10 Beautiful Linux Icon Themes You Should Install

You changed the default wallpaper and window theme of your distribution, but your desktop doesn’t look much different. It’s because of the icons! You can find many icon sets to radically change your desktop’s looks, especially when you combine them with a matching wallpaper and window color theme. Let’s take a look at some of the best Linux icon themes that will upgrade your OS’s look.

How to Install New Icon Sets

Since they contain many individual files, icon sets are usually distributed as compressed archives. After you download the one you want, extract the archive’s contents.

To install your icon set, move the folder that contains the icon subfolders to “/usr/share/icons/”:

sudo mv /path/to/icon/set/folder /usr/share/icons/

Alternatively, if you are only installing the icon set for your own user account, you can move it to your personal icon folder:

mv /path/to/icon/set/folder ~/.local/share/icons

After you install any new icon set, it will be available for use on your desktop but remain inactive. To select it and replace the currently active icon set when you are on a Gnome or compatible GTK-based desktop, you can use Gnome Tweak Tool.

You don’t need to install anything on KDE. Theoretically, typing “icons” in the main menu’s search field will bring up the appropriate settings page.

If you’re using XFCE or another relatively popular desktop environment, you will find some options to change the active icons in the desktop’s settings. Most of the time this is located in a sub-section with a name like “Looks” or “Appearance.”

1. Papirus

Do you like the “flat look” initially popularized by Microsoft’s “Metro UI” and, later, Google’s “Material design” on Android smartphones? You’ll love Papirus too. This icon theme follows the modern flat/material design aesthetics to present clear and recognizable icons at any size.

A screenshot of the Ubuntu menu screen with the Papirus icon theme.

Papirus is one of the most complete icon themes. It has grown to the point it now offers more than 5000 apps icons. Among them you will find icons for games installed with Lutris. Although we’re talking about an extensive collection of detailed and colorful icons, they remain lightweight since they’re vectors instead of bitmaps.

Good to know: Learn how you can customize your GNOME desktop by installing some of the best shell extensions.

2. Flatery

If you consider Papirus too playful, too colorful, or not flat enough, you may like Flatery. Flatery doesn’t offer the extensive icon collection of Papirus, so you will see the occasional un-themed “default” icon for an application popping up.

A screenshot of the Ubuntu menu screen with the Flatery icon theme.

And yet, it can replace the majority of desktop icons as well as those of the most popular apps, like Firefox and LibreOffice.

A screenshot of the Ubuntu menu screen with all of the Libreoffice icons.

Many people seem to prefer its somewhat “more muted” style. This makes Flatery the optimal choice for those who want their desktop looking modern but ultra-clean and easy on the eyes.

3. Mojave-CT

The best step you can take to make your Linux desktop look more like macOS is to install the Mojave-CT icon set. Based initially on macbuntu and ispirado, this icon set uses SVG instead of PNG icons. This results in smaller file sizes and lighter resource usage.

A screenshot of the Ubuntu menu screen with the Mojave-CT icon theme.

Mojave-CT contains close to 5000 application icons, more than 3000 of which are in SVG format.

Some of its icons look as if they were ripped straight off an Apple device. The rest employ similar aesthetics that wouldn’t look out of place in the latest MacBook or iDevice.

It also comes in three different versions: “Dark,” “Light,” and “Classic.” This allows you to precisely fine-tune the look of your desktop.

4. Dominus Funeral

Dominus Funeral is an icon set created for fans of Heavy Metal music and the related imagery. Its icons contain skulls, tombs, axes, and other Heavy Metal elements, with the majority of them displayed on colorful guitar picks.

A screenshot of the Ubuntu menu screen with the Dominus Funeral icon theme.

Dominus Funeral is a highly original and polished icon theme, but for obvious reasons, it won’t appeal to everyone. This is probably expected from an icon theme whose description starts with “Turn your desk into a cemetery!”

Just like Tim Burton’s movies, though, its intended audience will probably love it. And even those who don’t will admit it’s unique.

5. Arc Darkest COLORS

Would you like to bring a futuristic aesthetic to your desktop? Do you like Neon lights? Then Arc-Darkest is the Linux icon theme for you. It’s a modern collection of flat, dark, single-color icons that also utilize transparency. It’s exactly what you’d expect from signs, posters, and corporate logos in a bleak, dystopian future next to Weyland-Yutani’s headquarters.

A screenshot of the Ubuntu menu screen with the Arc Darkest icon theme.

The Arc-Darkest-COLORS icon set is a more colorful spin on the original Arc-Darkest icon set. The icons still appear with a uniform color, but instead of the default blue hue of Arc-Darkest, you can choose the one you prefer among variants like Tangerine, Plum, or Strawberry.

A screenshot of the Ubuntu menu screen with the Arc Darkest COLORS icon theme.

6. Buuf

Would you like to give your desktop a more cartoonish look? Look no further than Buuf, an updated take on the classic theme with the same name.

Since most of its icons were designed years before the current fad of material/flat design, they look like sketches, as if they jumped from the pages of a comicbook to your desktop. Especially the Firefox icon. You can see it among others in the following screenshot. It would look at home next to Uderzo & Goscinny’s Asterix.

A screenshot of the Ubuntu menu screen with the Buuf icon theme.

Buuf’s icons also have a more “personal” feel compared to the “colder” approach of modern flat designs. They would probably be a great choice if you’re setting up a “quirkier” desktop for the kids in the family. Combine it with a matching wallpaper, and the youngsters will love it as much as their favorite Dr. Seuss books.

A screenshot of the Nautilus file manager with the Buuf icon theme.

7. Paper

Paper is a simple and clean icon theme that you can install on almost any Linux distro. Similar to Papirus and Flatery, it provides a modern, “material-like” look to almost all system icons as well as programs in your computer.

A screenshot of the Ubuntu menu screen with the Paper icon theme.

The author of Paper also deliberately designed the collection to be completely pixel-perfect. This means that this icon set will always look crisp and clean regardless of the display that you are currently using.

A screenshot of the Nautilus file manager with the Paper icon theme.

Another selling point of Paper is that it is available as a package on most Linux distributions. This makes it incredibly easy to install this icon set without directly modifying any system files and folders. For example, you can run the following commands to install the Paper icon set on Ubuntu:

sudo add-apt-repository -u ppa:snwh/ppa
sudo apt install paper-icon-theme

8. Numix

Flat and bold. The Numix theme is a comprehensive set of brightly colored icons which aims to promote a more accessible approach to the Linux desktop. It does this by removing all the unnecessary detail on every application icon while retaining everything that makes it distinct.

A screenshot of the Ubuntu menu screen with the Numix icon theme.

Unlike other themes, Numix comes with an interface pack that further emphasizes its already bold icon set. This holistic approach to graphics makes Numix the perfect solution for users that want to have a consistent desktop experience.

Aside from that, Numix also has an alternative icon scheme for its base set. For example, you can install a “circle-type” Numix set that contains both light and dark color variations.

A screenshot of the Ubuntu menu screen with the Numix Circle icon theme.

9. Obsidian

Obsidian is a detailed icon set that provides a modern yet nostalgic look to your desktop. It achieves this by taking the classic Faenza icon set and updating it to include bits of the modern “material” design. This approach means that Obsidian is still familiar to old users while including newer icon styles.

A screenshot of the Ubuntu menu screen with the Obsidian icon theme.

One of the biggest selling point of Obsidian is that it comes with 11 different folder and system icon colors out of the box. This makes it easier to match Obsidian to any desktop theme that you might want to use. For example, the Ant GTK theme works really well with Obsidian’s amber and purple styles.

A screenshot of the Nautilus file manager with the Obsidian icon theme.

10. GNUstep

GNUstep is a retro icon theme that aims to emulate the look of mid-90s Linux desktops. Unlike the previous entries, it did this by compiling the original GNUstep icons and only updating it for the current desktop standard. As a result of that, this icon set is an accurate representation of the early Linux desktop.

A screenshot of the Nautilus file manager with the GNUstep icon theme.

Despite that, using GNUstep can be challenging for a new user. For starters, its outdated style will not look properly on modern desktop environments. This means that in order to use GNUstep, you will need to use a simpler desktop environment. For example, the both the LXQt and XFCE desktops can properly render the GNUstep theme.

A screenshot of the LXQt desktop with the GNUstep icon theme.

FYI: Icons are just the start when it comes to Linux customization. Upgrade your Linux CLI by using the best terminal emulators available today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to mix two Linux icon themes together?

Yes. It is possible to mix two icon themes together. You can do this by copying the contents of one theme folder over the other and reloading your desktop. However, in order for this to work you also need to remove any duplicate names in each icon directory.

I cannot find my icon themes in my settings panel.

This issue happens whenever a desktop environment fails to reload its icon cache. You can fix this problem by either rebooting your system or logging out of your current session.

Are the icon themes from my package manager different from what I manually installed?

No. Most of the icon themes that you will find on a package manager are often just direct copies of the themes that you can find on Opendesktop sites. Despite that, installing an icon theme through your package manager can be easier to maintain compared to a manual one.

Ramces Red
Ramces Red

Ramces is a technology writer that lived with computers all his life. A prolific reader and a student of Anthropology, he is an eccentric character that writes articles about Linux and anything *nix.

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