Windows Phone 8.1 custom images for Live Tiles on the Start screen revealed

Windows Phone 8.1 is only a few weeks away. So with that, let’s jump onto the latest rumor floating around today, namely the one dealing with background images on the Start screen.

There was some confusion about this feature – codenamed ‘shadowbox’ by Microsoft –with people believing that it was the background of the Start screen that would be skinned. As we cautioned in original report, that was close but not exactly how it will be (our lede image was the clue).

New alleged screencaps of Windows Phone 8.1 have leaked out of China, and were picked up by Windows Blog Italy. Both images show three column support and Live Tiles overlaid with a custom image.

Real or fake? While I can’t vouch if the screencaps are authentic or mockups, the spirit of the feature is dead on. That is, how Windows Phone 8.1 could look, should you pick that option under Settings. Likewise, I hear that three-column support is a ‘go’ for 4.5 inch devices or larger. That feature will supposedly be labeled as 'Show more tiles' under Settings.

Under Settings, users will indeed have an option to choose to a custom photo or image, which can then been used to ‘skin’ their Live Tiles. It actually works by making the Tiles transparent.  The effect is certainly interesting. This idea is by no means new, as users of the popular app Skinery Themes can attest. But Microsoft is essentially baking-in this feature for users as an option to customize the look of their phone. Users can also still just used the Accent colors, should they elect.

We should of course caution that Windows Phone 8.1 has not RTM'd yet, so things could change before release.

We’re curious as to what you think of the new option: yay or nay? Let us know in comments.

Via: Windows Blog Italy; Thanks, everyone, for the tip!


Reader comments

Windows Phone 8.1 custom images for Live Tiles on the Start screen revealed



+1, ugly shit

I expected backgrounds, this "thing" will just make tiles useless and cluttered, no idea what MS is trying to do...

R.I.P WP8.1 2014-2014

People on WPCentral change their minds quickly, everyone has been asking for more tile colors, well Microsoft just gave you infinite tile colors!! no one said you have to choose a Photo you know!

maybe you want a Solid color thats not available in the pre-set, oh, what do you do?, you just get it from paint or maybe an app in the upcoming future!


I for one am loving it! lots of possibilities

Yeah just fucking search for I don't know gray and download a picture that is just a huge gray square and use it as background and boom all live tiles are gray! :) People don't think... they just wanna bash on things lol

Lol what I'm saying is you could use the option so you can implement more colors. You could use color square as background to change live tile colors to ones that are not available like gray, golden, navy blue, and many others :)

actually it's a terrible idea, when ppl see it they'll be like oh wow WP8 sux. Although i don't like iOS that much at least they have a clear idea of what their design looks like, not like this inconsistent mess if it turns out to be true.

I dont get it. This looks waaaaaaaaaaaaayyyy nicer than a background picture mostly obscured by icons and littler ed labels like iOS.

This looks classy. It takes your photo and allow you to overlay information relevent to you in the way you want.
I think it looks amazing, Can't wait.

So I guess what youre saying is what that YOU like and YOUR opinion is what really matters? And I guess what Im trying to say is..I care what you think?

i dont even know where to begin... are you aware that IOS is almost entierly a direct copy and past of old MS codes? or that the calculater was a direct copy from WP OS, along with most of there last update? are you aware that the only reasion apple has not had its ass sued off is that ms has a legal agrement for hardware patents and apple got the ability to share all patents including software...

are you aware that MS had the first smartphone? what about that they had the first tablet? didnt think so. you iDiots consider those apple inovations becouse they made the devices shinny and expensive. 

I cant see the problem with this, ms aren't changing the design of the start menu at all, they are just adding a OPTIONAL feature to add a image as the background for all the tiles. MS have already made it clear a long time ago that they want their customers to be able to customise their start menu to how they want it, so of course they are going to add optional features. And i cant seem to put my head around your idea of it making people think "WP sux" just because of a picture, doesn't it depend on the image being used as the background that will affect the appearance? Not the idea of an image.

Dude first of all it's probably optional so you could ot use and second of all why wouldn't you use it??! This means you can change the tiles to nay freaking color you want. If I wanted gold live tiles I would just downlaod a picture of a huge gold square and place it as the background pic and I would have golden tile! :D Same for any other color...

That wont work though as if the whole background is gold and the tiles are transparent you wont see the tiles, just a lot of floating text. Personally i like the background images. Now can i have it change every few minutes like w8...

In the images shown any picture you choose get cut into pieces that fit each tile. What do you mean by it won't work? It would be exactly liek in the picture except that each tile instead of having a piece fo an image has just the whole color I chose since no matter what they cut from my picture all they get is plain gold color... I just don't see how it wouldn't work... o.o

A necessary OPTION to appease quite a few people. Just look at how wild and cluttered some of the most popular Android launcher skins are, expecially in the asian market. Obviously many people want this sort of thing.

Depends in the image you use and depending on how they work, you would be able to see the image quite well on the app list page.
Also, transparent/translucent tiles could be used.

I spend no more than a few seconds on the lock screen, start screen and app list... so maybe images are useless their too?

But wrong. Lock screen is the greeting screen, clearly a photo is well used there. I love seeing my wife on my lock screen. A bg image on the app list might be nice too. I like the images above in the tiles but what would really be cool if they offered options for showing the image. Example, display image in the tiles, display image behind the tiles and this would give you setting so you could adjust the opacity of the tiles. Another option could be to set the app list bg as the same image as the wallpaper or add in a custom image. I know I would like to see a different photo there.

Images are useless everywhere, including windows 8. They are aesthetic and serve no real puprose. People just have a desire to cusomize their devices so they feel more personal.

That's what I'm thinking, but it's just so cool and a creative way to use an image for the background which has been missing from Windows Phone for so long.

it's not just about the start screen.it's about the app list and the system apps.i am tired of just black and white.i want other colors too and the ability to choose pictures.some nice minimalistic stuff or just a simple color theme with some gradients would look nice across the os.


if all they add for customization in the os is this it will be in vain.after 4 years the os needs some finer tuning and putting a picture across all tiles only takes away the beauty of the tiles and add clutter

How does it add clutter? You still have the same tiles. What it does do is make the tile information harder to see. Making tiles translucent will also make the tiles harder to see. I really don't understand why there is a need to have an image on the start screen. You already have one on the lock screen. Do people sit around staring at their home screen wallpaper? Open an app and get to work. 

If it's an optional setting the what's the issue? Those that like will use it those that don't won't. People complain when Microsoft doesn't make things optional then complain when they do. Who can figure you guys out, I guess some people just love to complain.

it will look weird with some apps supporting it and others not. I had hoped the start screen would at least support backgrounds like Windows 8 did before the 8.1 update came out.

Sorry, but sometimes I'm that kind of person, and I love to costumize my Color&Images to match my mood and peeferences in specific Time, so... I welcome this.

You can create space between tiles if you use them strategically, plus MS should add transparent or "spacer" tiles (for lack of a better term).

I've seen some apps that do this, that is of you mean a tile that is the same color as the background colour (black or white or an invisible tile) but i agree ms should add this feature.

This is exactly what I was thinking, and I love the look. I would like to change the color if the background to more than just black or white, though.

Well it's good to have the option. Also did they say 3 column support for 4.5" and up? So my 920 is going to be able to have 3 columns? :D
Or is that for new phones coming out?

Agreed. Much cooler and more useful this way. Looks great and gives the OS a distinct look. I never liked the wallpaper idea, but I like this a lot.

Nope. I much prefer the option on the tile. I havent seen a single example of a background that looks good. Textures or different colors is cool for backgrounds, but nothing more, or it just looks like crap. Remember, you only see that gap at the top when you scroll all the way down, otherwise the tiles go all the way to the top and cover that up too.

You do realise that any image behind the tiled would be 99% hidden right? This way is a much better option. More background colour options (or better yet custom colours) would also be great

Agree, I love this as an option.


As an option you can turn it on or off, so no problem for people who prefer to not use it. But, to not have it as an option because some don't like it is silly.

Of course you can turn it off if you don't want. Even if you couldn't there is nothing stopping you from setting your own wallpaper that is just a solid color.

Agreed, more options are nice. I'll give it a try on my 920. If I don't like it then I can always revert back. No harm. Good job Microsoft and also thank you for opening up the 920 to get more tiles if we want.

Yup custom colours is what i would have liked but i ll use this anyway. I still wonder how this will work on a vertically infinite start screen. The image cant be stretched that much it ll look odd. Suppose if i have 50 extra wide tiles on my start screen how will one image apply to all these tiles? Will be repetition? Can we choose another image for the next screen height? I don't get it.

Ah i may have a solution to this but in no way am i saying this is how its been implemented in wp8.1.
what if the image is stationary and the tiles slide up and down on top of it. Like a 3D effect. I mean its silly to think one image will be permanently applied to a tile that way u ll most likely see repetitions of parts of the image. But if the image stays there and the tiles slide along this wont be a problem. But then there is another problem. White tile icon/logo and text falling over white clouds for instance. Hmmm we ll have to wait and see

A possible problem with your suggestion, that I can see, is that moving a background image like that would hamper readability and recognizeability of tiles, and possibly cause motion sickness. It would be a cool looking effect though :)

you do realize that it is HIDEOUS with it blending the picture over the tiles .. completely abstracts the tile's text and at quick glances makes it harder to find stuff.

The Background should be "BEHIND" the tiles .. as an ACCENT "TO" the TILES not ..

Now to please everyone .. their is a very SIMPLE way to fix this .. "OPACITY" on the TILES .. Problem solved. You get the background image which actually fills the whole damn screen and then you have the option to set an opacity level on the tiles so your background image bleed's thru. Scrolling would be as it is on the WEB when you have a fixed background and the page content floats ontop.


Just my 2 cents .. Hell throw in "ANIMATED GIF" support and you could have a running waterfall or something behind your tiles ..

Since WP8 I've been telling people in the forums that this is the solution we would eventually get.

Why do people even think a background picture makes sense? Due to the very limited space between tiles, it would be impossible to recognise anything in such a background picture. Instead it would just look like the space between tiles is arbitrarily coloured. In places where the background picture has the same colour as an adjecent live tile, the two would bleed into each other, potentially looking very messy. Worst of all, such bleeding is impossible to control. Just installing a new app or taking a picture that is then shown on the pictures-tile could cause it.

Bleeding is also why a choice of solid colour backgrounds is problematic. Live tiles would have to be framed with a white or black boarder, leaving even less space between tiles...

Must MS provide this background picture option just so people can understand how impractical and poor the idea is? I suspect even if MS did, proponents would still just blame MS for not getting it to work 'properly', when it is the idea itself that is flawed.

+100000 why put something that will look terrible 99% of the time in ur design, this is thing looks like we're back in the days of windows 3.1 so outdated and cheap....

I doubt bleeding is an actually issue. The tile have visible icons, most of them animate, and all of them are big enough that if you press the icon, you are unlikely to be accidentally hitting the neighbour tiles. Background images wouldn't work as such, but with (semi-) transparent tiles they could work, as well as custom background colors. Choice would be the best... choice here, imo.

Use a graphics program to visualize bleeding to a background image. Transparent tiles or not, it looks like a graphics glitch, or an OS crash.

One word: Option. One sentence: Do not use it. Simple, isn't it? It's a vanity option. Who cares? Move along.

I care, i supported this platform because i liked minimal design

Reskined tiles isn't minimal, however background would be a great addition, like on W8


So get your ignorant ass out of this comment section please

The option you don't like isn't minimal.  The option you would like is minimal? Is that it?

Take your own advice, "get your ignorant ass out of this comment section please."

After seeing an example, the background makes WAY more sense than skinned tiles. With a subtle opactity effect (transparency) to the tiles, it looks beautiful -- similar to the approach IOS7 took to its UI. It creates a subtle "accent" to your already color-filled live tiles. Skinning the tiles with anything other than a solid color just ruins the UI & loses the uniformity that Windows Phone has. Live Tiles become useless & the text on titles are difficult to read depending on the part of the image that is under it. So yes, background images placed behind the tiles would be much more effective & more pleasant to the eyes than an image within the tiles.

Quit being dramatic. It looks nice, I can't wait to be able to customize my background. Really looking forward to WP8.1. If you don't like it than just don't use it.

A lot of folks don't understand the meaning of the word.  It's like wireless charging.  For some reason they think you can't still plug a USB cable in to charge.

i actually prefer this over background image.  i wanna see images not, not hidden behind live tiles.

Yess!!! MS should just do exactly the same as they did on windows 8.1! I thought they wanted to make the experience is similar between windows and wp

The 8.1 background style would be better utilized on lager devices like 8 - 10.1" devices as you can see more of it, but anything smaller, you won't be able to see enough of the image for it to matter unless win 8.1 OS replaced wp8 (true convergence) like some of the mockups out there that have phone concepts running what looks to be win 8.1 on the phone instead of wp8.

Its a very good option if you choose the right tile backgrounds.

But many of the apps use custom colours so it will look bad and hence not a good option.

Yah this is freaking stupid and ugly.  Just give us more background color besides black and white.  It will be awesome.

Agreed. Awful, looks like Windows Phone Vista. Completely breaks the design shared with Windows 8.1 and Xbox. It should've been the background, not the tiles.

That doesn't change my opinion.. This really makes Windows Phone start screen look like some 3rd party Android launcher.

Yes that one specific image, that matches the phone and tile colors looks great. Now swap that image with one that a regular person might use.

That one already looks messy to me. If at all possible, I would prefer choice. There is really very few reasons to limit people's will and nature of expressing themselves.

It looks a bit better because they increased the gap between the tiles and the edge of the screen, so now you get even smaller tiles than before, contradicting the information at a glance concept even more.

While I agree with most people that it is nicer to have a background that could be extended beyond just the start screen, I would like to see what this skinned tiles would look like when it is scrolling. Anyone with mad PhotoShop chop in here?

Just like live tiles, having the animation is what makes screen more lively and personal.

Lets make it clear... this is like Abortion... you dont like Abortion? perfect dont Abort... or Gay marriage you dont want to get married with another man? perfect dont do it! BUT LET OTHERS TO HAVE THE OPTION IF THEY WANT OK???? you dont like this? fantastic... is it mandatory for everyone NO ....THEN WHATS THE FUCKING PROBLEM?

doesn't really matter if it's an option or not but i think majority of ppl prefer having the option that's currently available on windows 8 and windows 8.1 instead of this ugly crap looking that's made by in a few seconds. and fyi most ppl on tom's twitter page hates it too.

Yeah, I'm skeptical about this, i always love it initially on skinnery, then i tend to hate it later on, any ways it's a welcome addition

It's not that I don't want this. It's the fact that I want background behind the tiles. This can stay, I don't care, I won't use it. I just want backgrounds, too. Those I would use.

Personally, I think it looks terrible and would much rather have an image in the background with translucent tiles.

Just looking at this example, I wonder how live tiles will work. It appears that you'll know longer see images of your contacts rotate on that tile. What about the live tiles from say Bing News or Sports for example, weather apps, any non-native apps, etc. ...

I'm not really a fan of having my tiles all matching my theme because I feel it washes everything out and makes it hard to distinguished between apps at a glance... you almost have to just memorize their location rather than visual identification... this would take that to the next level.

I'm all for options, but this isn't the option I want.

I like that one a lot. Had the notification rights where I'd like them too. Now only add the option to use Windows-style tiles and I'm sold.

After I got my Surface, and got accustomed to using Windows 8, I found myself swiping from the left a lot on my phone to switch between apps. I think that would be a great mobile multitasking idea. Also add the ability to pin two apps one on top and one on bottom maybe? integrate the tablet aspect into mobile and I would be sold.

Dude! That heavily depends on tastes! I personally like it very much. You can make an ugly start screen even now, using apps with ugly icons or just by arranging tiles in a not very beautiful way. But this option is great and will definitely lure some of android users.

And as it was already said, you can use a simple one-colour gradient or a pattern that will look great for those who like simplier interfaces.

I bet Android users will laugh at this concept like they do at anything that takes them out of their comfort zone.

No actually this looks great. Many of the features reported to be in WP 8.1 address many complaints a lot of other platform users have of the OS.

Most android users aren't those visiting tech blogs and review -sites, they are average Joes and Janes, and I'm sure customization will appeal to them.

Yeah it is an option, but we need real background support... Not this ugly bull! MS sometimes acts as if they are in a different world where its only them that lives in it, with their stupid ideas. That being said, it's a welcomed extra feature, but not to many people want it... We want real background photos in the background.. Nay!

No it doesn't ! That looks like  a dogs dinner.

Its a bit like those ridiculous backgrounds on XP, IOS or Android of peoples wedding photo or baby photo, that then is splattered all over with icons, it looks like turd. Absolute nonsense.
You people amaze me. Digitally authenticate means nice to look at and useful.

Background images covered in icons is not good. Not the way forward. Sorry, you are just plain wrong.


I'm confused. You say you disagree but your comments make it seem as if you agree that this isn't the right move. So what is it?

No diss to Skinnery but it's why I never used it. Doesn't appeal to me but the option for those that need it doesn't hurt. I'm easy to please anyway I just wanted custom notification tones and Subway Surfer. All these other things are extras in my book.

Agree mate!
I would prefer to select an image as a background (behind the tiles) like android and iOS

Then you are a muppet. Are you seriously telling me that outdated pathetic background baby photo covered in icons actual looks good?


No way man. You are mental.

Actually do you know what you could do?

You could use a solid colour image instead of a picture of something!

Then you colour enable more Tile colours than what are built into your device by default :D

Neither do I. I thought it will be like in Windows 8. Solid color brushed tiles with some kind of  abstract background in the back. That would be lovely. But this. You will have to choose your background wisely if you want to read the text on your tiles.

I like it though. However, choosing the right picture is a very important aspect since it may hinder the visibility of text on the tiles.

To add on to this they should add a normal background feature and make the tiles have some transparency. You should be able to choose between accents, tile skins, and full on backgrounds.

They don't, WP8.1 apps are just apps that use the new APIs and wouldn't, of course, work with WP8, but I haven't seen or heard anything that suggests that WP8 apps don't work "as is" in WP8.1.

This goes a looong way in making the tile layout more appealing. Good riddance to the Hodge podge calico kaleidoscope of different tiles.

It's the system apps that allow for transparency and will show the image you choose.

Third-party apps may not allow it, or it'll have to be updated to allow it.

After the recompiling of apps from 8.0 to 8.1 the system will be able to take presidents over how the tiles will look according to settings.. This is one of the reasons that apps have to be updated to work on 8.1... That's MS making sure all apps will cooperate with the background images...

I think it would be nice if carriers put their own default images on WP devices... Right now they just don't stand out on store shelves like other devices... Next, can we please get animated background images?... What do you think of that?... Think about it.. You could choses to have all of your notifications animated in real time on the screen.. Not uselessly animated like Android, but animated in a useful way...

I think this is the better option, at least now, people will be able to see the big picture, with out having titles in the way.

ehmm but windows 8 has more space to see the image from begind... you cant rarely see what image it has as background unless you remove the tiles, do you want to remove the tiles to see your dog or wife or family?
stop comparing Windows 8 vs Windows Phone... while trying to make your point valid because that wont work, I mean... you cant compare their resolution or their size and how space Win8 start screen uses vs Windows Phone, because of how big screens are for Win8 or their resolutions.

So, just tell me... Why is Microsoft working on merging Windows RT and Windows Phone? Also, resolution isn't a huge problem since we are going to have more devices with 1080p screens, and the Lumia 1520 has a 6 inch display (seems more like a tablet size, at least for me), I think it may help to take some features from Windows 8/RT (start screen rotation, groups of apps, universal search, etc.) and I'm sure Microsoft is going in this direction.

Anyhow I understand that the one in the article gives more the idea of a window, so no problem man.

>So, just tell me... Why is Microsoft working on merging Windows RT and Windows Phone?

To merge app targetting. Write app once, get it on W8, WRT, Xbox etc. Not because of your rubbish background concept. The one MS has designed is beautiful.

Calm down man, granted, universal apps is one of the reasons but I think having the same experience across all devices is very important too.

I'm sorry that you don't like the concept, I'm ok with that. I'm not saying the one MS has designed is bad, it makes a lot of sense actually. Still, I'd have preferred something like Windows 8, but that's just my opinion.

Options are always good.

I think that looks horrible....i don't really like the way in the article either. I am fine with the way it is. I think am image anywhere on the start screen is pointless. Thankfully it is optional, and its nice to have a new feature coming. Even if I don't personally like it.

Unfortunately, Tom Warren just said he believes as of now, there will not be a background option. I wish there was, to appease those people.

No, it doesn't. Take a closer look at both those photos. 

All it does is replace the solid color tiles on your phone, with being part of a larger photo.  Any dev who went through the effort of customizing the image of their live tile, or giving the user the option to customize the image of their tile, will not be affected.  

If you have a ton of generic [theme-colored] tiles on your phone, then this is a great idea. Just another option to customize them.

I hate the games tile. It doesn't change color too, always stays as is, wish it changed with themes.. Because if it I use emerald color theme, but I like lime and green more)

If I can try to advise, try rearranging your tiles so that the color-constant tiles are symetrically arranged, or arranged in some neat fashion (like have them make a checquer with accent colored tiles or so). That way they will be less obvious

Let me guess your a lame Apple or Droid, user, that didn't know how to resize the tiles. Read the manual first you can get 3 wide if you want, its how big or small you want times, apple and Droid don't do that. ENJOY.

I don't really understand your response? Why insult the author so harshly when they're correct? The largest tile available is the 'wide tile' which is 2 medium tiles wide or 4 small tiles wide. Not 3 medium as they were obviously hoping for.

Would be too large, and not enough info for just one title. Microsoft nailed it, but preferences are always there, I suppose.

What phone are you using now though?

So you're saying that as of current plans, we will receive these skinned tiles but we will not receive backgounds a la Windows 8. And since you've also said 8.1 is just about locked down in terms of feature list i.e they're at the stage where they just fix bugs and release, then this is it.

This makes no sense.