So you’ve finally joined the Retina club and bought yourself one of these newfangled 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros. Or maybe you’re already a card-carrying member, toting a third-gen iPad or Apple‘s boutique 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, released in June. Say you’re bored with Apple’s desktop backgrounds. Where can you find the crème de la crème artwork on the interwebs without springing for an ultra-megapixel camera and playing the shoot-and-crop game?
I was in this pickle when I sprang for a 15-inch Retina Pro this summer, a laptop that runs at a then-unheard-of 2880 x 1880 pixel resolution. That’s a lot of pixels jammed into a screen just 15.4 inches, corner to corner — over five million total. Or take the 13-inch Pro’s 2560 x 1600 display, with over four million pixels — higher than your average desktop monitor. Even the third-gen iPad’s 2048 x 1536 resolution (on a 9.7-inch screen) is up there, well above high-def television’s best of 1080p, or 1920 x 1080.
Finding decent artwork at these levels is a crapshoot. You can track down imagery using Google Images with the “larger than” or “exactly” size options, but you’re corralled by search phrases, and even then, you’re playing hunt and peck, shuffling through so much dreck.
On the following pages, you’ll find recommendations for the best Retina wallpaper sites on the web — not of upscaled pictures or someone’s amateur photo collection, but serious, professional photography and digital artwork.
InterfaceLIFT. Hands down my favorite of the bunch, with nearly 300 pages of photos (10 or more photos per page) we’re talking a bona fide smorgasbord of stunning professional photographs that support resolutions all the way up to the 15-inch Retina Pro’s 2880 x 1880 native resolution, each one annotated with the photographer’s capture device specs and post-processing notes. Just look at some of these photos (see below).
There’s even an optional free Mac menubar app that notifies you when new pics arrive, downloads them (at your discretion) and automatically picks the size that matches your device’s screen resolution.
Vladstudio. You won’t find many photographs here, but you will find some of the best eclectic digital art on the web. Russian artist Vlad Gerasimov’s collection of desktop wallpapers is frankly peerless, a trove of clever, imaginative, occasionally humorous themes that range from seasonal showcases and riffs on maps of the world to playful musings on digital life.
Cost: Free for lower resolutions, $14.99 for a “premium” membership which unlocks the Retina-quality versions (the membership is one-time and for life).
WallpapersWide. Think of WallpapersWide as the grab bag of Retina wallpaper sites, offering everything from cartoons and celebrities to “motors,” music, nature and “vintage” backgrounds (you can sort by any of those categories, and dozens more).
The only caveat: Many of its wallpapers top out below resolutions like 2560 x 1600 or 2880 x 1880, so be sure to use the handy “Filter By” resolution option on the left column. (That said, sorting by 2880 x 1880 turned up well over 400 pages of material, with 10 pictures per page.)
Digital Blasphemy. Another multifaceted digital art site, Digital Blasphemy offers splendid 3D-rendered original art by Ryan Bliss, who’s been selling his work through the site for years. While many of the compositions are intentionally idiosyncratic, you’ll find glamor shots of beautified landscapes here that in some cases look so photorealistic, good luck discerning fantasy from reality.
Cost: Free in the “free” gallery, but most of the artwork (and certainly the most recent stuff) is membership-based. Memberships range from $15 for 90 days (unlimited access) to a “lifetime” option for $99.
2048pixels. Sadly 20480pixels doesn’t support the Retina MacBook Pro family’s 2560 x 1600 or 2880 x 1880 resolutions, but it’s probably the go-to site for the third-gen iPad (2048 x 1536).
Before you download one of 2048pixels’ wallpapers, be sure to fiddle with the “FX” button in each image’s upper-left-hand corner, where you can actually custom-tailor the properties like blurring, textures (lines, mesh grains) and pixelation.