How to set up a Dynamic Wallpaper on Mac

The Dynamic Wallpaper feature in macOS allows users to set wallpapers that change throughout the day, based on time, geographic location, or simply whether the system is in Light or Dark Mode. Using custom versions of these files is also easy, and we show you how to easily set them for your desktop. Additionally, we have a few for downloads that include scenes from Big Sur, the International Space Station, and the cityscape of Miami.

How to set custom Dynamic Wallpapers on macOS

As a brief background, there are generally three types of Dynamic Wallpapers:

1) Geographic-based files tell macOS your location and then change your wallpaper based on location and time of day. That means that the system even knows that if it is winter at your location, the later day images should be displayed sooner.

2) Time-based files simply tell macOS to change your wallpaper based on the system clock.

3) Light and Dark mode wallpapers merely change based on your system Light and Dark Mode settings. If you set it to Light Mode, you get that image, same with Dark Mode. Naturally, if you have the system set to auto switch between modes, the wallpaper will toggle with the system.

4) Bonus category? Some Dynamic Wallpapers can be built based on your system time and/or geographic location and also include the ability to switch based on your Light-Dark-Mode settings. That is what we have for you today.

Once you have a version of these Dynamic Wallpapers, you need to know how to set it on your Mac. It is fairly simple in macOS Big Sur and later. In previous generations, you needed to jump through some hoops.

Here is the simplest and cleanest way to set Dynamic Wallpapers as your desktop picture:

  1. Create a folder to store just these Dynamic Wallpaper files. Tip: I just created a folder in /Pictures and called it Dynamic Wallpaper.
  2. Open System Preferences and click Desktop & Screen Saver.
  3. Click the + button in the bottom right corner.
  4. Locate the Dynamic Wallpaper folder you created that holds the HEIC files, and click Choose.
  5. This adds the Dynamic Wallpaper folder in the lefthand sidebar under the Folders heading.
  6. Click the folder in the lefthand sidebar, and it will reveal the Dynamic Wallpapers in that folder.
  7. Click a thumbnail to set that Dynamic Wallpaper, just like any stock wallpaper.

The system will also separate Dynamic Wallpapers that are just Light and Dark versions in contrast to full-time changing, multi-image image sets like the ones we have for you to download today.

If you have Dynamic Wallpapers from any other source, simply add them to your Dynamic Wallpapers folder via Finder and give the Settings app a minute to catch up. You will see it indexed in the Desktop & Screen Saver section.

There are different ways to make your own Dynamic Wallpapers. If you have any awesome Dynamic Wallpapers, know where to find them, or want to stay up to date on my wallpaper journey, please catch up with me via @jim_gresham, where I curate the iDownloadBlog Wallpapers of the Week collection. We publish photo-quality wallpapers every Sunday for your favorite Apple devices.

Downloads by 24 Hour Wallpaper

The following set of 5K-ready images is featured by the 24 Hour Wallpaper app for macOS. Their desktop app in the Mac App Store includes 93 unique time-based wallpapers. If you are really into Dynamic Wallpapers, you can pick it up for $9.99. They also sell individual packs on their own wallpaper gallery.

Each HEIC file includes about 10+ images that change based on your location, time, and can also dynamically toggle based on Light and Dark Mode. If you want the images to cycle across all images throughout the day, you need to set your macOS system settings to Auto-Mode (not Light or Dark). The following previews just show an early day and evening preview. Download the HEIC file with the link below each preview set.

Dynamic Wallpaper of Big Sur for macOS that changes throughout the day

Dynamic Wallpaper of Miami skyline for macOS that changes throughout the day

macOS Dynamic Wallpaper of Earth from space