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):

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 Damien

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.


  1. That “user themes extensions” button under Shell Extensions doesn’t exist for me…



    1. Did you install the user-theme extension package?

      sudo apt-get install gnome-shell-extensions-user-theme

        1. Make sure your theme files are in the correct directory:

          Gnome shell theme and GTK 3 theme to /home/username/.themes
          icon theme to /home/username/.icons
          Custom font to /home/username/.fonts

      1. This is the message I get in the terminal:
        E: Unable to locate package gnome-shell-extensions-user-theme

  2. nice tutorial. btw there’s also a channel on youtube explaining how to install different sort of linux themes. might find it helpful. check it out:

  3. sudo apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool gnome-shell-extensions-user-theme
    Reading package lists… Done
    Building dependency tree       
    Reading state information… Done
    Some packages could not be installed. This may mean that you have
    requested an impossible situation or if you are using the unstable
    distribution that some required packages have not yet been created
    or been moved out of Incoming.
    The following information may help to resolve the situation:

    The following packages have unmet dependencies:
     gnome-shell-extensions-user-theme : Depends: gnome-shell-extensions-common but it is not going to be installed
    E: Unable to correct problems, you have held broken packages.

  4. Hello. I am a guy from China.
    I use fedora 17,and I couldn’t find the fonts which is “Aurulent Sans” and “Aurulent Sans Bold”.I search the fonts.But no one can be used.How do you download it?Would you mind give me the link of the fonts!Thanks!~

  5. Sir,
    I want the the minimize ,maximize and close button on the right corner of each window…do i need to change the themes for that?
    i installed gnome tweak tool but facing problem in installing gnome-shell-extensions-user-theme..kindly suggest the easiest method to change the title bar icons…

    1. You can follow the tutorial here to change the windows button. ( You
      just need to install “gconf-editor” and do a simple change in the

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