If you own a Google Pixel phone, you’ve now got some fun features to play around with. The latest Pixel drop update added a couple of new options for creating wallpapers on your device, giving you added flexibility when it comes to picking a backdrop.
The first one is cinematic wallpapers, which allows you to add a dynamic, 3D-style effect to any image you use on your lock screen. The second one is the ability to create emoji wallpapers, where you can use any emoji as the basis of your smartphone’s creation and generate a customized backdrop. Both features will give your device a personal touch and are incredibly fun to play around with.
All of the existing wallpaper options on the Pixel remain in place, so you can still pick a regular picture for your home screen or one of Google’s moving images or photos, if you want.
How to make cinematic wallpapers on a Pixel
To get into the wallpaper editor on your Pixel, tap and hold on a blank area of one of your phone’s home screens, then choose Wallpaper and style and Change wallpaper. Tap My photos, then select the image you want to use from your gallery. It can be a photo you took with your camera or a file stored anywhere else on the phone, like a picture you received or downloaded from the web.
When it comes to choosing the best image to turn into a cinematic wallpaper, there aren’t any restrictions, but some photos will work better than others. We found the best results come from images with clear foreground subjects—think kids, pets, or lamps.
With your image open, tap the icon in the top right corner showing three sparks, and turn on the toggle switch that’s labeled Create Cinematic wallpaper. After a few seconds where Google’s AI will identify the foreground from the background to produce an effect where the two seem more separated, your new wallpaper will be ready to use. Tap Set wallpaper, and choose whether you want to apply it only to your home screens, or your home screens and lock screen.
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Your Pixel will apply that cinematic effect as you lock and unlock the device, as well as when you switch between the home screens and your apps, swipe through home screens, and tilt your phone. Spend some time playing around with different types of images and you’ll get a better idea of how the feature works.
Keep in mind that animated backdrops usually consume more battery than regular, static wallpapers. It shouldn’t be a big problem, but if you’re regularly struggling to extend your phone’s battery life, you may want to think twice about using a cinematic wallpaper.
How to make emoji wallpapers on the Google Pixel
To create an emoji wallpaper, tap and hold on a blank area of a home screen, then pick Wallpaper and style and Change wallpaper. This time, select Emoji workshop, and you’ll be ready to start playing around with the emojis of your choice. The system will already have selected some for you, but you can tap Edit emoji in the bottom right corner of your screen to make your own picks.
You can create a wallpaper from a single emoji, or from as many as 14. If you’re stuck for inspiration, use the Randomize button, which will pick some emojis for you. From what we can tell, the software tries to pick related emojis, but it doesn’t always get it right.
There are two other tabs here: Open Patterns to pick how you want your emojis arranged as they repeat across the screen, and the size of the emojis. Open Colors to choose the color scheme for your new emoji-based backdrop. All of these settings can be jumbled up again with a tap on Randomize.
When you’ve got something you like, tap the checkmark icon in the top right corner, and then choose Set wallpaper. You’ll notice your Pixel applies a few animation effects to the emoji wallpaper, as you swipe between home screens and lock and unlock your device. Note that as you create new emoji wallpapers, your old ones will be saved so you can go to the Emoji workshop screen to get them back.
If this is the first time you’ve experimented with the wallpaper settings on your Pixel phone, you might be wondering about all the other options that appear when you choose Wallpaper and style and Change wallpaper from the home screen.
The My photos option is fairly straightforward, enabling you to pick an image stored on your phone. You’ll also see curated collections of images provided by Google, covering categories such as Art, Landscapes, and Textures. The Live bloom and Living universe selections are a bit more interesting, as they come with added motion effects, like short video clips.
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Head into Community lens to see images from other users that have been picked out by Google’s team. They cover some pretty dramatic landscape and nature shots, and can be useful if you’re not keen on using any of your own snaps (or generating a custom wallpaper using emoji).
Once you’ve set your wallpaper, back on the Wallpaper and style screen you’ll see a Wallpaper colors setting: Enable this if you want the interface colors on your Pixel (for lock screen items, menus, and other areas) to match the color scheme of the current wallpaper.