If you’re like me, you spend a good chunk of your day inside your Gmail inbox, or at least subtly noticing it in the background of your peripheral vision as it remains open on your second monitor.

And if you’re like many Gmail users, you’re stuck dealing with the default background of the Gmail email client—a plain, white and gray canvas.

Fortunately, Gmail offers a convenient way for you to change your background, so you can change your mood, improve your focus, or just make your day more interesting.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to change your Gmail background.

Gmail Themes

The way to change your Gmail background is via Gmail Themes.

Here’s how to do it.

1. Head to the Settings menu. In the upper-right corner of the desktop app, click on the gear icon and click Settings.

gmail settings

2. Click on Themes. Then, click “Set theme.” Here, you’ll have the ability to choose from one of several different background images, pulled from Google’s stock photos. Many photos here are of natural scenery (like plants, animals, rivers, etc.). However, you’ll also have the ability to choose basic themes, like a dark theme (which could be easier on your eyes) or a high contrast theme (to help you see things clearer).

Gmail themes: Set theme - how to change your Gmail background

3. Choose and adjust a theme. Choose a photo or a theme. If you choose a photo, you’ll also be able to adjust a few options related to how your image is displayed. At the bottom of this screen, you’ll see options for Text, Vignette, and Blur. The Text option will allow you to choose the Text background as Light or Dark. The Vignette will provide you with a sliding scale that allows you to darken the corners of your background image. The Blur will provide you with a sliding scale that allows you to blur the background image (which is great for a photo with excessive detail).

choose Gmail theme

4. Click Save. Once you’ve chosen a photo or a theme for your background, and adjusted the options associated with it, click Save. Your changes will be applied. Note that you can always return to the default theme if you want to go back.

Gmail themes: how to change your Gmail background

How to Change Your Gmail Background to Your Own Photo

You may also notice that you have the option to choose a background from “My photos.” If you want to upload a custom photo to use as your Gmail background, you can—but you’ll have to do it through Google Photos.

Improve your team's email response time by 42.5% With EmailAnalytics

  • 35-50% of sales go to the first-responding vendor.
  • Following up within an hour increases your chances of success by 7x.
  • The average professional spends 50% of their workday on email.


Here’s how to do it:

1. Open Google Photos. Head to Google Photos. If you aren’t already signed into your Google Account, you’ll need to.

2. Upload a photo. Next, you’ll need to upload a photo (or several).

upload photo gmail

3. (optional) Create an album. You can also create albums in Google Photos to keep your photos better organized. For example, you could create an album titled “Background photos for Gmail.”

create album

Once you’ve uploaded photos to your Google Account, they’ll be available the next time you attempt to change your Gmail background. When you click “My photos,” you’ll be able to navigate to the various albums and photos in your account, select the photo you want, and click Save to apply the change.

That’s it!

Why Change Your Gmail Background?

Now that you know how to change the background of your Gmail, let’s explore some of the reasons why this is often a good idea.

Most people have one of the following motivations:

  • Eye strain and clarity. Staring at a computer screen all day can be exhausting, and result in computer vision syndrome if you aren’t careful. And for some people, the default Gmail theme is hard to read. Changing the background could solve one or both problems, making your screen easier to read and easier in terms of eye strain.
  • Mood. Some people want a different color or a different image because it has the power to improve or change their mood. For example, would you rather look at a blank white background, or the calming image of a beautiful forest? What about a family photo that reminds you why you’re putting in these extra hours?
  • Something different. After using Gmail for many years, many users are simply ready for something different. Looking at the same background for hours a day, every day, gets old, to the point where almost any image or new color looks better.

Experiment with different backgrounds to see how you respond—you might be surprised to learn how much more productive, attentive, or happy you are with one specific background image over another. And if you’re looking for how to change the background of an actual email you send (such as for marketing purposes, be sure to see these email header templates.

Want to further modify your Gmail? See our guide on how to change your name and email address in Gmail. And now that you know how to change your background in Gmail, if you’re interested in getting an even better experience with Gmail, it’s helpful to measure and analyze your email activity with a tool like EmailAnalytics.

EmailAnalytics integrates with Gmail and provides you with interactive data visuals that help you measure your inbound and outbound email rates, your response rates, and more. Sign up for a free trial today, and learn how you can improve your email habits!