Customize Windows 8 Background and Lock Screen
Editing Windows 8 Start Screen
Introducing of Windows 8
With the advent of the anxiously anticipated release of Windows 8 just around the corner, I wanted to talk a little bit about one of the many new features in this light weight App-Like operating system.
The Touch Screen
With Microsoft attempting to keep up with the rapid growing concept of touch technology, the Windows 8 start menu is now a start screen. This "Start Screen" is loaded with tiles that represent either Apps built using Microsoft’s Metro Style application development (See the "Metro Revealed" product link below), or applications (rather, shortcuts to applications) that launch in a standard Windows desktop.
In addition to the touch screen tiles that resemble a phone app environment, the start screen also has a customizable background (somewhat). Using the PC Settings, you can set the background color to one of 9 different colors. This may be increased to offer more colors in the final release. You can also select from 6 predefined background designs as well. What I’d like to talk about is the background colors in Windows 8.
The Background Feature
Another new feature in Windows 8 is in the shutdown options. You now have a sort of sleep mode called Lock Screen. This too is customizable to allow you to specify your own background image. When you slide the lock screen up to log back in, you are presented with the Log-in screen that displays your picture/avatar and a place to enter your password.
Now For The Good Part
When you specified the background color you wished to use in the PC Settings, this background color is also the one that displays during the Log-in screen. Most people will use a bland square blocked picture as their avatar that might look something like the image on the right.
But what if you wanted to get a little more creative and have the person (that’s me there) kind of faded into the background without showing the square box around the subject. For example, something like the image on the right. In fact, I’ll show you how to create this effect with any of the Windows 8 background colors, not just white as shown here.
Let’s Get Started
Now, the first step is to decide what background color you will want to use. Currently, in the consumer release version of Windows 8, you are given 9 colors to choose from. I’m not positive of the actual names of the colors, but I’ll use color names that are easy to identify. The colors and their associate RGB and HEX codes (we’ll talk about that shortly) are shown in the table to the right.
Now I know, the names given are probably not exactly correct, but the codes are.
The next step is to choose the picture/avatar you wish to use to represent yourself. I’ll use the one I showed above.
You’ll need to open your image in your favorite image editor. I’m using Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 shown to the right. Click on the product link on the right and you can get it from Amazon for a lot less than the list price.
Step by Step
Using the “Quick Selection Tool” (SHIFT+A), select the background of the image. You might have to play with the add and remove selection options until you get it just right like so…
Then press the delete key on your keyboard to remove the selected area.
Now, click the “Add a Mask” button in the layers pane.
Next, select the gradient tool (SHIFT+G) and chose the Foreground to Transparent pattern.
Click the bottom middle of the image and drag 1/4 to 1/3 of the way up from the bottom to create a fading effect on the remainder of the image subject.
We’re almost done. Now for the color matching part. Click the “Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer” button and select the Solid Color option.
Now you will define the color that will match the background color you set up in the PC Settings in Widows 8. Colors are defined using a combination of Red, Green, and Blue (Thus the RGB code) in order to achieve any color in the world. You can also use Hex-decimal numbers which I won’t go into here. Using the table above, enter the number combination that represents the color you’ve chosen. For example, I am using the Cyan background so I’ll enter 0 for red, 64 for green, and 80 for blue.
Click OK and then drag the new color layer below the layer with the image on it. This will place the color layer behind the image layer.
Now just save your image in your favorite format – preferably JPG or PNG to preserve the transparent effect – and then you can select that image file in the “Change Account Picture” feature from the start screen in Windows 8.
Now when you log into Windows 8, your picture/avatar will be nicely blended into the background of the log-in screen.
Here's what my final output looks like. set against the dark cyan background that comes standard with Windows 8, it simply blends right in..
Update to this article (8/23/2012)
After I wrote this article, Microsoft made modifications to the Windows 8 Lock screen avatar/picture placeholder. It now has a 1 pixel border that will always show no matter how you modify your image. This is not a bad thing, but it does detract from the original intent of this article; which was to get the image to blend right into the background. At any rate, there may be some internal setting that can be made to the Windows 8 operating system that can remove this one pixel border. If anyone has any ideas, I would love to hear them. Comment on this article below.
© 2012 David Covey