Aphids Communications

How to Download Background Images

By Susan Brumbaugh, Co-Owner, Aphids Communications

Main Index: Very Basic Help with Images

This portion of the Very Basic Help with Images web site explains how to download a background image from a web page. The procedure is somewhat different from downloading a regular image, since you can't simply use your mouse the grab the image as you would with a regular image download.

For those who understand the basics of HTML and directory structure, you can probably simply read the one sentence following each "step" and realize the procedure. For those who have less experience, each step is explained in detail, with examples.

As with all images, do not use or download a background image from a web page without e-mailing the page owner for permission, even if the page does not contain a copyright statement. For more information, see the section on finding images.

Step 1: Go to the page that has the desired URL.
For an example, go to the following web page (which will open in a separate window so you can view the instructions and the example at the same time):

Step 2: Use your browser to view the HTML source code.
In Netscape, go to the View Menu, and select Document Source. If you can't figure out how to view the source, you can always use your browser to save the document to your hard drive and look at it there.

Step 3: Determine the location of the background image.
In the HTML source code, you want to look for the name of the file being used for the background. This will be contained in the BODY statement near the top. It will say something like:

<body background="filename.gif">
or perhaps one of the following:
<body background="images/filename.gif">
<body background="../images/filename.gif">
<body background="/images/filename.gif">
There are lots of possibilities, and I'll try to discuss the most common. Also, the image path may or may not be contained in quotations (it should be, but if it's simply a filename, the author may have left them off).

Step 4: Open the image in your browser.
This is the tricky part.

  1. Type the URL in an "Open Location" box.
    Either in your Location box or by "opening" a location (usually available under the File Menu), type in the URL (address) of the page that contains the background you like.

  2. Determine the directory the web page resides in.
    Directories are usually one single word, without periods. If you see a filename at the end (something that ends in ".html" or ".cgi" or other file extensions), delete it back to the forward slash. If there is no filename, leave the URL intact.

  3. Fill in the location of the image from the body statement.
    There are three possibilities:

    1. The path in the body statement does not begin with a slash.
      Simply type in the characters from the body statement, including any periods and slashes.

      For example, if the web page URL is:

      and the body statement is
      <body background="images/pines.gif">
      Then the image URL to open is
      If the path in the body statement is longer, go ahead and type the whole thing in and open the image.

    2. The path in the body statement begins with a slash.
      That means the image is stored in an entirely different place. Now what you need to do is erase all the subdirectory information from the URL you've typed in, leaving only the server portion of the address (usually something like http://www.somedomain.sometype/). Then simply type in the characters from the body statement, including the initial slash and any other pariods and slashes.

      For example, if the web page URL is:

      and the body statement is
      <body background="/susan/images/pines.gif">
      Then the image URL to open is

    3. The path in the body statement is a full URL to another web site.
      This means that the author of the web page has not downloaded the image at all but is using one from someone else's site. This is a bad thing to do (so please don't do the same thing on your web pages) - for a longer discussion of the negative aspects of this practice, see the important note at the bottom of the download instruction page.

      To download an image at a remote site, simply open the URL the person has typed into the body statement.

  4. Once you have the proper path filled in, hit the Enter key or click on Open to open the image on a separate web page. If you do not see the image, retrace your steps to see if you've typed everything correctly.

Step 5: Download the image.
The image will appear all by itself, and you can then download using your normal procedure (usually involves using your mouse).

© 2004 by Aphids Communications, L.L.C., all rights reserved. Text, graphics, and HTML code are protected by US and International Copyright Laws, and may not be copied, reprinted, published, translated, hosted, or otherwise distributed by any means without explicit permission of the copyright owner. Aphids and Aphids Communications are trademarks of Aphids Communications, L.L.C.