Granimator: Wallpaper without the numbers

Granimator is not an app for bottom line readers. The fun of the app is taking the time to explore design elements and styles to create the perfect custom wallpaper. Bottom line readers can hire artists for that, or delegate the work to someone useless at their real job.


  • Provides a kit with a variety of design elements and styles.
  • Is easy to use.
  • Can be expanded to include more design elements.

In addition, I discuss the impact of childhood play upon salary negotiations, wax nostalgic about a lost toy from childhood, obliquely discuss the difference between art snobbery and art criticism and how I began my lifelong struggles with self-righteous white women in positions of authority.

Yesterday I reviewed several wallpaper apps and suggested the best all around app that I’ve seen was Wallpapers HD Pro. I also mentioned an app that allows you to paint your own wallpaper, Granimator. I’ll unlock Granimator today and hopefully help you decide if it’s worth taking the time to download and learn. Since it’s free, at least for now, cost shouldn’t be an issue.

In the back of my mind I can hear the voice of that one critical reader who finds fault with the slightest inaccuracy saying, “Any painting app lets you paint your own wallpaper.” I know that voice well because it would be me. It drives Carol crazy when we’re watching any of the CSI shows and the crime scene technician pulls his or her gun to make an arrest and I shout, “Crime screen guys aren’t cops. They catalogue the evidence.” Or we’ll be watching Gray’s Anatomy and McWhiney (that’s what we call Meredith Gray) does just about anything McWhiney does and I say, “A real hospital would get sued for malpractice if one of their residents did that.”

So, yes, I know that voice and to that voice I answer, “Granimator is for iPad users who don’t know how to paint pretty wallpapers. It provides them with the elements to create a wallpaper, kind of like we used to make collages in art class because the teacher no longer let us near the paint.”

That won’t really get me off the hook with the critical reader, especially the critical reader who taught design classes, who says, “If they can’t paint or draw already, anything they do with a cookie cutter app won’t look professional either.”

They would be right. It is difficult to explain to people with no training in art or design why the wallpaper they think is so pretty is actually mundane, unappealing or even garishly offensive even if they did do it in Photoshop and used all the cool filters (which is probably one of the reasons it looks so bad). You end up sounding like more of an ass than the guy who looks at a Jackson Pollock painting and says “my three year old can do that.” And the wallpaper will still look mundane, unappealing or even garishly offensive.

So with the caveat that no iPad app—not even Granimator or Photoshop (if Adobe were to create an iPad version)—can turn you into an artist, let me say that Granimator provides iPad users with a set of professionally designed cookie cutter art objects that can create wallpapers they will think are pretty.

And that’s what’s important, right? It’s your iPad. You can have any wallpaper you want. It’s not as though a high paying client has commissioned you to design the world’s greatest iPad wallpaper to launch their corporate brand.

Besides, everyone’s iPad probably carries some app, or iBook or image in their camera that will make snobs sneer. It’s just in the nature of being a snob. “Oh, you have a tree for your wallpaper. How banal. Oh, you have a link to Facebook in Safari. You must enjoy being one of the herd. Oh, you play We Rule. I suppose you don’t have the patience for iPad chess with the Bobby Fisher AI.”

Cloth board art

Granimator really reminds me of those black cloth boards in Sunday School when I was a kid. I can’t remember what they were called (an internet search didn’t help) and I don’t know if they were still around when you were a kid. When I was a kid they came in kits with different characters dye-cut from rolls of pre-printed plastic. You could arrange and rearrange the plastic pieces to your heart’s content.

One cloth board kit would have the nativity, and you cut arrange Jesus and Mary and the shepherds. Another might have the twelve apostles, or Moses and the Pharaoh. Another might have fruits and vegetables, which now that I think of it has nothing to do with Jesus and some fundamentalists might even consider to be a Pagan influence.

I used to love mixing characters from different sets, which displeased my Sunday School teachers to no end. My favorite was Jesus multiplying the apples and oranges to feed the angels, which my teachers insisted never happened. I would insist it could have, and then my mother would get called in from the Sunday School class she was teaching, which meant my father would hear about it.

My father never liked to hear that I was uppity in Sunday School. It made him look bad and would give the cheap deacons an excuse to hold back that much more from next year’s raise. And if they held back on Dad’s raise, they didn’t have to feel quite so guilty about adjusting their income downward before tithing (something which I suspect they learned from their tax accountants).1

If I only knew then what I know now, I could have told those self-righteous white women that I was engaging in allegory. Apples and oranges were merely metaphors for spiritual gifts and the angels represented our resurrected bodies in heaven. But I was seven and didn’t know anything about allegory or metaphor, although these incidents should have indicated that I was doomed to tussle with self-righteous white women for the rest of my life.

Granimator is just like those cloth boards, only it’s digital and the objects are decorative so there should be no theological implications to your wallpaper whatsoever.

Art NA Box

Granimator comes loaded with a half dozen art packs—kits created by professional designers to provide you with the basic tools to create a decent wallpaper even you have no eye for art whatsoever. The kits range from the minimalist High 1, which contains only a hand print and foot print, to the outrageously garish Beast Box (and no outrageous and garish are not redundant, you can have degrees of garish).

Granimator provides several design packs.

Fortunately these kits are from professional designers, so if someone doesn’t like your wallpaper you can tell them it was custom made by a professional.

Don’t think of Granimator as paint by the numbers. You have a lot more control over the final result (as my mother used to discover when I ignored the numbers and painted with whatever colors I wanted). You have complete control over the process, from choosing which background to build upon to which objects and paint styles you want to use.

User friendly

You don’t really need instructions to use Granimator, it’s pretty easy to figure out if you have any experience with computers. The menus are icon driven and if you can’t figure out what something does, just experiment (which is really the whole point of Granimator anyway).

Three triangular tabs at the top, left and bottom of the screen open Granimator’s menus and painters’ palette. The left tab provides your painting tools, including an eraser that makes each object go away as you touch it. Since each art element is an object, you can rearrange and even change the style of any element.

An easy to understand tool menu at the top and side.

The painters’ palette is a joy to use. Simply choose your background, painting object and paint style. Then start painting. The objects follow the path of your finger. You can paint with multiple objects and multiple styles with the same brush stroke. Granimator randomizes the selection of individual objects and styles.

The painters’ palette

You can change the background at any time, and the move and erase tools let you move or delete any objects. The only thing you can’t do is change the style of an object once it’s painted.

Pay for paint packs

Even though Granimator’s free, the developers aren’t completely generous. You can download additional packs at the price of two dollars each. They do offer two free download packs, and the Constructivist pack is quite fun. Just beware that if you consider yourself a freedom loving patriot, Constructivism was a school of Soviet Art that developed shortly after the revolution. I have no problem being patriotic and constructivist, but others may find it harder to blur those lines.

Constructivist, one of the downloadable packs

Downloading created the only problems I noticed with Granimator. I tried to download the Constructivist kit twice only to have Granimator freeze the iPad. I had to hard boot each time and lost any work I had done. Finally I downloaded the other free pack, Weare.

When it finished downloading I actually saw the spinning icon indicating the pack was being installed. Once Weare was installed, I had no problems with Constructivist. I didn’t attempt to purchase any other packs to see if the problem recurred; I didn’t want to spend any more money.

Good resolution in any orientation

Granimator only saves images in 1028 x 763 image size. This can create problems when rotating your iPad if the images are at the lower 72 pixel per inch resolution that is typical of web images. But I tested several images, and they looked crisp in both landscape and portrait mode.

Can’t mix elements

I suspect some users will be disappointed that they can’t mix elements from different packs (much as I mixed pieces from different cloth board kits). If I were younger I might share their dismay. To be honest, however, these are design kits. The elements were designed by professional artists to look good together, not to be mixed with elements from other places.

Think of this as Granimator’s quality control or fail safe. By keeping the design elements separate, the app is pretty much guaranteed to deliver a decent wallpaper no matter how bad an artist you are. When you send these pictures to your mother, she’ll be proud to put them on her refrigerator door.

Granimator works just fine as a standalone art app. Users with a good eye for design will enjoy playing with different Granimator packs just for the fun of it. The images can be saved or posted to the internet as well, so talented young artists can show off their work.

Jenny Manytoes rates Granimator

Jenny Manytoes makes biscuits on Granimator. She just wishes the developers would add a pack with kittens. Or fishes. Or cat food. And catnip. Or all of those things.

1This does raise an interesting spiritual question, doesn’t it? How does one calculate a tithe? Is it based on gross or net income, or income before or after taxes? Are there deductibles? For instance, if you donate a hundred dollars to the missionary relief fund, can you then deduct that hundred dollars from your income before tithing? And if you can do that, can you deduct other charitable donations like Christmas presents for your kids and the campaign donation to the county official who approves your liquor license? These are important questions, and scripture can be vague.back

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

iPad Envy is created entirely using apps from my iPad.
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About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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