a few on my own desktop. It’s a great way to get familiar with Photoshop operations. But it’s just as fun for a pro, with a bit of photographic downtime on their hands. So let’s dig in.

Getting Started

First, open a new document in Photoshop. Change the dimensions of the canvas to the average desktop background size – 1920 pixels by 1080 pixels, as shown below.How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

Add a Gradient

Select Layer via the Layers tab on the top toolbar and click on New Fill Layer and then Gradient.

How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

In the pop-up Gradient panel, click on the drop-down arrow and select Simple Gradients.

How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

Select a color from the swatches in the Simple tab.

How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

Choose a color that appeals to you most – whichever one you like best!

Click directly on the panel for the gradient color and a new panel will pop up. This will allow you to further customize your color scheme.  Click on the white node below the gradient bar. A color picker will pop up, allowing you to change the white parts of our original gradient to another shade.

At this stage, I would recommend a color similar in shade to your original color. I’m a big fan of pink, so I went with subtle, light shade of pink to complement my overall color scheme. But It’s totally up to you!

How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

Accept the color of the gradient. Select Radial as the style and the scale as 150.

How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

Clicking the Radial setting makes the lighter shade emanate from the center of your image.

Add Another Layer

Next, create a new layer via the layers tab at the top of the screen. Select New in the drop-down menu and select Layer… Click OK at the prompt.

How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

Add a Shape

Click on the Elliptical Marquee Tool. This may be obscured by the Rectangular Marquee Tool, so click and hold the mouse over the tool for a moment to reveal the other options.

How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

With the Elliptical Marquee Tool selected, draw a circle that intersects with the top corner of your image. To keep the elliptical tool even on all sides (in other words, a circle), hold down the Shift key as you drag part of the shape over the top corner.

How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

Open the paintbrush tool and select a nice, soft-edged brush. Set the brush size between 200 to 400 pixels and the hardness level to zero. Select a color in a slightly darker shade. I selected a peachy color.

With the Elliptical Tool still selected, brush around the very outer rim of the quarter-circle with the paintbrush, relying on the softness of the brush to dust the inner rim.

paintbrush - How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

Use a slightly different shade to emphasize the edge of the circle you created.

How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

Duplicate the shape layer as many times as you would like to create an interesting pattern.

Add Dimension

Next, we’ll add a new dimension to the image by using the Rectangular Marquee Tool rather than the Ellipse Tool.

How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

Create a New Layer and then select the Rectangular Marquee tool from the panel. Stretch the Rectangular Marquee Tool across your image so that about half of it is selected, as shown below.

How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

Rectangular selection.

With the same technique and color you used on the ellipse, brush along the perimeter of the shape, leaving only the slightest shadow.

How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

With the rectangle still selected, click on Edit > Transform > Warp.  Slowly drag the different points of the rectangular selection to adjust the whole shape of the layer. Try to make gradual edits at first, to keep the line free of sharp angles.

How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

Transform the rectangle.

How to Create Minimal Desktop Background Using Photoshop

How to Create Minimal Desktop Backgrounds Using Photoshop

The edge of the rectangle after transforming.

Blend Modes

Now to add a little more depth to the image, you can apply blending modes to bring out highlights in the background. Select a layer and click on Blending Modes usually located above the Layers panel. Select a setting from the list of Blending Modes available. I usually use the Color Burn option, but feel free to experiment!

How to Create Minimal Desktop Backgrounds Using Photoshop

Blend modes.

How to Create Minimal Desktop Backgrounds Using Photoshop

And there you have it! Not bad huh? Amazing what you can do with a few circles and shadows.

Liquify

If you like, try experimenting with the Liquefy tool. It’s found in the Filter tab on the top tools panel.

How to Create Minimal Desktop Backgrounds Using Photoshop

How to Create Minimal Desktop Backgrounds Using Photoshop

Before using the liquify tool on an image I constructed using the steps above.

How to Create Minimal Desktop Backgrounds Using Photoshop

After using the Liquefy tool. You can see that the shapes are now a little more organic.

Over to you!

Here are a few more of my creations. I’d love you see how your desktop background has turned out, please share in the comments below.

How to Create Minimal Desktop Backgrounds Using Photoshop

How to Create Minimal Desktop Backgrounds Using Photoshop

How to Create Minimal Desktop Backgrounds Using Photoshop

How to Create Minimal Desktop Backgrounds Using Photoshop

A minimalist approach created by twisting a rectangular edge with the Warp Tool.

Now it’s your turn! Show me how it went in the comments.

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Megan Kennedy

is a photographer and writer based in Canberra, Australia. A lifelong fascination with flight has inspired her photographic practice in documenting the intricate form of aircraft. Megan is also interested in travel photography and documenting human interaction with the modern landscape, through both intentional and incidental intervention. She is well versed in both digital and film practice. Both her writing and photography has been featured in numerous publications.

  • Awesome tutorial!
    I’m very confident in compositing in Photoshop, but this sort of design work is my weak point…?
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Megan Kennedy

    No worries Ryu! Yeah, building abstract work in Photoshop can be a whole new experience!

  • Hello , Thanks for This article . Best wishes for you . Advance Happy New Year 2018

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