Change the Notification Center Background Pattern in Mac OS X

May 2, 2013 - 1 Comment

Tired of seeing that linen wallpaper in the background of Notification Center of OS X? You can change that linen pattern to something else, giving a nice customized appearance to the Notifications panel when you’re checking alerts on the Mac. There are actually two ways to swap out the Notifications background, the harder manual way by way of the command line, and the easy way using a free third party tool called Mountain Tweaks. We’ll cover both, but we generally recommend the easy MountainTweaks method because it’s faster and remarkably simple. The end result of either method will be a customized Notifications background in OS X:

Notification Center wallpaper background before and after being replaced in OS X

Let’s get started.

Change the Notification Center Background Wallpaper the Easy Way

Before beginning, you’ll need the following:

  • OS X 10.8 or newer
  • Mountain Tweaks – Get it here for free (click the small blue “here” link at the bottom of the page)
  • A dark repeating wallpaper pattern – SubtlePatterns is a good place to start

Technically, the replacement wallpaper image could be lighter, but you’ll find notifications are very hard to read. It also doesn’t need to be a repeating pattern, though it will look much better if a tiling image is used because it becomes repeated if the screen size is larger than the pattern.

Once you’ve downloaded MountainTweaks, unzip it and toss it into your /Applications/ folder, it’s a handy app to have and basically serves as a simple front-end to many defaults write commands that we’ve discussed before. When you have a nice replacement pattern ready, you’re ready to begin:

  • Open MountainTweaks and choose the “Mountain Lion” tab
  • Look for “Change the Notification Center background” option and give a long click on “Yes” (for some reason a normal click didn’t work, but YMMV)
  • Select your new wallpaper pattern and click “Choose”
  • Enter the admin password to confirm the changes

Changing the Notification Center background with MountainTweaks

That’s about it, slide open Notification Center and check the new background image. In this example, we picked a rather obvious red tiling replacement:

Customized Notification Center wallpaper image

Revert Back to the Default

Hate the new look? It’s very easy to undo:

  • Open MountainTweaks again and long press the “NO” button next to “Change the Notification Center background”
  • Enter the admin password again to confirm the changes

This returns the original linen image to the background of Notifications, slide it open to confirm everything is back to normal.

Changing the Notification Center Wallpaper Manually

This is aimed more at advanced users who are comfortable with the Terminal. Even if you’re a command line fanatic it’s still easier to use the MountainTweaks automated approach outlined above. Nonetheless, many of us just like to know how things work and where stuff is located, so here’s how to manually change the Notifications wallpaper.

1: Find a Pattern & Convert it to TIFF
Find a suitable pattern replacement, open it in Preview app, and save it as a TIFF image named “linen.tiff” to the desktop – this is important because the replaced file must be converted to a tiff file with the same file name in order to work properly.

2: Backup the Original Linen File
Launch Terminal and enter the following command string, this will copy the ‘linen.tiff’ file to your documents folder and serve as a backup. The command is intentionally overly verbose in order to prevent accidents:

sudo cp -R /System/Library/CoreServices/Notification\ Center.app/Contents/Resources/linen.tiff ~/Documents/linen.tiff

Because this uses sudo you’ll likely need to enter the admin password.

3: Replace the Original Linen with a New Pattern
Assuming your new ‘linen.tiff’ file is still on the Desktop, use the following command to copy it over the

sudo cp ~/linen.tiff /System/Library/CoreServices/Notification\ Center.app/Contents/Resources/linen.tiff

Now kill everything for changes to take effect:

killall NotificationCenter;killall SystemUIServer

Slide open the Notifications Center to see your new pattern.

If you want to revert the change manually, just swap out the replaced linen.tiff file with the backed up linen.tiff, then kill NotificationCenter again.

Want to customize the Notification Center a bit more? You can also change its alert sound to something else.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Customize, Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

One Comment

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  1. toastie says:

    How can this be done on Mavericks?

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