Ubuntu 20.04 ships with a new dark theme option, but some users don’t think the feature goes far enough.

So in this guide I show you how to change the GNOME Shell theme in Ubuntu 20.04 LTS to Yaru Dark. This simple step gives you a more complete ‘dark mode’ experience throughout the whole Ubuntu desktop UI.

But why is a tutorial on this needed at all?


Ubuntu’s New Dark Theme

As you probably know by now Ubuntu 20.04 makes it very easy change the look and feel of “window colours” directly from the Settings > Appearance app.

Three window colour choices are offered here: light, standard, and dark:

Ubuntu 20.04: dark mode setting

It’s a great feature, one I was particularly pleased to see Ubuntu add.

The “problem” stems from the factor that the new ‘Dark’ setting only changes the look and feel of apps that run on the desktop. It does not change the colour of the desktop UI itself.

Instead, the GNOME Shell UI continues to use a light theme, regardless of which window colour preference you’ve picked:

Ubuntu Dark theme but light shell

It doesn’t look terrible but it’s not quite the full dark theme experience that some users are after.

So I’m pleased to say you can change it — and here’s how.

How to Make GNOME Shell Dark in 20.04

First, you’re going to need to install the User Themes GNOME Shell extension. This add-on lets you to change GNOME Shell theme incredibly easily.

You can install this particular power-up from the extensions.gnome.org (EGO) website but I find it quicker to just install the gnome-shell-extensions package (warning: it adds lots of other add-ons too) straight from the Ubuntu archives, no browser required:

Click to the GNOME Extensions Bundle

Alternatively, you can run this command to install the User Themes GNOME extension on Ubuntu from the command line:

sudo apt install gnome-shell-extensions 

Whatever way you choose to install the User Themes extension you are going to need both the (new) GNOME Extensions app and GNOME Tweaks to take advantage of it:

Click to install GNOME Tweaks on Ubuntu

Click to install GNOME Extensions App on Ubuntu

I don’t have a fresh install to test but it might be the case that the ‘new’ Extensions preferences app doesn’t need to be installed manually. It might enabled as soon as you install an extension — just look for it in the Applications grid:

Now you’re all set!

  • Open GNOME Extensions app
  • Slide the toggle next to ‘User Themes’ to on (coloured)

Just like in this picture:

Enable User Themes Extension

Then you need to log out and back in to your session OR manually restart GNOME Shell (Alt + F2, type r, hit enter) for the theming extension to actually be activated.

Lastly, open the GNOME Tweaks tool and:

  • Select ‘Appearance’ in the sidebar
  • Locate the Shell section
  • Select ‘Yaru Dark’ from the menu adjacent

Refer to this screenshot if you need help:

Enable Yaru Dark theme in GNOME Tweaks

That’s all you need to do. Your desktop is now fully dark in ALL areas!

full dark mode

If you get bored of the dark look — impossible, true me — and want to switch back to the standard ‘light’ look for GNOME Shell UI elements just repeat the last set of steps again, but choose ‘Default’ in place of ‘Yaru Dark’.

Do you prefer light or dark Shell themes? Let me know below

Thanks to everyone who sent this tip in

How To dark mode gnome extensions yaru