Pygame Background Tutorial – Complete Guide

Picture this – you’ve just built an amazing game with Pygame, but you’re stuck on a white, uninteresting background. Does your game have a forest setting? Or maybe it’s set in outer space? That’s where Pygame background steps in, an integral part of Python’s Pygame library, helping to elevate your game from good to great.

What is Pygame background?

Pygame background is a function of Pygame, a highly portable and powerful multimedia library for Python. It allows developers to create a background layer for their games. This could be a stationary backdrop or a scrolling one to give the illusion of character movement within the game world.

What is it for?

Using Pygame background, you can create visually stunning backgrounds that add depth and immersion to your games. You can pattern your game’s backdrop to match the setting – be it a verdant jungle, a bustling cityscape, an alien world, or a simple geometric pattern; the choice is yours.

Why should you learn it?

Creating a visually compelling game is not just about the game mechanics or the character design – it’s also about the environment in which the game is set. It gives your game a unique and memorable look that’s more attractive and engaging to players. Plus, learning how to use Pygame background equips you with skills applicable to any game development project you undertake in the future. It’s powerful, versatile, and essential for aspiring game developers.

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Creating a Static Pygame Background

In this section, we will walk through creating a stationary background for a Pygame window.

Firstly, you’ll need to import the Pygame module into your Python script.

import pygame

Next, initialize Pygame, and then set the size of the Pygame window.

screen = pygame.display.set_mode((800, 600))

Now, load your background image. Make sure the image is in the same directory as your script, or provide the correct path to its location.

background = pygame.image.load('background.jpg')

In this next step, blit the background image onto the Pygame screen. This will render the image to fill the screen.

screen.blit(background, (0, 0))

Finally, update your display to show the new background.


Creating a Scrolling Pygame Background

Creating a scrolling background involves a bit more complexity but adds valuable depth and movement to your gameplay. Here’s how to do it.

This time, we’ll need two copies of the same image. As one scrolls off the screen, the other will replace it, creating the illusion of continuous scrolling.

Again, start by initializing Pygame and setting the screen dimensions.

screen = pygame.display.set_mode((800, 600))

Next, load your background image twice and set the initial ‘y’ positions.

background1 = pygame.image.load('background.jpg')
background2 = pygame.image.load('background.jpg')
background1_y = 0
background2_y = -600

Now, in the main game loop, move the backgrounds down by changing their ‘y’ values. Remember to reset their positions once they scroll off the screen.

background1_y += 1
background2_y += 1

if background1_y == 600:
     background1_y = -600

if background2_y == 600:
     background2_y = -600

Again, blit the background images onto the Pygame screen. This time, use the ‘y’ positions to create the scrolling effect.

screen.blit(background1, (0, background1_y))
screen.blit(background2, (0, background2_y))

Finally, update your display to show the new scrolling background.


And there you have it! You’ve successfully added stationary and scrolling backgrounds to your Pygame creations. Remember to experiment with different images and speeds to find the best fit for your game.

Adding Complexity: Scrolling Parallax Backgrounds

To make your game even more visually striking, let’s add a layer of complexity: a parallax effect.
A parallax effect involves background layers moving at different speeds to give the illusion of depth.

To create this effect, we’ll need multiple background images.

Initiate Pygame and set the screen dimensions.

screen = pygame.display.set_mode((800, 600))

Load your three separate background images. Again, these should be in the same directory as your script, or provide the correct path to each file.

background1 = pygame.image.load('background1.jpg')
background2 = pygame.image.load('background2.jpg')
background3 = pygame.image.load('background3.jpg')

Set the initial ‘y’ positions for each layer. All will start at the same position.

background1_y = 0
background2_y = 0
background3_y = 0

To create the parallax effect, each background layer will need to scroll at different speeds. To do this, you adjust the ‘y’ positions at different rates within the game loop.

background1_y += 0.5
background2_y += 1
background3_y += 1.5

As before, you’ll need to reset their positions to prevent them from scrolling off the screen.

for background in [background1, background2, background3]:
    if background_y == 600:
        background_y = -600

Finally, blit the three backgrounds onto the Pygame screen and update your display. Make sure to blit and update for each image.

for background, y in [(background1, background1_y), (background2, background2_y), (background3, background3_y)]:
    screen.blit(background, (0, y))


Congratulations! You’ve just added a parallax scrolling effect to your Pygame background. This effect not only creates the illusion of depth, but adds a dynamic realism to the movement of your game, making it a more immersive and engaging experience for players. Learning these techniques and practicing them will greatly enhance your game development skills. Happy coding!

Adding Obstacles to Your Background

Next, let’s bring more complexity to your Pygame backgrounds by added objects or ‘obstacles’ that can interact with the player. This technique can be used to create a variety of game elements – from blocks that the player must avoid to coins that they should try to collect.

First, import the Pygame module and initialize it.

import pygame

Next, create the Pygame window, and load your background and obstacle images.

screen = pygame.display.set_mode((800, 600))

background = pygame.image.load('background.jpg')
obstacle = pygame.image.load('obstacle.png')

Now set initial positions for your obstacles. You could set them manually or use the random module to get a random position. For this example, the obstacle starts off-screen (greater than the screen width), and will move horizontally towards the left of the screen.

import random

obstacle_x = 800  # off-screen, to the right
obstacle_y = random.randint(0, 600)  # random y-position within the screen

In your game loop, continuously decrease the x-position of the obstacle so it moves towards the left of the screen. The obstacle will move with a constant speed over time.

obstacle_x -= 1

Finally, blit the background and the obstacle onto the Pygame screen. Make sure the obstacle is blitted after the background so it appears on top.

screen.blit(background, (0, 0))
screen.blit(obstacle, (obstacle_x, obstacle_y))


Extending Your Game: Collision Detection

Now that you have a moving obstacle, how about making it interact with the player? This requires incorporating collision detection into your game. Let’s consider a simple player rectangle object for an example.

First, define two rectangle objects – one for the player and one for the obstacle.

player = pygame.Rect(player_x, player_y, player_width, player_height)
obstacle = pygame.Rect(obstacle_x, obstacle_y, obstacle_width, obstacle_height)

Now, in your game loop, check if the player rectangle collides with the obstacle rectangle.

if player.colliderect(obstacle):
    print("Collision detected!")

The `colliderect()` function checks for a collision between two rectangles and returns a boolean value. With this in place, your game will be able to detect when the player comes into contact with an obstacle, and you can then act on it (like ending the game, deducting points, etc.).

These are just a few ways to make the most of Pygame’s powerful features. By experimenting with these techniques, you can create even more complex and engaging gameplay experiences.

Where to go next?

Your journey to master the fascinating world of game development and Python programming has only just begun. Keep honing your skills, exploring new concepts, and challenging yourself with more complex projects, because the more you learn and experiment, the more proficient and creative programmer you’ll become.

At Zenva, we offer over 250 courses to take your expertise to the next level, no matter where you currently are in your learning pathway. Whether you’ve mastered the basics and you’re ready to take the next step, or you’re an experienced coder looking to broaden your skill set, we have a course tailored for you.

Specifically tailored towards Python programming, we offer a comprehensive Python Mini-Degree program. This program covers everything from basic programming concepts, to creating games, algorithms, and real-world applications, and even advanced object-oriented programming. For those interested in broadening their Python skills, check out our collection of Python courses. Let your passion for programming lead the way – just remember, every line of code brings you one step closer to your goals! Happy coding!


Mastering the Pygame library and learning to work with backgrounds has set you firmly on your path to becoming an skilled game developer. This journey with Python and Pygame is full of exciting opportunities and endless possibilities – all leading to racking up advanced programming skills, enhancing creativity, and unleashing your inner game creator.

Join us at Zenva to transform your dreams into reality. Whatever your passion or career ambitions, whether to create your own Original RPG Game, or to venture into Machine Learning and AI, our Python Mini-Degree has got you covered! The world of game development with Pygame is waiting for you — let’s take this exciting journey together!

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