How to customize your iPhone Lock Screen in iOS 16 | Cult of Mac

Live weather, awesome astronomy and fun faces: Customize your iPhone’s Lock Screen in iOS 16

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There are a lot of ways to customize the Lock Screen in iOS 16.
There are a lot of ways to customize the Lock Screen in iOS 16.
Image: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

iOS 16 brings the most radical change to the iPhone Lock Screen yet. In the new operating system, you can customize and totally transform the look and feel of your phone. If you liked the themed custom Home Screens people were putting together using Shortcuts and Widgetsmith, you’ll love the level of creativity you can express with customized Lock Screens in iOS 16.

Read on to see all the features of the new iOS 16 Lock Screen.


iOS 16 and the iPhone Lock Screen

The new iOS 16 Lock Screen marks a big departure from Apple’s traditional tight grip on the iPhone’s look and feel. Since 2007, when the iPhone launched, you’ve only ever been able to change the Lock Screen’s background picture. Previously, the biggest evolution came when Apple changed slide-right-to-unlock to swipe-up.

In iOS 16, you can fully customize the Lock Screen by changing the fonts and colors. Plus, you can add widgets for glanceable information, and you can customize a wide array of new interactive and personalized backgrounds.

Get iOS 16 … and an iPhone

To use these features, you need to install iOS 16. iOS 16 is compatible with every iPhone released in 2017 and later: the iPhone 8, X, XS, 11, 12, 13 and 14 models and iPhone SE (both second and third generation). This feature is curiously missing from iPadOS, but just like the App Library and widgets on the Home Screen, it might arrive on iPad next year.

How to customize the Lock Screen in iOS 16

How to customize the Lock Screen in iOS 16: Add new Lock Screens by picking a style from the gallery.
Add new Lock Screens by picking a style from the gallery.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

To start, tap and hold on the Lock Screen, scroll to the right and tap Add New. From here, you can select one of the new background styles: Photos, Weather, Astronomy, Emoji, Collections and Color.

Special iPhone Lock Screen backgrounds

How to add your own photos to the Lock Screen

You can still set a single-photo background in iOS 16, but Apple is really pushing its intelligent photo-picking feature. It finds the best shots in your library. If you tag people in Photos, it’ll show more pictures of your close friends and family.

There are lots of ways to add a Photo wallpaper.
There are lots of ways to add a Photo wallpaper. Your phone will suggest the best pictures for you. You can see from the selection here that even Photos knows I pick favorites between my dogs.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Tap Photos on the top to pick a photo from your library. Tap People to see portraits of people your phone has picked for you. You also can switch to see PetsNature and Cities, or just tap All to see everything.

A Photo Shuffle will switch up your wallpaper automatically.
A Photo Shuffle will switch up your wallpaper automatically.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

From the Add New Wallpaper gallery, you also can tap Photo Shuffle. It will automatically pick photos from each category and rotate through them. Tap on a category to exclude it. Tap Choose… to pick which people to feature.

Tap Shuffle Frequency to set when you want the background to change — every time you tap the screen, every time you open your phone, every hour or every day. Tap Use Featured Photos to add it or tap Select Photos Manually to pick a few out of your library.

Personally, I find Photo Shuffle picks weird pictures from my library. It could be a good starting point, but I would go with a manual selection. For the rest of this section, we’ll use this picture of my Macintosh Plus:

Give your Photo Shuffle an aesthetic color scheme.
Give your Photo Shuffle an aesthetic color scheme.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

After you’ve picked your photos, tap the icon in the bottom-left to pick a new photo or change the selection. Swipe left and right to switch between styles: color, black and white, duotone or color wash. With duotone or color wash, tap the menu in the bottom-right and tap Style Color… to pick a different color filter. If you have Photo Shuffle, you can change the shuffle frequency here, too.

Set your Lock Screen photo as iPhone wallpaper

Customize Home Screen will let you set a different background for your Home Screen.
Customize Home Screen will let you set a different background for your Home Screen.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Tap Done in the top right when you’re satisfied. Tap Set Wallpaper Pair to confirm or tap Customize Home Screen to make changes to your Home Screen wallpaper. By default, your Home Screen uses the same wallpaper with a blur for legibility. Tap Legibility Blur to turn it off.

Alternatively, you can pick a color gradient (middle-left) or a solid color background (middle-right) by tapping the dots in the middle. Tap Configure… to pick your own color. You can pick a shade from the palette, adjust the lightness with the slider at the bottom, or tap the icon in the top-left for a full-color swatch.

You can also pick a Home Screen picture by tapping the Photo icon on the right.

Tap Done when you’re finished to use your new Photos Lock Screen and Home Screen.

Keep reading to see more wallpapers or skip ahead to add widgets and customize fonts or use your Lock Screen with a Focus Mode.

How to get live weather on your Lock Screen

The Weather wallpaper makes your Lock Screen a little window to the outside.
The Weather wallpaper makes your Lock Screen a little window to the outside.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

The Weather wallpaper shows you live, animated weather conditions (just like the Weather app) wherever you are. If it’s raining, as it usually is in Appalachian Ohio, rain will fall from the screen for a few moments and then slow down to a stop. If you live in California, you’ll basically have a sky-blue wallpaper.

You might think this would have a huge impact on battery life, but in my testing, it does not. Unlike Maps or Pokémon Go, which use your precise location from GPS, I assume this uses the rough geographic area that your iPhone always knows from connecting to local cell towers.

There are no customization options. You can’t set it to a different city in a different part of the world for funsies; it’s always looking up your local weather.

Tap Done and you can configure the Home Screen wallpaper using the same settings as above. Legibility Blur is off by default for this theme, but none of the Weather animations affect legibility anyway.

I really like this wallpaper, but it’s too bright for me. I prefer darker wallpapers because they use less power. I’d like an option to get current weather conditions but with a night sky.

How to add astronomy animations to your Lock Screen

Astronomy backgrounds give you a globe with accurate cloud coverage, the moon in its current phase or the current positions of the planets.
Astronomy backgrounds give you a globe with accurate cloud coverage, the moon in its current phase or the current positions of the planets.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Add the Astronomy wallpaper and you have five settings to choose from. Earth shows the whole globe, Earth Detail zooms a little closer into your geographic area, Moon shows the whole moon, Moon Detail zooms in on a similar part of the moon, and Solar System shows the relative position of all eight planets.

When you pick Earth or Moon, there’s a really cool animation as you swipe up to unlock your phone as the globe will zoom in to fill the bottom of the screen. It looks less dramatic if you pick Earth or Moon Detail.

There aren’t any customization options here, either, but I think there should be. I would really like the option to disable the bright green dot on my location with the Earth screen. While I agree with the International Astronomical Union that Pluto is not a planet, it would be fun if you could enable it on the Solar System background.

How to get emoji wallpaper on your Lock Screen

Pick your own emoji to make a nice themed wallpaper with a trippy kaleidoscope background.
Pick your own emoji to make a nicely themed wallpaper with a trippy kaleidoscopic background. My wife made a fish-themed wallpaper, so I added the weird fish emoji. I made my own Pride background using the colored heart emoji.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

The emoji wallpaper is pretty bizarre. Tap Emoji to create your own or pick one of the templates below to start.

Tap the Emoji button in the bottom-left to pick up to six emoji.

Arrange emoji in three grid sizes, Rings and Spiral.
Arrange emoji in three grid sizes, or Rings or Spiral.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

You have five options for filling the screen: Small, Medium and Large Grid, Rings and Spiral.

With full control over emoji and colors, you can make something pleasant or something truly heinous.
With full control over emoji and colors, you can make something pleasant or something truly heinous.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Tap the menu button in the bottom-right and tap Background to pick a background color.

If you so desire, you can make something kinda cute or an abominable legibility nightmare. I thought the emoji wallpaper was really dumb when I watched Apple’s WWDC22 keynote, but I had a lot of fun making these.

How to use Apple’s classic wallpaper collections, including clownfish

Scroll down to see Collections for some classic Apple wallpapers.

Celebrate Pride with these backgrounds.
Celebrate Pride with these backgrounds.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Pride and Unity wallpapers celebrate LGBTQI+ pride and Black pride, the former of which offers another fun animation when you swipe up to unlock. It’s nice to have a matching Lock Screen if you use the Pride Watch face.

These backgrounds celebrate Apple history.
These backgrounds celebrate Apple history.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

There are three wallpapers named Collections in the Collections collection. The first is Apple’s wallpaper for iOS 16; the second uses the six colors of the Apple rainbow on top of a background; the third is the set of dynamic wallpapers Apple introduced with iOS 7 that has hardly changed in the nine years since.

The Clownfish wallpaper comes to the iPhone for the first (or second?) time ever.
The Clownfish wallpaper comes to the iPhone for the first (or second?) time ever.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

The Clownfish collection might seem weird if you’re not familiar with the history of the image. Why does this picture of two fish get top billing alongside everything else?

The Clownfish wallpaper played a prominent role in the introduction of the original iPhone in 2007 but was never released as an official wallpaper in any version of iOS. Now that it comes to the iOS 16 Lock Screen, a mere 15 years later, it has some special details. When you tap to wake your iPhone, different parts of the wallpaper light up before others. When you slide to unlock, it triggers a subtle parallax effect.

How to get a plain color wallpaper on the Lock Screen

Pick a nice color gradient with, you guessed it, Color.
Pick a nice color gradient with, you guessed it, Color.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Color is a pretty simple one. Pick Color from the top to start from scratch or pick a template from the bottom of the gallery.

Tap the icon in the bottom-left to pick a color from the palette. Swipe left and right to pick a different gradient or style. I really like Deep because of the neat gradient it applies, but I also made a light gray on solid blue color scheme that matches my website.

How to change the Lock Screen’s fonts, colors and widgets

Customize iPhone Lock Screen in iOS 16: Change the font and color of the clock and widgets.
Change the font and color of the clock and widgets.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Tap and hold on any Lock Screen and tap Customize to change fonts, colors and add widgets.

Tap on the time to change the font and text color.

Add widgets above and below the clock.
Add widgets above and below the clock.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Tap on the text above the clock to pick a widget. Any widget you pick will appear as a single line of text next to the date. If you don’t want a widget here, pick the first Calendar widget and the date will fill the whole spot.

Tap the widgets below the clock to pick several widgets. Tap the on a widget to make room if it’s already filled. Pick a widget from the selection or scroll down to see more options.

Some widgets have additional settings if you tap on them: Reminders lets you pick a list, Clock lets you pick a city, Batteries lets you pick a device, Stocks lets you pick a symbol.

When iOS 16 releases this fall, some of the third-party apps you may use will add widgets to their apps.

Tie Focus Modes to an iOS 16 Lock Screen

Creating and editing Focus Modes, which let you set rules for keeping distractions at bay, wasn’t very easy when the feature was introduced last year. The process is much more straightforward in iOS 16 — stay tuned for an updated article on how to set it up.

If you already have a Focus you use (your phone comes with some built-in, like Do Not Disturb) you can link it to a specific Lock Screen in iOS 16. You can use one wallpaper and theme when you’re working, and set another for the rest of the day to keep you, well, focused.

It’s really easy to link a Focus to a Lock Screen.
It’s really easy to link a Focus to a Lock Screen.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

To do so, just tap and hold on the Lock Screen, scroll left and right to pick one of your custom Lock Screens, and tap Focus.

Pick a Focus you’d like to link your Lock Screen to. If you pick one of Apple’s built-in Focus templates (like Work or Personal) and you haven’t set it up yet, you’ll get a banner inviting you to customize the settings.

Note: We originally published this post on how to customize your iPhone Lock Screen in iOS 16 on July 14, 2022. We updated it after the operating system’s release.