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 six 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/”:
Alternatively, if you are only installing the icon set for your own user account, you can move it to your personal icon folder:
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.”
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.
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.
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.
And yet, it can replace the majority of desktop icons as well as those of the most popular apps, like Firefox and LibreOffice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The six Linux icon themes above are only a drop in the ocean of hundreds of icon packs available for free. Even if you disagree with our taste, there’s no reason to stick with the generic – and somewhat bland – icons that came with your desktop by default, when you have so many options to choose from. If there are a few icons you don’t like, you can even switch them out with your own icons or even create your own icons.
Don’t forget to also check out some of the best Linux desktop themes we have complied.