How to Install Custom Gnome Shell Themes

It used to be very easy to install custom themes in Gnome 2, but if you have upgraded to Gnome Shell, particularly in Ubuntu Oneiric, you will find that there are not much customization options available for you. While Gnome Shell supports theming, there doesn’t seem to be an option for you to switch to the theme you want. For those who are tired of the default look in your Gnome Shell, here is how you can easily install and switch to a custom theme.

Get your themes ready!

Before we can switch theme, you need to have your custom themes ready. Places you can look for beautiful themes include Gnome-look and DeviantArt.

There are a few themes that you have to download, namely the Gnome Shell theme, GTK 3.x theme, icon theme and probably custom font (optional).

In case you are confused over the difference between the Gnome Shell theme and the GTK 3.x theme:

  • GTK 3.x theme – the main theme that governs the panel/window border, color, background etc
  • Gnome shell theme – the theme that governs the display in the Activity mode (when you click on the Activity button at the top left corner).

Popular Gnome Shell Theme

Here are some popular Gnome Shell themes:



Download link



Note: The Adwaita GTK theme is the default theme for Gnome Shell in Ubuntu Oneiric. This Adwaita White Gnome Shell theme will go well with the default theme.

Download link

London Smoke


Download link

Tron Legacy


Download link

Installing themes

Once you have downloaded all the themes (Gnome Shell theme, GTK 3 theme, icon theme, and probably custom fonts), extract them to their respective location.

  • Extract Gnome shell theme and GTK 3 theme to ~/.themes
  • Extract icon theme to ~/.icons
  • Extract custom font to ~/.fonts

Note: ~/ is a shorthand for your home folder. So ~/.themes is referring to the /home/username/.themes folder.

Switching theme

There are many ways to change a theme in Gnome Shell, but the easiest way is via the third-party application Gnome Tweak Tool.

Install Gnome Tweak Tool (for Ubuntu Oneiric):

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ricotz/testing
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool gnome-shell-extensions-user-theme

Next, open the Gnome Tweak Tool (search for “Advanced Settings”). On the left pane, click “Shell Extensions”.

Enable the “User Themes Extension” option.


Next, click the Theme option. Here, you can select your favourite Gnome Shell theme, GTK 3 theme and Icon theme (for a consistent look, keep the Window theme the same as the GTK+ theme).


Lastly, go to the Fonts option and change the default font to your custom font.


That’s it.

What is your favourite Gnome Shell theme?


Damien Oh started writing tech articles since 2007 and has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He is proficient in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS, and worked as a part time WordPress Developer. He is currently the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Make Tech Easier.

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