When you spend a lot of time on your PC, it’s understandable if you want to add some personal touches. On Linux, you can often change the desktop theme without installing additional software or breaking anything. The sheer volume of customization options is one aspect of Linux that people love most.
Here are five of the best themes and icon packs for Ubuntu and other GNOME or GTK-based Linux desktops. For each theme, you can find installation instructions on the GitHub pages linked.
When Google introduced its “Material Design” language to Android and Chromebooks, many Linux users decided they wanted their desktops to look the same way. Adapta is one of the best and easiest ways to make this happen.
The project’s explicit aim is to bring Google’s design guidelines to your desktop. Adapta uses Roboto, the default font on Android devices. You can look for buttons and toggles to also match what you see on your mobile phone.
Adapta has been around long enough and garnered enough of a following to make its way onto the official servers maintained by several Linux-based operating systems. You can find versions in Arch Linux, Fedora, openSUSE, and Solus. For the Ubuntu theme, you still need to use a Personal Package Archive.
You can also customize Adapta by installing the Colorpack variant, which changes the dominant color of your desktop. Also check out the Pop GTK+ theme, which is based on Adapta and comes pre-installed on System76 computers.
Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all embraced flat designs, and people in the Linux world like them too! Yet while these interfaces may lack visual depth, that doesn’t mean they all have to look the same. While Adapta explicitly follow’s Google’s guidance, Arc is an option that feels unique to free and open source desktops.
The Arc Ubuntu theme is adaptable in a way Linux is known for. The design pairs well with just about any desktop environment. Themes exist for GNOME, KDE Plasma, Cinnamon, and others. And Arc manages to be this versatile without looking out of date. It pulls this off using a blend of gentle curves and subtle translucency.
I also find Arc to be a comfortable fit for the computer minimalist that prefers not to use a desktop background (hey, we all use our computers differently).
Arc comes in many variants. The core set includes a bright gray version, a darker black alternative, and a hybrid of the two. The primary color is blue, but again, you can shake things up if your heart desires.
Newer versions of Android have circular app icons. Know what was rocking circles years sooner? Numix! Many Linux users love visual consistency, and making all app icons the same shape and size is an easy way to make this happen.
Numix doesn’t just do circles, either. This Ubuntu theme also provides squares icons. So if you’re more a fan of Microsoft’s art direction, this same theme offers much to love.
The Numix project contains numerous themes and icon packs, with support for many different desktop environments. Numix also extends to Android, so you can have a similar look and feel on both your PC and your phone.
Numix is thorough. There’s a matching theme to go with the Plank dock, and you can even tweak your cursor. Then there are Android wallpapers, if you’re having trouble finding something that feels consistent. If you don’t want to mix and match components, Numix can be your one-stop-shop. On the other hand, you can opt to only use Numix icons without bothering to install the desktop theme. The choice is yours.
In version 18.10, the Ubuntu desktop gained its first new default theme in a long time. Arrongin and Telinkrin arrived in the time before, as two imaginings of how a more modern Ubuntu desktop could look.
Arrongin and Telinkrin are primarily gray, with the difference coming from icons and other highlights. Arrongin embraces Ubuntu orange, whereas Telinkrin is a more neutral blue. All throughout each theme, colors are subdued and easy on the eyes.
Some might consider this look to be too much of the same, while others will find it tranquil and non-distracting. If you want more pop, there’s also a variant Ubuntu theme with gradients.
Both options form a complete package, with a GNOME Shell theme and desktop background available. Some key apps, such as the file manager, have their own distinct sidebars. Even with Ubuntu’s new coat of paint, you might find Arrongin or Telinkrin provide a more complete imagining of what the desktop can be.
Not everyone is a fan of changing app icons. Some view it as a mess that’s more trouble than it’s worth, since it’s rare that you can change every icon. Some people consider an app’s icon to be a core part of that app’s identity that is best left alone.
But for others, it’s often not the desktop theme, but the icons, that make or break the experience. If you want one of the most polished and complete Ubuntu icon themes, then look no further than Papirus.
Papirus expands on the Paper icon set with more icons. It also themes other elements, such as certain system trays and colored folders. This pack contains over 3,000 app icons, so there’s a good chance your bases are covered.
Do You Use Custom Themes?
All of the Ubuntu themes above also support other GNOME-based desktops. This means you’re not out of luck if you prefer one of the many Ubuntu alternatives.
Themes are just one way you can personalize your computer. Let’s also remember the basics. A great theme could benefit from an awesome desktop wallpaper.