I quite enjoy the default abstract wallpaper of macOS Big Sur. It has a nice combination of bright colours with shapes that give it some structure. It also has a couple of details I unfortunately can’t unsee.

Image of wallpaper scaling artifacts Unidentified Pixelated Objects, or UPOs.

The oddities look a bit like scaling artifacts resulting from fitting the larger image to the screen size. For whatever reason, this is the only wallpaper I’ve ever noticed this happening on. Perhaps the sharp edges separating the colours are making the issue more prominent. The original HEIF image can be found from within the system and looks to be just fine. The results may vary across different screen resolutions and macOS versions.

I’ve also come to find some of the shapes in the wallpaper slightly too wavy for my liking. The obvious solution for both of these problems was to recreate the image from scratch1.

The process in Pixelmator Pro was fairly straightforward, as the image is mostly comprised of shapes and colour gradients with some strokes, inner shadows and strategically placed focus blurs thrown in. The main obstacle was the years I’ve put into Photoshop back in the day. Seems I’ll never really feel at home with any other image editor.

In comparison to the original I admit I took a couple of shortcuts and visually adept individuals will be able to spot these areas. Additionally the original image is in a square format, with not much happening outside the 16:9 center area, so I opted to omit the areas I never see anyway.

Resized version of the recreated wallpaper Meet the new wallpaper, same as the old wallpaper. Sans UPO sightings.

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