The Best 4K Wallpapers [December 2019]
Customization is key when it comes making your Windows or Mac computer feel like your own device, and that includes making sure that your wallpaper looks great and matches your personal style. If you recently upgraded your computer monitor or laptop in order to include a 4K display, you aren’t alone. Adoption of 4K technology has skyrocketed over the past few years, with users looking to get the most out of their personal computers as possible. Whether you’re looking to play games in their natural 4K state, watch UHD films streaming over Netflix or iTunes, or just want the added clarity that comes with upgrading your display for clearer text and photos, it makes sense that you’ll be looking for some 4K wallpapers to go with your brand new monitor or laptop.
Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to find some great 4K wallpapers for your favorite devices. With the rise in popularity of 4K and 5K displays, there’s more demand than ever before for photos and wallpapers of that quality, making it a cinch to find some great photos and designs that match your personal style. Looking for something that has your favorite video game characters displayed for the world to see? How about scenes from your favorite film, or photographs of the earth taken from high above the clouds? There are so many different options for customizing and making your computer look like your own that it can be difficult to decide what sort of style wallpaper you want to show to your friends and colleagues.
Luckily, we’ve gathered a guide to the best 4K wallpapers on the planet, covering both how to find some great selections and displaying some of our personal favorite wallpapers ranked by category. In this hands-on with 4K wallpapers, we’ll tell you which resolutions to look out for, how to understand the proper aspect ratio for your device, and so much more. Let’s jump right into our coverage of our favorite 4K wallpapers for your devices.
4K Resolution Explained
If you’re the owner of a new monitor or laptop complete with a 4K resolution, you might be a bit confused when your classic library of wallpapers end up looking poor on your display. Thanks to the improvements that come with using a higher-resolution display, nearly everything on your new screen will look sharper and more vivid. Videos can be played back at a higher quality, text can be seen without jagged edges, and you can use more of your screen real estate without having to compromise on the ability to see what’s on your display clearly. Unfortunately, the majority of your photos and wallpapers are probably designed to be used with 1080p Full HD panels, and thanks to the resolution bump in your new device, you’re going to need to upgrade your current collection to sharper wallpapers to get the most out of your new computer or monitor.
Unlike with 1080p, the name 4K—also called UHD, or Ultra HD, by some manufacturers—doesn’t outright tell you the resolution of the panel. Sure, 4K is technically referring to the amount of pixels on your display, with the horizontal pixels on your screen reaching 4,000 total pixels wide, but to find the perfect 4K resolution wallpaper, you’ll need to find something that fits your panel perfectly.
To do this, we need to understand the proper resolution of your monitor. Most 4K monitors are created in a standard widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, which measures the ratio between the width and height of your monitor. For most users, 16:9 is the ideal aspect ratio in a screen, as it measures perfectly across what the majority of entertainment—including most television shows and YouTube videos—are filmed in. Some films are also shot in 16:9, though film as a medium has been seen across nearly every aspect ratio you can imagine.
If your monitor is at a 16:9 ratio, your resolution weighs in at 3840×2160 pixels, which, as we said above, gives you about 4,000 pixels wide on your display. Most monitors and laptops you find on the market will sell themselves as having a 4K resolution matching that above; however, there are other monitors that sell at distinct resolutions and aspect ratios that may market themselves as having a 4K resolution without actually meeting the requirements for a 4K resolution, or by having different resolutions than the standard 3840×2160 (also known as 2160p). For example, some consumers prefer using a 16:10 monitor, as it gives extra height perfect for programs like Premiere Pro or Photoshop. Unfortunately, most manufacturers have moved away from 16:10 aspect ratios in favor of wider 16:9 monitors, which means consumers in the market for a 16:10 monitor will have to live with a max-resolution of about 1600p.
Other laptops have resolutions similar to 4K, that don’t measure directly to 4K. For example, Apple’s 15″ MacBook Pro uses a “Retina Display,” which runs at a resolution of 2880×1800 natively, but scales down to 1080p. Still, you can set your resolution to run at 1800p and typically use 4K-resolution wallpapers to make sure that everything looks good on your display. Some laptops, like the Microsoft Surface Laptop, feature unique aspect ratios that don’t typically work on any other devices. The Surface Laptop has an aspect ratio of 3:2, with a resolution of 2256×1504. This resolution sounds smaller than the resolution on the MacBook Pro, but realistically, is actually about the same sharpness and clarity you’d expect from Apple, and will still be able to use 4K wallpapers just fine, albeit with the addition of a more squared-off appearance.
Basically, the most important thing to look for in your new wallpaper is that you want a resolution that will be equal to or higher than the resolution of your display. If you’re concerned about the resolution of your monitor, you can find out what the exact monitor resolution is by using an online tool like What Is My Screen Resolution. However, do note that any display scaling on your device (a standard on Windows devices, for example) seems to throw off the website, displaying the scaled resolution instead of the proper screen resolution. If you use a low-resolution image, or an image that happens to have a lower resolution than your device, you’ll notice a drop in quality in the image once it’s placed on your wallpaper.
This might not sound like a big deal, but if you’ve ever seen a picture blown up to 200 or 300 percent of its original size, you know the artifacts and loss in quality created by stretching an image can distort the photo and make your wallpaper seem like a mess. On the other hand, if the resolution is larger than your display, you’ll be fine to use the image without any drop in quality. Effectively, all this means is pay attention to your resolution. If it’s a number smaller than your resolution (like, for example, 1920×1080), skip the wallpaper. If it’s equal or larger, you’re good to go.
Best 4K Sources
If you’re going to browse for 4K wallpapers, you need to know where to go. Low-quality wallpapers are typically found on sites that don’t put an emphasis on the quality of their content, which means you’ll want to steer clear of those sites and focus on the ones that are known to provide excellent content for you to spruce up your devices with. There’s no shortage of wallpaper sites online, but some of them haven’t been updated in well over a decade, leaving users out in the cold when it comes to fresh, 4K-resolution wallpapers in 2019.
- Wallhaven: This site isn’t quite as detailed as what we’ve seen from The Paper Wall, but it is a solid offering for anyone looking for new wallpapers. There’s a random button that makes it easy to automatically search through random wallpapers, and the search function works well too, though finding the resolution of the image does require clicking through to the selected image.
- Desktoppr: Desktoppr has some incredible wallpapers, mostly due to the curation the Desktoppr team focuses on to ensure they only offer the best of the best. Unlike most sites, Desktoppr requires you to have an account to even browse the site, and you’ll need to use Dropbox to download your wallpapers into your Dropbox account.
- Social Wallpapering: This site’s design is a bit more basic than some users will enjoy, but it’s a solid offering, not just because of its built-in search functionality, but because almost anyone can upload wallpapers to the site, leading to a diverse selection of wallpapers on the platform.
- Desktop Nexus: An older site, but a good one nonetheless. Desktop Nexus has nearly 1.5 million wallpapers on its site, and with an entire video games section, their Minecraft wallpapers are truly out of this world. Definitely check this one out.
Best 4K Wallpapers
For the purposes of this article, we’ll mostly be focusing on true, 4K-sized wallpapers that measure in at a perfect 3840×2160, at a 16:9 resolution. Each wallpaper has the original source information placed below the image, along with a link to the full resolution image. Simply head over to the source link to download the original file in its full resolution. We’ve tried to provide as far of a range as possible, divided by category, so take a look and let us know what your favorites are in the comments below!
Starting off with our Nature category, these shots are perfect for decorating your laptop or desktop with a calming, peaceful photograph displaying the beauty of the world. Nature and landscape photographs are some of the most popular selections for choosing wallpapers for your computer, partially because these wallpapers look incredible in 4K and partially because they’re universally accepted as safe wallpapers no matter where you go. So highlight some of the most incredible photographs of the Earth with these nature shots linked below.
There’s something particularly majestic about the desert mountainscape that makes this photo one of our top picks. The browns, grays, and blacks of the bottom two-thirds of the image blend well with the foggy blues and grays up top, making for a particularly beautiful, yet simple image altogether. Source*
This one might be a busy for some, but there’s something about this image that’s incredibly beautiful. The broken-down cabin. The mountains in the background. And of course, the distorted reflection in the water. Source*
Photo collections of waves are a dime a dozen, but this particular photograph uses the sunset oranges, yellows, and blacks to its advantage. This is perhaps one of the most breathtaking shots we’ve seen when putting together this list, and it’s easy to see why. Source
Symmetry is severely underrated when it comes to putting together a great wallpaper, and what you’ll see here is an excellent example. Your eyes are drawn to the center of the screen thanks to the slope of the trees, and the matching reflecting is lined up in the middle of the shot nearly perfectly. Source
Reds and blacks might seem a bit too Hot Topic for some of our users, but throw in shades of blue with the black and red and you’ve created a gorgeous photograph to match. This photo happens to remind us of Stranger Things, and it isn’t the only photo on the list to do so. Source
Purple hues bring out the best in a wallpaper, and that’s a proved fact with this photo of a full moon. With a perfect cloud that shows off the purple reflection from the sky, balanced by the yellow light cast from the moon providing a perfect backlight for the clouds, the sense of depth here is incredible. Source
What is there to be said about this photograph? It’s gorgeous, displaying a sense of chilled air while providing the warmth that comes with sitting and watching the sunset. Source
One of Apple’s most recognizable wallpapers is now available in full 4K, perfect for recreating the MacOS experience or for using on your new Apple 5K monitor. This wave might not live up to the photograph posted earlier in the list, but it’s a classic for a reason. Source
Cities and Architecture
If nature really isn’t your cup of tea, photographs of city skylines and focusing on architecture may provide a similar sense of relaxation without necessarily making it difficult to take out in public. If you aren’t really a nature person and find yourself drawn to the hustle and bustle of modern-day urban living, you’ll love some of the wallpapers provided below.
The spiral has been an important factor in art and architecture for thousands of years, touching everything from paintings to stills and even film. This spiral staircase photograph uses light and shadow to create a one of a kind photograph. Source
Shanghai happens to be a modern-day example of gorgeous architecture at work, and this photo uses blacks, purples, and reds to show off that wonder beautifully. Source
Of course, Shanghai can’t compare to Paris, the city of lights. Though perhaps less focused on the skyscrapers that surround the business section of Paris, this photo uses light and size to show off one of the most famous architectural landmarks in the world. If you haven’t been to the city, this photo will have you saving pennies to buy a flight. Source
Perhaps you wish to focus more on the individual architecture of a city than the actual cityscape itself. If so, look no further than this gorgeous blue-and-red photograph of a city built to last. Source
We could probably place this photo of this skyline under a separate “spooky” category, as the clouds, fog, and the yellow haze make this one of the creepier photos we’ve posted to date. Source
Movies and Television
Wallpapers for movies and television shows don’t always age well, but there are some great wallpapers that make for excellent displays of your favorite films or episodic adventures. The majority of 4K wallpapers happen to be for recent or upcoming films, not so much old classics, though we’ve got a good mix below. These are especially great if you’re a comic book or science-fiction fan, so if you’re hoping to show off
It’s not the newest film featuring everyone’s favorite webslinger, but Spider-Man: Homecoming is one of our favorites in the MCU. After the poorly received Amazing Spider-Man 2, Marvel and Sony came together to work Spider-Man back into the same world as Tony Stark, and in the process, made a great high school comedy while avoiding the tropes of the origin story. This wallpaper exists to remind you that Spider-Man is back where he belongs: protecting NYC right alongside Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers. Source
But okay, perhaps you aren’t much of a Marvel fanatic, instead leaning towards the dark, twisted world of the DC Extended Universe. Though critics have been divided on DC films overall, fans have been begging Warner Brothers to release the Snyder Cut of Justice League. If you’re a true believer in director Zack Snyder’s vision, you’ll need this wallpaper. Source
It’s a shame that Blade Runner 2049 failed to impress at the box-office, because everything about that film was impressive. The storyline, the visuals, and the acting were firing on all cylinders, and that makes for some gorgeous 4K backdrops. This shot of Ryan Gosling’s Officer K happens to be concept art, but that doesn’t stop it from being a great wallpaper. Source
Both Guardians of the Galaxy and it’s sequel had some incredible posters, but nothing beats the purple and pink silhouetted poster that was created as a limited run for the first film. The ship in the backgroud, the weapons shown for each character, and that iconic tape-based logo make this a one-of-a-kind wallpaper. Source
Of course, Guardians isn’t the best space opera film series to date. That would be Star Wars, by most consideration, and Empire is absolutely the best of the seven films to date. This gorgeous illustration reminds users of the Battle of Hoth. It’s a fun look at an iconic scene in movie history. Source
Be honest: how many times did you rent Ghostbusters from the rental store as a kid? If you were lucky enough to own a personal copy, you’d probably find it would end up looking a bit like this, complete with worn folds and cracks placed in your VHS box cover. Source
Inside Out is considered one of the best animated films of the 2010s, a glorious exploration through the mind of a teenage girl, and perhaps Pixar’s best film since Toy Story 3. If you’re a fan of Pete Docter’s film, you’ll want to grab this beautiful 4K wallpaper for your PC. Source
We mentioned above that DC’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was seen by many as a disappointment, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t seen some incredible art come out of the film in the process. This artwork, designed to appear as promoting a fight between the two heroes to be televised worldwide, is some of our favorite to come out of the film yet. Source
John Wick was a surprise success when it was released in 2014, and 2017’s John Wick: Chapter 2 expanding on the world’s mythology while bringing the action and promising that Wick would be around our cinema’s for years to come. Source
Adult Swim is one of our favorite networks on the air, with shows like Rick and Morty displaying the true genius of creative freedom. If you’re a fan of the network, why not use their infamous logo as a backdrop? Source
Stranger Things 3 just premiered on Netflix this past summer, which makes it the perfect time to display this gorgeous piece of artwork on your computer. While the action, horror, and suspense of the show are top-notch, it’s the characters that keep us coming back. Source
After more than a year off the air, Westworld returns next year to HBO with its third season. No spoilers, but we’re excited to see where the show goes from here. This wallpaper, with its blurred, desert background and clean, modern iconography, is perhaps a perfect representation of the show. Source
Game of Thrones wrapped up its run in 2019, but if you miss the show and one of its central heroes in Jon Snow, you have to set this wallpaper as your desktop background. Source
We can’t wait for Doctor Who to return, and if you’re a fan, you’ll need this gorgeous print. Source
Are you a Breaking Bad fan? Have you checked out the show’s spin-off, Better Call Saul? If not, you’ve made a grave mistake. No half-measures: go binge Saul on Netflix, then set this image from the show as your wallpaper. Source
One more Doctor Who background to finish up our television section. This wallpaper shows the constant battle between the Doctor and his greatest foes, the Daleks, responsible for wiping out every Time Lord in mass extinction. Source
What is there to be said about space and space art? These photos can be a bit over-designed, but when done properly, they can truly show the wonder of the worlds above and below us.
Some might find this wallpaper to be a bit too simple, but the reds, yellows, and blacks on display here make this ideal for anyone looking for a simplistic wallpaper to display in all its 4K glory. Source
This is probably our second favorite space wallpaper on the list, simultaneously subtle and beautiful all at once. With a bright red light hiding behind the dark shadows of its web, along with three distinct stars shining in the background, this is a perfect wallpaper for those not looking for anything too flashy. Source
…and this is our top favorite space wallpaper. Something about this photograph just displays the world in a light we love. The blacks in the upper-right corner, the yellows and browns displayed through the line, and the wondrous light pouring out from all of it. Source
Is it just us, or does this wallpaper remind you of Stranger Things? Source
The fog, the blackness, and the source of light reflecting off the planet. There’s so much to love about this photo, it’s no wonder it cracked our list. Source
This is more art than space, but something about the red and the blue, with the flash of light erupting from the center of the frame, makes this one of our top picks for space-themed backdrops. Source
You’d be hard-pressed to find good quality holiday and seasonal wallpapers available online in 4K, but we’ve done our best with our limited options. Though we only have four winter and holiday-themed wallpapers listed below, we think you’ll find them to be some of your favorite listings. Check them out.
Who doesn’t love a classic snowman photo? Probably people who don’t like snow, but you can’t trust them as far as you can throw them. Get into the winter spirit with this gorgeous 4K snowman.
Perhaps the only wallpaper of the four to be inherently Christmas-themed, this wallpaper displaying a decked-out Christmas tree will bring the holiday season out in anyone that celebrates the holiday.
The first of two bokeh-inspired pics, this photo happens to hint at the Christmas tree behind the focus, while simultaneously letting the light do its work. Source
The second bokeh photo, this one is a bit less upfront about its Christmas themes, instead using the greens and yellows of the season do its work for you. Perfect for any holiday denomination. Source
It’s unsurprising that a lot of early 4K display adopters would create some geeky, tech and computer-themed wallpapers to go along with their new monitors, but what else do you expect? Whether you’re looking to display your nerdiness for the world to see, or just want something that looks simple and shows off your tech alliances all at once, we have something for you below. Take a look.
A lot of people don’t know this, but while the classic pointer and pinky-hand gesture is used for devil horns by fans of metal and grunge, adding a thumb to that hand gesture means “I love you” in sign language. Display your love for the world with this mouse-themed wallpaper. Source
Our first of two code-themed wallpapers displays an invalid parameter for death based on your age. Show off your immortality with this navy-themed 4K display. Source
Even better than the false-death wallpaper above, we have the classic display for showing off a reminder to stop procrastinating and get back to work. Source
Aligned with Team Microsoft? Show off your team spirit with this wallpaper, displaying the modern windows logo and a look that matches nearly every Surface product on the market today. Source
Okay, you’re more of a MacOS person. No problem. MacOS, once known as Mac OS X, is a great operating system for creative minds and business users alike. Show off your alliance with Apple with this gorgeous 4K wallpaper. Source
We wouldn’t dare leave out the Linux users in our tech section, and while there are plenty of distros available to use, Ubuntu happens to be one of our favorites. Source
Our final category is one that’s near and dear to the heart of 4K: video games. As 4K gaming becomes more and more of a reality within PC gaming and even consoles with the release of the Xbox One X, it’s time to up the ante with some gaming-themed wallpapers for your computer or television.
Cuphead was the breakout hit of 2017, with its gorgeous animation and visuals hiding a great Contra-like boss rush underneath. Celebrate the release of this indie darling with this photo showing the titular character in action. Source
Who doesn’t love Super Mario Bros.? While the game was originally released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, it’s been ported to dozens of consoles and platforms ever since. Mario has come a long way since his inception on home consoles, with Super Mario Odyssey having released in October and quickly becoming one of the frontrunners for Game of the Year. Flashback to the 8-bit era with this 4K remastered menu. Source
One of our two Doom-themed wallpapers, this 4K image has it all: our hero, Doomguy, a faded backdrop into hell, and of course, his trusty shotgun. With Doom just days from being released on the Nintendo Switch—a first for a Nintendo console—celebrate 2016’s hit first-person shooter with this backdrop. Source
Our second Doom-paper, this backdrop features the name of the game, the title of one of the best tracks from the series “Rip and Tear,” and best of all, its ’90s-boxart-inspired artwork in the back. Perfect for displaying your gaming cred. Source
The phrase “PC Master Race” has become a bit of a joke as of late, with its overuse on the internet and the ravenous PC fanbase having demolished some of the reputation. Still, you can gloat about the power of your PC with this gorgeous Rise of the Tomb Raider-themed wallpaper. Source
To finish up this list, we have three distinct retro wallpapers available in 4K, all themed around the original Gameboy. First, we have the title screen for the game that started off a revolution: Pokemon Blue Version. In the game, you find yourself as Red, a brand-new Pokemon trainer who sets out to become the champion of the Kanto region. Along your way, you’ll face battles, make friends, and fight against the evil Team Rocket. Source
An incredibly underrated game, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening finally received some love this year with a full HD remake on the Nintendo Switch. It’s still a fan favorite, and you can celebrate the original game with this menu screen wallpaper. Source
And to close out both the gaming category and the 4K wallpaper list as a whole, we have the Gameboy logo, along with the dates of its inception and demise. Though the Gameboy was replaced by the Nintendo DS and 3DS—which is slowly being replaced by the Nintendo Switch—the Gameboy line, and particularly the Gameboy Advance, are considered some of the best handhelds of all time. Celebrate the lineup that started it all with this 4K wallpaper. Source
There you have it—just over fifty choices for our favorite 4K wallpapers, complete with seven different categories that makes it easy to choose your favorite from the list. Are you a gamer looking to show off your brand new 4K-capable laptop? A space-fanatic looking to show off the beauty of the final frontier? Or just looking for a gorgeous shot of nature to keep calm when looking at your computer’s desktop? Let us know in the comments below which wallpaper was your favorite of the list, and keep coming back for regular updates to this list of beautiful, high-res 4K artwork.