How to Install GTK and Icon Themes in Ubuntu 16.04 [Beginner Guide]

Want to change the look and feel of your Ubuntu Desktop? Well, it’s easy to do this by installing and applying new GTK and Icon themes with this simple tutorial.

In Ubuntu, GTK themes change the look and feel of your desktop panel, application window, menu, etc. And icon themes change the system-wide icons.

Install GTK and Icon Theme in Ubuntu:

First let’s see where to install the themes:

  • For single user use, themes can be installed to:

    • user’s .themes folder for GTK themes
    • user’s .icons folder for icon themes
    • .themes and .icons are hidden folders. Open file browser and hit Ctrl+H to view them. You need to manually create the two folders if not exist. local theme folders
  • For global, to be available for all users, install themes to:
    • /usr/share/themes for GTK themes
    • /usr/share/icons/ for icon themes

Install a theme manually from source pack:

After understanding how Ubuntu stores the theme files, you can now search GTK or icon theme on the web, or grab some from gnome-look, or search on deviantart.com

In the case below I downloaded the Numix GTK theme, extract and got the theme folder:

numix-source-folder

All I need to do now is to move the numix-gtk-theme folder (in the pic.) to either:

  • .themes folder for single use. (press Ctrl+H in user Home and create .themes folder if not exist) gtk-theme-for-single
  • or /usr/share/themes for global use. For permission issue, open terminal (Ctrl+Alt+T) and run command to open file browser with root, then copy and paste theme folder to Computer ->/usr/share/themes:

    gksudo nautilus ~/Downloads

    open nautilus as root

Apply (change the current) theme:

There are a few tools for changing current GTK/Icon theme, e.g., Unity Tweak Tool for Unity Desktop, and Gnome Tweak Tool for Gnome. They are available for install in Ubuntu Software.

For the default Unity Desktop, launch Unity Tweak Tool and go to Appearance -> Theme:

unity tweak tool

You’ll see all installed themes listed in Theme and Icons tab.

change theme in Ubuntu

Just highlight one from the list will change current theme immediately.

In addition, there are some PPAs, e.g., ppa:noobslab/theme, that contain a collection of GTK and/or icon themes. Open terminal and run following commands to add PPA and install themes:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:noobslab/theme && sudo apt update

sudo apt install PACKAGE_NAME

About ml

ml is a part time stay-at-home dad who've been using Ubuntu Desktop for a few years. He writes in the free time and wishes to share some useful tips with Ubuntu beginners and lovers.
  • Christopher Coronado

    It looks like the correct command is with plural ‘themes’ so ‘sudo add-apt-repository ppa:noobslab/themes && sudo apt update’