Making Themes & Wallpaper


Prison Oubliette











Making Wallpapers and Desktop Themes is a lot of fun and completely free. I strongly recommend that you download Desktop Architect. It's a freeware that helps you put all of your images and other files together in a Desktop Theme.

You'll also need a good image editor. The best freeware I've found is IrfanView. Both of the softwares will come in really handy and I use both and can answer your questions about them if you email me.

Desktop Themes include a lot more than just a wallpaper. They can include any of the items below:




Color Scheme

Sound Scheme

Splash Screens (the screens that pop up during booting and shut down).


A Screensaver

At a minimum, a Desktop Theme should include a wallpaper, icons, and a color scheme. If you send me a Theme to put on the site, please do not include a screensaver. Send it separately so my mailbox won't overflow. Screensavers really bloat the size of a Theme.

Here's the routine I use to make a desktop theme:

1) I make the wallpaper.

2) I make the icons

3) I make the cursors if I'm using them.

4) I set everything up in Desktop Architect and then make my color scheme.

5) I add any sounds or splash screens if any.

6) I apply my new Theme to my machine and see how it looks in a few programs. A test drive.

7) I save the Theme and package it for distribution.

Taking Screenshots

A lot of images you can use for wallpaper and icons are available from HardWar itself. You can get an infinite variety of images from taking screenshots in the game.

To take a screenshot, just press the "PrntScrn", or "Print Screen" key on your keyboard once you have your shot set up. This will make a bitmap (.BMP) image of your current screen and put it in your clipboard.

Now close or minimize the game (Alt+Esc). Open your image editor (like IrfanView) and click "File | Paste". Your screenshot will now appear in the program.

Save your image by clicking "File | Save As...". Save images being used for wallpaper as either a bitmap (.BMP) or .JPG file.

You can cut out unwanted parts of your image by selecting the unwanted portion with your mouse. Just hold down the left mouse button and drag your mouse. It will make a square around the area to cut. Now click "Edit | Cut" and the unwanted portion will disappear.

You can also save only a small part of the screenshot by using "crop". Just select the part of the image you want to crop with your mouse. Now click "Edit | Crop" and only the selected portion will appear. Great for making icons.

Making Wallpaper

Making a Wallpaper only requires that you have an image. This can be something you draw, several images you paste together, or an image you've snagged off of the Web. You can use a small image that will "tile" across the screen.

The big key to making a good wallpaper is in saving an image in either .BMP or .JPG format. Newer windows can make any type of file a wallpaper, but .BMPs and .JPGs show up the best.

You may have to resize your image. A wallpaper doesn't have to entirely fill the screen. The user can "Stretch" the image or use a complimentary background Desktop color. Keep this in mind when editing your screenshots. The image's background color should be a simple black, white, or other easy color to match.

Use "Zoom" to see how much you can expand your image before it starts looking bad. Note the pixel dimensions (usually displayed in the title bar of most image editors). Click "Image | Resize" to resize your image in IrfanView. Your image editor might have "Resize" somewhere else. Try to keep the "aspect ratio" - the ratio of width to height - the same as the original to prevent distortion.

Once you've saved, edited, and re-saved your image. It's ready to be wallpaper. You just need to apply it with your "Display" settings (Control Panel or right click the desktop and select "Properties"). Click the "Background" tab.

Ideally, your image should be saved in .BMP or .JPG format for wallpapers. If you want to send me a big .BMP file to put up on the site, please zip it first to save space. .JPGs don't need to be zipped. They're already compressed.

Making Icons & Cursors

Icons (.ICO files) and Cursors (.CUR files) can be made by sizing an image to a specific size and saving the image as an .ICO or .CUR file. Start out by getting a small image and cropping it to a square box. This means to crop it until the width and height are equal (or nearly so).

For icons, resize the cropped image to 48x48. Now save the file in the .ICO format. For cursors, resize images to 32x32 and save in .CUR format. You don't have to make icons and cursors for everything, just the things you want. If your Theme doesn't include a particular component, Windows defaults will fill in the blanks.

Note: You don't have to make icons different sizes. Windows will automatically size them according to their use.

Making A Color Scheme

Desktop Architect makes coloring your Theme's windows and picking fonts easy. These settings are under the "Appearance" tab. They are also under the "Appearance" tab of your "Display Properties". Desktop Architect just includes more items you can color.

It takes some practice to know the what the different objects to color are. What's "3D Highlight"? Below is a list of items in the order I find best for designing a color scheme. If you don't quite know what object you're working with, give it a bright color and it will show up in the preview pane.

Desktop - This is your desktop's background color.

3D Objects - This is the bulk of your Windows. It includes toolbars and just about all of the "framework". There are two colors to pick. The background color and foreground color (for any buttons and text).

Active Title Bar and Inactive Title Bar - These are the bars at the very top of your windows. Desktop Architect allows you to make this a gradient color by picking a start and ending color. You can also set the font and text color of the text in the title bars.

3D Face - This is the background and foreground colors of the message box and buttons.

Other 3D stuff - This is the shadowing for buttons. Usually "Dark Shadow" is set to black and "Light" is set to white. "Highlight" and "Shadow" are the colors between the outer border of the button and its face. They're usually colors between the face color and either the "Dark Shadow" or "Light" colors. A good default to use is a medium gray for "Dark Shadow" and a very light gray for "Highlight".

Scrollbar - The track the scrollbar slides in. The button itself is a 3D Object like a button.

Menu - This is the styling for the drop down menus. Background and foreground colors are set as well as the font used.

Selected Items - These are the background and foreground colors for items being hovered over in a menu.

Grayed Text - The text for "grayed out" menu items. The "Disabled" styling is calculated from the color chosen in the Menu styling.

Tool Tip - The background, foreground, and font of the little pop up tool tip boxes.

The above is about all I style, but feel free to play around with all of the other settings. Remember that the more you add, the bigger your Theme's file set will be.

Packaging Your Theme

Packaging your theme so others can download and install it requires that you first save your theme. This makes a ".Theme" file. This file contains the data of what images to use for what as well as color and font settings. It does not include the images themselves or any sounds. You'll need to add or include these .JPG, .ICO, .CUR, .WAV and other files.

There are two ways to package your themes. The best is to use Desktop Architect's "packaging" feature. This will let you pick a .Theme file and it will collect all of the other files used in the Theme for you. Remember to "Save" your Theme to make a ".Theme" file before packaging it. You can choose to either make a zip file or a self-installing .EXE file.

Just start Desktop Architect's packaging program and follow the instructions. If it suggests you add a file, add it. If you are not using Desktop Architect, you need to save your theme using "Desktop Theme's" (Control Panel Icon) "Save" button to make a .Theme file. Now you need to zip this .Theme file along with all of your image and sound files into one compressed zip file.

If you want to send a Theme to me, send me a zipped file containing your .Theme and other files, or a zipped version of your packaged .EXE file. (Zipping reduces the size of the .EXE a little and saves space). I'll make the preview shot for you and put it up on the site.

Currently, I cannot accept files more than 2.5 MB. Send Desktop Themes as attachments to my Opera Mail address - Send all other email and wallpapers to my regular address.

HardWar Desktop Themes

HardWar Wallpapers

How To Install HardWar Themes

Other Great Stuff:

Rob Hawke's Hardwar Font

Shrekken's Hardwar Cursors

Shrekken's Hardwar Icons