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What Are 3D Desktop Backgrounds?

By Alex Newth
Updated May 16, 2024
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Three-dimensional (3D) desktop backgrounds are images — made with 3D rendering software or a two-dimensional (2D) graphic design program — that are made to look like they have depth. These 3D desktop backgrounds typically do not create an optical illusion for the viewer the way other 3D media does; rather, they usually are just images that contain an X-, Y- and Z-axis. Depending on the artist, these 3D desktop backgrounds may be realistic or abstract, based on artistic direction and skill. They are just image files, so these backgrounds should work on most operating systems (OSs).

The majority of 3D desktop backgrounds are rendered through 3D image software. To make these images, the artist usually creates a grid and renders the graphics through a series of colors, pre-existing images and layers. These backgrounds also can be made with 2D graphic design software, but this is usually more complex and, thus, rare. Whereas 3D image software is equipped to automatically create 3D images, the artist using 2D image software has to create the illusion of 3D depth through use of shading and other methods.

When people refer to something as being 3D, it usually is a visual illusion made to look like the image is popping out at the viewer; this illusion commonly uses two images and makes the viewer feel like he or she is standing in the image’s surroundings. While some 3D desktop backgrounds may be like this, most are just made with three axes. This gives the image depth, but it usually will not look like the image is coming out to the viewer.

There are many different 3D desktop backgrounds made by artists of various skill levels. Abstract 3D backgrounds typically portray images that are unlikely or unable to occur in reality and rely on various shapes and colors to build the imagery. Realistic 3D backgrounds can be made to look like photos or actual events, and the artist shades the 3D models to make them look like they are real.

While there may be some exceptions, most 3D desktop backgrounds are just regular image files. This means most OSs should have no problem using 3D backgrounds. If an OS does not have a graphical user interface (GUI) or does not have enough memory to support these backgrounds — they typically need more memory than 2D backgrounds — then the computer may be unable to install the backgrounds.

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