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May 28, 2014

The Tile Art Guy’s 10 top tips for making your home screen rock

One thing we’ve always loved about our Lumias is how easy they are to make our own. Now, thanks to the Tile Art Guy, we can show you how to take personalization to a whole new level of awesomeness.

Just over a year ago, I wrote a fun blog post titled How to create awesomely artistic Windows Phone start screens. It celebrated the wonderful ways we could use tiles and apps to pimp our beloved Lumias. A year later, the options for this are even more amazing, and one man who’s showing the world how to make the most of them is the legendary Tile Art Guy. Packing a Lumia 1520, Tile Art Guy showcases his ace start art on his blog, Twitter and Vine. Now, you can find out how he makes his magic right here. So, what are you waiting for? Get your home screens ready and turn on the style for your tile!

1. Get the apps

In all of my home screens I’ve used just two apps:

Custom Tile Maker – which is the best app I’ve found to pin images to my home screen, because of the endless tile combinations and the fact that it provides both 2 column and 3 column setups. The catch is that the basic tile setups are free, but you’ll need to pay to unlock the rest.

Transparency Tiles – is an extremely useful app when you need to turn those pesky purple Nokia tiles or blue Here tiles into ones the same colour as your ‘theme’ or transparent ones if you’re using Windows 8.1

2. Pick a theme

This part is all you. My passions include comics, gaming and film, so naturally I’ve gone for the kind of home screens that focus on these things. It’s one of the best features of Windows Phone in my opinion, being able to build a phone that expresses exactly who you are. It’s like plastering stickers all over your stationery kit at school…for your phone. So, pick a theme that reflects who you are.


3. Think about the colour scheme

Colour has always been really important part of the home screen for me. What I suggest is that once you know what theme you want to do, do a little digging online for pics and see what kind of colours come up. A good example would be the pink colour scheme I’ve chosen here for Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing.

When I searched online I got a sense that there were a lot of sunset scenes and bright pink contrasts against the green, which is why I decided to go for pink as my colour scheme. If you’re running Windows 8.1 I’d still recommend you start off with a colour theme for your tiles…you can always switch to transparent later.

4. Finding the right pics

Probably the most important step of them all. Once you know what you want to do and have an idea of colour, your search begins! I’ve found that Pinterest is extremely useful for finding great collections of images. The second search tip is to hit Google or Bing image search and filter by size – the larger the pics are, the crisper they’ll look when you finally start pinning them to your home screen. I’d recommend you save all the images you can (10-20) in a desktop folder and then you can simply drag and drop the whole thing into your photos folder on your phone.

5. Start with the lock-screen

Tile Art Guy tips 3

I always start with the lock screen. Once you have a collection of great pics, a colour theme and a great lock screen…the rest comes naturally. For the lock screen I’d recommend using portrait-style images that aren’t too busy. The simple ones seem to work best and I’ve generally tried to find images that lend themselves to the clock on the left-hand side of the lock screen like this Gambit example.

6. Get two images up on your home screen


Next, it’s time to get customizing. I usually start with one or two x2 row landscape images that fit across the screen like this: Then I’ll create a centered image if you’re using a phone with x3 columns, or an image that blends into the tile if you’re using x2 columns: TileArtGuytips5

7. Leave breathing room

Simple is better. I’ve done my fair share of experimenting with simple, complex, transparent and nontransparent home screens, and the ones that look the best are generally the simple ones. Don’t let this stop you from experimenting though! A good example is this complex looking Tank Girl home screen, which I agree looks a little ‘busy’, but it has a unique feel which I really liked 🙂

A good tip for keeping things simple is to try to use larger tiles. These come in handy when you’re trying to break your images up. I generally try to use at least one wide tile or 3 small tile rows to space my images out, as you can see in the Spawn example below:


8. Stick to your theme

If you stick to the colour and theme you’ve chosen you’ll see a much better result. In the example below you can get a sense that purple is the underlying colour scheme with dark blues and greens bringing it to life. That’s because I’ve only used images that contain a combination of these colours. I try to stick to one main colour and then MAX 2 supporting colours.


9. Save your transparent background for last

If you’re using Windows 8.1 I’d recommend you save the transparent background for last. Reason being that when you’re happy with the layout you can now play around with different background options that suit what you have already. Generally I’d suggest using two kinds of images for your transparent background – Plain textures or Close-ups. As you can see by the red curtain I used in the Deadpool example below and the close up of a warrior in the Dota 2 home screen I’m currently working on.


10. Get inspired & share your stuff

Every week there’s a great thread on Windows Phone Reddit dedicated to weekly home screens. I find a lot of great inspiration from what the guys are doing there and it’s also a great place to share your stuff and get feedback on what you’re doing. I’m especially excited about what this guy (madoxster) has been experimenting with when it comes to transparent PNG images and I’m super happy he’s now released an app PinPNG. Definitely worth checking out! Anyway, so that’s it from me. I’m still learning a lot, but hopefully these 10 tips can help you guys kick a little ass out there. If you guys want to bounce any ideas off me or have any questions you can usually find me hanging out on Reddit, Vine or Twitter.

I don’t know about you guys and girls, but I think Tile Art Guy’s tips rock. I, for one, will definitely be trying my hand at some start art. If you’ll join me, why not tweet them using the hashtag #LumiaTileArt. Who knows, we might even showcase the best of the bunch here.