How to Create a Parallax Desktop Background with Rainmeter

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Rainmeter remains the champion of Windows customization as users continue to find creative ways to use the program.

A recent innovation is the parallax background. Parallax effects are a simple and awesome way to enhance the look of your desktop background. They also incorporate live wallpaper features.

Let’s see how you can create your own live wallpaper using parallax effect and Rainmeter.

What is a parallax effect?

The parallax effect occurs when an object looks different from two different viewpoints. This is why a parallax effect gives a sense of depth when scrolling or hovering over the screen by a user.

In general, this effect is implemented to improve the user experience on different websites. And, Rainmeter makes it pretty simple to create a parallax effect on your desktop background.

It lets you use your mouse as a camera. So your photos move in 3D space as you move your mouse, creating a beautiful live wallpaper.

Beautiful results are easy to achieve with Rainmeter. That said, it takes a healthy dose of creativity to achieve truly spectacular results.

If you want to create a detailed multi-layered effect, some prior experience with graphic design programs such as Photoshop is required. Our parallax effect will achieve a simple yet impressive four-layer backdrop.

Parallax Parts

To use this effect, let’s briefly review the concept of layers. Rainmeter achieves the parallax effect by creating multiple layers, which simulate a full background.

USE VIDEO OF THE DAY

There are two essential parts to the Parallax effect; the foreground and the context. The foreground is made up of several PNG image files, ranging from the smallest to the largest.

Image files should be in transparent PNG format, which removes white backgrounds from your images.

If you’re not a geek, we recommend checking out our guide on how to convert images to transparent PNG format. Also, larger images will move more than smaller images. This simulates the depth of field on your desktop.

Choose parts

For this guide, we are going to simulate Bart falling from The Simpsons using the parallax effect. Three types of images are needed for the effect: a falling Bart, Simpsons cartoon-style clouds, and a sky background.

Follow these steps to set up some basics for Rainmeter:

  1. Create a folder on your desktop named parallax source to save your image files. This will make it easier to add your images to Rainmeter.
  2. Save all the files you have gathered for your desktop background in this folder.
  3. Name your background background.png and name the images you use for your parallax like parallax[x].png. the [x] corresponds to the level of the layer, starting from 0.

The smallest image should be titled parallax0.png, the second smallest, parallax1.png, etc. This is what your folder should look like:


Parallax images folder in explorer

Positioning of parts

Now position your PNG files according to your desktop resolution. If you don’t know your desktop resolution, check out our guide to find your desktop resolution.


Additionally, create a transparent document the size of your monitor’s resolution with an additional 100 pixels to your length and width. Drop your files into this frame and orient the images as you wish.


Resolution setting for an image

How you orient your images here is how you’ll see them in your background. Once you have inserted all of your images into your frame, proceed to configure your Rainmeter folder layout.

Rainmeter Folder Layout

Here is the central part of this configuration. Follow these steps carefully to avoid any issues while creating the parallax effect:

1. Download the latest version of Rainmeter from Rainmeter.net.

2. In the directory C:UsersNameDocumentsRainmeterSkinscreate a new folder named Parallax effect.


Parallax Effects Folder

3. In this folder, create three other folders and name them: @Resources, contextand Parallax.

the @Resources folder will contain images, the context folder will contain your background.ini file to enable your background, and the Parallax folder is for your Parallax.ini file.


Folder Rainmeter Skins

4. Now open the @Resources folder and create a folder named Pictures. Add your background.png file to this directory.

5. Add another folder to this directory and name it after your parallax effect. We named the folder bart. Add your parallax[x].png in this folder. Your images folder should now look like this.


Parallax effect folder in explorer

That’s it for image files. Now you can start getting the parallax effect.

6. In the root Parallax Effect directory C:UsersNameDocumentsRainmeterSkinsParallax Effect, you need to create a new text file. Enter the following code in these new documents:

[Variables]
ThemeDisplayWidth=1440
ThemeDisplayHeight=900

7. Don’t forget to name this file ParallaxSettings.inc and keep the .inc extension. This file will define the resolution of your parallax. Replace 1440 and 900 with your own resolution and save.


Plugin configuration required

We need a simple plugin that will follow your mouse cursor movements to move your parallax images. You can download the plugin from this Rainmeter community post.


Rainmeter Community Post

Once done, follow the steps below to adjust some settings in your configuration:

1. Open your Background folder. Right click in the folder and select New > Text Document. Double-click this document to edit it and paste the following script into the file.

2. Save this file as Background.ini, making sure you’ve added the .ini extension. Next, open your Parallax folder. Create a text document and paste the following into this file.

To note: You have to change the P variable under your [Variables] setting under your parallax images folder. Our variable P is #@#Images/Bart/parallax, for example. Change only the middle title and keep the rest as is.


Bart's parallax effect code

Finalizing the Parallax effect

Now the last step is to finalize everything and apply the effect using Rainmeter. Here are the steps to do the same:

  1. Open your Manage Rainmeter window by opening the taskbar icon drawer and clicking the Rainmeter icon.
  2. Click on the Refresh all and locate your Parallax Effect folder.
    Manage the Rainmeter Window
  3. Open your newly created Background and Parallax folders and Charged your .ini files by double-clicking them.
  4. Finally, check for Click on in the Manage Rainmeter window for both .ini files and your parallax effect should be complete.

The above script allows for a subtle effect. If you want to make the effect more dramatic, reduce the number of parameters present in the Parallax.ini file from 10 or 20 (do not repeat numbers or include numbers less than 0).


Number of parallax percentage

Don’t forget to save your .ini file and refresh your skin to activate the effect. If you want to install our Bart parallax background, you can download the .rmskin from this Deviantart article.

While Rainmeter is an amazing tool for Windows users if you’re on a Mac, here’s how you can change your desktop wallpaper on a Mac.

Don’t Stick to Static Backgrounds

Sticking to static, non-moving wallpapers works for some. For others, Rainmeter is a blessing. The program seems limitless. Stylish Rainmeter skins are created daily to fit the desktop style you desire.

The Rainmeter parallax effect is just one of the newest innovations in Rainmeter skins, and its use is limited to your imagination.


parallax-desktop-background
How to Create a Parallax Desktop Background with Rainmeter

If you want an animated live wallpaper, check out Rainmeter! Here we will show you how to create a unique parallax effect for your Windows desktop background.

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