Change the Mission Control Background Wallpaper Image in Mac OS X Lion

Aug 12, 2011 - 25 Comments

Change Mission Control background in Mac OS X

It’s time to customize the appearance of Mac OS X 10.7 again. We recently showed you how to change Dashboards wallpaper image from that Lego-like pattern to anything else, and then we showed you how to change Launchpads folder background pattern to your choice. Next up is Mission Control’s background image, say goodbye to Linen and hello to whatever wallpaper you want to see.

Pick a New Mission Control Background Image and Convert it to PNG
First up, you need to pick a PNG file you want to set as the new Mission Control background. I’m mildly obsessed with iClouds t-shirt background but for the purpose of this walkthrough I’ll use a more obvious change of some coral reef. The image file must be a PNG and it must be named “defaultdesktop.png”, Preview makes it easy to convert or export any image as a PNG:

  • Select the File menu and navigate to “Export”
  • Choose “PNG” as the filetype and save the image name as “defaultdesktop.png”

Note: you can choose a repeating pattern image or a large wallpaper, if you choose a large wallpaper make sure it at least matches your screen resolution or it can look awful.

Got your image saved? Great. Now we can proceed to customization.

How to Change Mission Controls Background Image

The gist of this tip is similar to changing Dashboard and Launchpad, and you’ll have to dig around in some system files. It’s not complicated, just follow the steps and be sure to make a backup of the file you will replace.

  • Hit Command+Shift+G to bring up the “Go To Folder” window, and point at the following URL:
  • /System/Library/CoreServices/

  • Locate the existing “defaultdesktop.png” file and make a copy of it – this is important because it allows you to revert your changes. Either drag the existing file to the desktop, rename it to “defaultdesktop-backup.png” or whatever, just be sure you back it up
  • Now locate your own previously saved customized “defaultdesktop.png” and drag that file into the opened Resources folder, you will need to authenticate with the admin password in order for the change to take effect
  • Change Mission Controls background wallpaper image

  • Next up you have to kill the Dock to relaunch it, so open the Terminal (/Applications/Utilities/) and type the following:
  • killall Dock

  • Give a three-fingered upward swipe and enjoy your new Mission Control background image

The image you pick is a matter of personal taste, but after using the somewhat chaotic coral image in the screenshot up top I quickly went to a more subtle pattern – the repeating iCloud beta pattern, of course.

Don’t miss our other OS X Lion tips while you’re at it.


Related articles:

Posted by: William Pearson in Customize, Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. Synergy says:

    mixmastermoog: it’s case sensitive. It has to be typed ‘killall Dock’

  2. mixmastermoog says:

    can anyone help me? Im obviously a nube to this type of stuff. My “killall dock” command did not work for me…

  3. mixmastermoog says:

    When I typed “killall dock” in terminal all I got was a message that read “No matching processes belonging to you were found”

  4. […] Change the Mission Control Wallpaper – Tired of linen? Change the background wallpaper to anything else just by replacing an image file, here’s how to do that. […]

  5. abkerboz says:

    What is the name of the background in this picture?
    Can you send me this background?

  6. Thanks for this information. I did not want to change the background in mission control but I did want to use that background on my desktop. You helped me find it and I am very grateful!

  7. MacProClub says:

    I used the Launchpad folder background
    It looks awesome!

  8. John says:

    I’ve done this before, but recently had to reinstall OS X Lion and perform the mod again. However, this time the Mission Control background is shown as the default Lion galaxy desktop :( i.e., “DefaultDesktop.png” in Core Services. I’ve tried killing the dock, relaunching finder, relaunching the UI server…no dice. Any thoughts?

    • Cristiano says:

      Hi, John.

      You must pay attention to the capitalization… DefaultDesktop.png is different from defaultdesktop.png

      I think it’ll do the trick… Plz, let me know if it doesn’t.


  9. […] with the Mission Control and Dashboard wallpapers, the login screen wallpaper is actually a pattern that’s repeated […]

  10. […] the Dock, where Mission Control is a child process of, and this is also why when you want to change the Mission Control background image you kill the Dock. You can kill the Dock in two […]

  11. Josh says:

    I made a small utility to change Mission Control’s background, for those that are interested, please see:

  12. john says:

    When I go to my mission control the picture I selected shows up in tile format. What do?

  13. Ted says:

    Hey this is great I have set the iCloud background too.

    One question though, when I open a full screen app like iTunes it briefly shows the old linen background before the app opens. Its also seen after I quit for a fraction of a second. Is there a way to replace that image file with my new texture too?

    Thanks for the tip!

    • Will says:

      It’s probably another PNG file somewhere in that Resources folder, but we’ll take a look and let you know if we find anything worthwhile.

    • Michael says:

      the file your looking for is located in


      the file you want to change is


      this will change the Login Background as well as the Fullscreen Background. Just make sure the image that you replace it with is the same size as your display otherwise it won’t look right.

  14. Joseph says:

    Thanks for the tip! I like these.

  15. Eder says:

    I liked that wallpaper on the first screenshot , any1 can help where can i find that wallpaper ???

    Thanks in advance

  16. xf says:

    I actually like the linen, maybe I am weird.

  17. Peter says:

    There are a lot of sprites in that Resources folder, you could change just about everything by editing files in there it looks like. I like this one, and I like the iCloud pic, I will change it.

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