The default Ubuntu theme is ‘Ambiance’ and while it’s pleasant enough it’s by no means the best GTK theme for Ubuntu.
But with hundreds of alternative Ubuntu themes out there on sites like GNOME Look and Deviant Art it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the choice that’s on offer.
So we’re here to help.
Below you’ll find a list of the best GTK themes available for Ubuntu (and other Linux distros, of course) based on feedback from you, our readers!
All the themes in this list will work on a modern GTK-based desktop environment like GNOME Shell, Unity, Budgie or MATE and all themes are compatible with the latest Ubuntu release (17.10).
Ready to give your Ubuntu desktop a revamp? Let’s go!
1. Arc GTK Theme
The Arc GTK theme is arguably the most popular GTK theme with Linux users right now — and it’s easy to see why.
‘Transparent touches help emphasise the theme’s modern appearance’
It flattens as much of the UI as possible. This gives apps, menus and windows a minimal, modern look. Transparent touches in window elements (and in the Nautilus sidebar) help emphasise the themes light, airy, and yet thoroughly modern appearance.
The theme comes in 3 variants: light, dark, and darker (which mixes dark window bars with light contents, and is pictured above).
It’s super easy to install the Arc GTK theme on Ubuntu 16.10 and up as it’s available in the Ubuntu Software app:
If you’re using Ubuntu 16.04 LTS you can download the installer below and install it using your preferred method.
For something a little more solid than Arc you can try the Numix GTK theme.
‘Numix balances light and dark elements to create a striking design’
Numix balances light and dark elements together to create a rich, striking design that holds its own. Using red as its main highlight color is a bold choice, but one that allows Numix to leave a lasting impression.
And thanks to tight padding on widgets, menus and so on the theme never feels excessive or unorderly.
Numix will work with GNOME Shell, Unity, XFCE and Openbox. You can install the Numix theme on Ubuntu 17.04 and up from Ubuntu Software:
Running an earlier release? No problem, just download the theme installer from here.
3. United GNOME Darker
United GNOME is a unique looking theme. It’s inspired by the proposed designs for Ubuntu’s (now abandoned) Unity 8 desktop.
‘United GNOME is inspired by the look of the Unity 8 desktop’
The theme uses a soft color scheme, shapely toggles, and rounded edges. This lends apps a tactile, inviting feel.
Contrasting duotone icons in window controls and client-side decorations help separate window content from window chrome. This is incredibly effective at giving the desktop a sense of presence
Like other themes in this list is available in both light, dark and mixed (darker) versions. The one you can see above is ‘United GNOME Darker’
No list of the best GTK themes for Ubuntu would be complete if it didn’t mention Adapta.
‘If you’re a fan of the Android aesthetic you’ll find lots to love about Adatpa’
Adapta (or more accurately the theme it’s derived from, Flat-plat/Materia) is popular with Linux users and Linux theme makers alike and is regularly used as the base for other GTK themes.
Adapta is styled according to Google’s Material Design language. So, if you’re a fan of the Android aesthetic, you’ll find lots to love about Adatpa. It makes heavy use of layering and shadows, wide padding, and contrast.
Adapta is available in variety of versions, including the regular Adapta theme (pictured), a dark variant called Adapta-Nokto, and less spacious spin called Adapta-Eta.
We’ve shown you how to install Adapta GTK theme on Ubuntu before. Just open a new Terminal window and run these commands:
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:tista/adapta -y
sudo apt update && sudo apt install adapta-gtk-theme
5. GNOME OSX
We’ve show you before how easy it is to make Ubuntu look like a Mac — and a large chunk of that ease comes from Mac GTK themes like ‘GNOME OSX’.
‘…fastidious attention to detail…’
GNOME OS X is one of many Mac themes for Linux, but is, in my opinion, the best of the bunch. It has fastidious attention to detail, and the designer has carefully translated the mac aesthetic into something that works on Linux desktops.
If you’re gonna run an OS clone theme you might as well run the best, and this is very much it.
6. Minwaita Vanilla
Minwaita is a slimmer alternative to Adwaita, the default GNOME theme.
The theme manages to retain most of what’s great about Adwaita, like its color scheme and prominent header bar, but dials down the the liberal use of padding and margins.
The end result is a theme that works well on smaller screens, without losing the “GNOME” look and feel.
Developed primarily for the XFCE desktop, the sleek Plano theme adds a splash of sophistication to any GTK+ based desktop, be it GNOME, Budgie, or otherwise.
It’s a litte angular in places — or ‘sharp’ as one reader referred to it — but I find this adds some rigidity and uniformity to what is otherwise a fairly light feeling theme.
Plano isn’t available for Ubuntu 16.04 LTS but it does work just dandy on later releases, including Ubuntu 17.10.
When the download is complete you will need to extract the folder, and then move its contents to ~/.themes in your Home folder (to show hidden folders press Ctrl + H).
One GTK theme that has stood the test of time is Greybird by the Shimmer Project. It’s been knocking around almost as long as Ubuntu’s Ambiance theme — but true classics never date!
Something of a rarity — it’s not a flat theme!
Something a rarity, Greybird is not a flat theme! It uses a silver-ish gradient that helps window headers seamlessly blend with tool bars. Light menus and a soft blue accent color compliment the metallic glean of the window chrome, resulting in a throughly pleasing theme overall.
Greybird is the default theme in Xubuntu, but it works great on other GTK+ based desktops too, including Cinnamon, MATE and GNOME Shell.
Best bit? Greybird is available to install from the Ubuntu Software app:
9. Pop GTK Theme
If you dig the look of Adapta (#2 on this list) but find its aquamarine color scheme a little too out there, try Pop.
‘A soft fork of Adapta with an Ubuntu color scheme’
Pop is a soft fork of the Adapta theme but with some visual differences here and there (e.g., tab shape, highlight size, menu spacing, etc).
What makes Pop so popular with users of a certain Linux distribution is that uses an Ubuntu-style color scheme, including a zingy orange accent.
A flat theme it may be, but Pop is packed full of personality.
The light companion to the Ubuntu Ambiance theme never gets much love, but if you’re looking for a theme that has been comprehensively tested, refined and polished, it’s hard to beat.
No need to install; if you’re using Ubuntu you already have it!
For a truly flat look the Ant GTK theme is worth checking out — though it has a rather bloody highlight color!
How to Change GTK Theme on Ubuntu
To change GTK theme on Ubuntu you need to install a separate ‘tweak’ tool from the Ubuntu Software centre.
For GNOME Shell desktops (like Ubuntu 17.10) you should install the GNOME Tweaks tool:
Those of you on the Unity desktop (used in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS) should install the Unity Tweak Tool:
Both apps let you change GTK theme quickly. Just install the correct tool for your desktop, launch the app, head to the ‘Appearance’ section, and select the GTK theme you wish to use from the list on offer.
Over to You!
The themes mention above are what we think looks good, but if you don’t like any of the ones listed above, there are plenty more for you to discover at gnome-look.org.
Tell us about your favourite GTK themes in the comments section we’ve dug out below!