You probably already know how to customize the Ubuntu desktop. But what if you’re looking for a way to customize your Ubuntu splash screen? Want to tweak the logo of your chosen desktop environment? This used to be a case of dropping a new image into a directory, then editing a file. The process hasn’t changed too much… but the file locations have.
A new version of Ubuntu is released bi-annually, so it should come as no surprise to learn that features are revised by the development team. One of these is the location of the Plymouth themes.
Let’s find out the directory’s new location, and what you need to do to introduce a new splash screen.
How Changing the Splash Screen Has Changed
Around the time of Ubuntu 10.04, tweaking the splash screen meant editing the contents of /user/images/share/xsplash. However, in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and later, this splash screen directory has moved.
More recent versions of Ubuntu had the location as /lib/plymouth/themes. As of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, that location has been moved, to /usr/share/plymouth/themes.
Previous advice would have been to create a new splash screen, size it into a variety of screen resolutions (perhaps using GIMP, or something simpler like gThumb), and paste the different versions of the splash screen into the target directory. This would enable the Plymouth tool — essentially an app that manages the splash screen — to select the image you want to use.
Several years later, things have changed. We now have a handy app that helps to manage the current splash screen!
Finding or Designing Your Own Splash Screen Replacement
Before you start installing new tools, make sure you have a new splash image to hand. This might be a photo — probably something very Ubuntu-esque, like a nature snap — or a custom graphic. If you don’t have one already, there are several places where you can find custom splash screen graphics online. Perhaps you want the splash to match, or compliment, your desktop background?
Alternatively, you could create your own splash screen from scratch. This might not be as easy as it sounds, and requires you to have the right graphics tools installed on your Linux computer. GIMP is certainly an option, as is running AdobePhotoshop in Wine.
Install Plymouth Themes
With your splash screen replacement ready, it’s time to install the tool that you need to enable it. In the terminal, install plymouth-themes:
sudo apt install plymouth-themes
Once installed, a new directory will be created at /usr/share/plymouth/themes. Take a look inside. You’ll find everything that comprises the current splash screen: logos, spinners, and scripts. If you’ve upgraded from a previous version of Ubuntu and been dismayed by the lack of a custom splash screen, this directory will look familiar. Basically, the exact same structure is used.
This makes it simple for you to migrate your old themes.
Update and Move Old Themes
You’ll probably want to use some of your existing themes. Check them over. If they’re up to scratch, you can migrate them to the new directory.
Begin by investigating the old theme directory, and checking the contents. You can do this in your file manager, or in the terminal. The latter is a good option to get an idea of the file size:
ls -ltrd /lib/plymouth/themes
You can leave the old theme files behind when you move them. Go to
…then use the mv command to move the theme directory you wish to keep, one by one.
mv [theThemeDirectory] /usr/share/plymouth/themes
Repair Old Themes
Note that some old themes may need repairing, as they likely include recursive references to the old file location. You’ll need a text editor to fix this, such as vim or nano.
In the new destination, find each of the .plymouth theme files, and open into a text editor. In the terminal, use:
sudo nano /usr/share/plymouth/themes/[theme_name]/[theme_name].plymouth
Find the reference to the file path, then change it from
Want More Themes?
Various locations online provide Ubuntu-focused themes for your computer. GNOME-Look.org, for instance, has a great collection of themes, grouped by use. This includes a Plymouth Themes section. Alternatively, visit DeviantArt and search for “plymouth themes” and download the ones you like. They’re usually no more than 3 MB.
Once you’ve done this, extract the theme and copy it to the /usr/share/plymouth/themes directory. Whatever you’re using as a new splash screen, you’ll need to set it as the new default:
sudo update-alternatives --install /usr/share/plymouth/themes/default.plymouth default.plymouth /usr/share/plymouth/themes/"path/to-your-plymouth.plymouth" 100
Finally, update the initramfs, a virtual file system that is part of the boot procedure:
sudo update-initramfs -u
Now, when you reboot Ubuntu, you’ll see the brand-new splash screen.
What About Logos?
What if you only wanted to edit your Ubuntu logo? This is just as simple. Begin by opening the usr/share/plymouth/themes directory, and finding the directory containing the logo.
Then, make a copy of file, just in case you want it back at some point:
cp [logo_file].png [logo_file_backup].png
How you proceed next is up to you. Perhaps you want to use the original graphic as a reference? In this case, open the file in your preferred image editor, and make necessary changes. Otherwise, simply create a new image, with the same dimensions, and save it in the same directory. Give this new file the same name as the old logo.
Need a New Splash Screen in Ubuntu? This is How!
You probably already know how to change the desktop theme in your chosen Ubuntu desktop environment. Splash screens are a little trickier, however. To recap:
- Find or design a new splash screen
- Install Plymouth Themes
- Move your old splash screen theme(s)
- Repair old splash screen reference
- Set a new theme as the default
- Update initramfs
If you’re new to Ubuntu, these steps might seem a little unfamiliar. However, there’s nothing here that isn’t straightforward. It’s also simpler than making a similar tweak in Windows! Ultimately, a tweak like this shows how configurable Linux is. After all, you can’t make Windows look like Linux, but you can make Linux look like Windows.
Have you tweaked your Ubuntu splash screen? Do you have a favorite custom splash screen? Tell us in the comments.
Image Credit: mtmmarek/Depositphotos