How to Change the Fonts in GNOME 3

One of the critiques of GNOME 3 is that it is less customizable than the final releases of GNOME 2. While new tools and functionality still need to be developed to make tweaking GNOME 3 more straightforward, the capability is still there. If you are not a fan of one of GNOME 3's default fonts, for example the Cantarell font, it is possible to replace it. The following shows how to change the fonts in GNOME 3.

Change the GNOME shell font

Many aspects of the shell can be adjusted within a single .css file in the following location:


You can open this file with any text editor of your choice. My preference is to use nano, a text editor that displays the content of a text file inside your terminal. Since this file is buried in your root directory, you will first need to get administrator privileges before you can edit it. One way to do this is by adding sudo before your command. To use nano, put the line below into your terminal window:

sudo nano /usr/share/gnome-shell/theme/gnome-shell.css

You will be greeted with a screen that looks like this:


Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate inside the file. You are looking for a line that reads:

font-family: cantarell, sans-serif;

In this line, change "Cantarell" to your font of choice. You can also alter the font size by adjusting the "font-size" number in the next line. In the image below, I have changed the font to "Liberation Sans" size "10".


To exit out of nano, press "Ctrl + o" (to save the changes), follow by "Ctrl + x". Now you are almost done.

You need to restart the shell before you can see the changes you have made. Press "Alt + F2". In the window that pops up, type "r". Press "Enter", and you will see that your shell is now sporting a font of your choice.

Change the system fonts

But wait, the applications are still rocking Cantarell! Don't worry; changing these fonts is made simple thanks to the GNOME Tweak Tool.

In Ubuntu, install it with the command:

sudo apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool

In Fedora, getting your hands on this application is as simple as:

yum install gnome-tweak-tool

Your distro may vary. Once the application is installed, look for the "Fonts" tab on the left-hand side. Here you will see the option to edit the default application font, title bar font, document font, monospace font, etc. Pick whatever font you with to change.


Unlike with the shell, the changes you make should occur automatically. Congratulations, your desktop now displays new fonts throughout. Feel free to apply this method to any fonts and/or sizes you wish to change.

You're done!

If you feel that GNOME 3 consumes too much screen space by default, or simply don't care for the ones that are included, changing the fonts in GNOME 3 is an easy fix. Changing Cantarell to a standard Sans font allows more content to be displayed in each window. This simple change may go a long ways towards making GNOME 3 work better for you..

If you run into any snags when following these instructions to change the fonts in GNOME 3, please speak up in the comments below.

Bertel King, Jr.

Bertel is a tech blogger and independent novelist who puts perhaps a tad too much trust in Google. He’s loved Android since the moment he got his eager hands on his first device -- if not sooner -- and has understood the Chromebook Pixel from day one.You can follow his work at

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