The Ubuntu default wallpaper changes every 6 months, and its unveiling is an iconic part of each development cycle.
With an estimated 22 million users on the desktop, Ubuntu’s background image has to look good. So many eyes will look upon it – ship something awful and new users’ first impressions suffer.
All but one Ubuntu release issued in the past 19 years has come with its own uniquely designed desktop background.
Being the nostalgic sort, I dug through this blog’s image stash to pull out and collate every one of those default wallpapers, and compile them into a single post for us all to look back on.
Fancy a trip down memory lane? Scroll on…
Ubuntu Default Wallpapers
Ubuntu 4.10 ‘Warty Warthog’
When people have complained about the ‘brownness‘ of Ubuntu in releases gone by I have often wanted to point back to this wallpaper – Ubuntu’s first – so that their opinion could manoeuvre itself into something called ‘context’.
In hindsight this wallpaper is nothing more than an utterly spiritless block of brown with a logo. Sure, the gradient adds a bit of activity but the pallid brown colour lent an uninspiring start to the design of Ubuntu’s desktop.
Ubuntu 5.04 ‘Hoary Hedgehog’
For the Hedgehog first impressions were bucked up: out went the subtle-almost-invisible gradient used previously and in came some wispy light effects and a darker, homely brown hue.
This was the first of two wallpapers to use an off-centre Ubuntu logo – a decision which still bugs me to this day. The overall tone was more pleasing, being one of a burgeoning personality. It’s for this reason the Hedgehog’s wallpaper represented the first true design of Ubuntu’s wallpaper linage.
Ubuntu 5.10 Breezy Badger
A lighter ‘tan’ brown was used in the default wallpaper for Ubuntu 5.10. It gave the desktop a softer feeling, with the elegant light refraction adding bokeh-esque charm.
This entrant is notable for being the last default wallpaper to use the Ubuntu logo.
Ubuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake
One word sums up the Drake’s dapper wallpaper: dark.
Swirly and curvy lines overlaid on a rich, chocolate brown background made for a warm, luxurious, and distinctive drape. Not as instantly iconic as other entries in this list but by no means bland either!
Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft
Virulent Mac haters took issue with Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft’s default wallpaper due to design influence taken from the then-default Mac OS X 10.4 wallpaper ‘Aqua‘. Riff or not, the light skin tones worked well in the image and provided a calm presentation on the desktop.
Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn
It has been remarked on occasion that the Ubuntu 7.04 wallpaper resembles patch of bruised skin! I don’t see that myself, but it is an indistinct illustration. Whatever aim lay behind this image it seems to have got lost in translation…
Ubuntu 7.10 ‘Gutsy Gibbon’
Having reverted to fleshy tones in the previous 2 releases, Ubuntu 7.10 saw the return of the rich brown tones from the Dapper Drake era. The refractive lines have echoes of OS X’s iconic Aqua wallpaper but the distinctive is more than enough to lift that inspiration out of mind.
As Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon was my first Ubuntu I must confess to a nostalgic bias reviewing it. It is quintessentially “Ubuntu” to my eyes.
Ubuntu 8.04 ‘Hardy Heron
The Ubuntu 8.04 LTS ‘Hardy Heron’ wallpaper is considered Ubuntu’s best wallpaper, bar none. It’s hard to argue. The illustration featured the release mascot (a first) and its intricate, colourful, and imaginative presentation personified the distro’s burgeoning status.
Ubuntu 8.10 ‘Intrepid Ibex’
The Intrepid Ibex also featured its titular mascot in abstract style – though some saw a coffee stain/splash instead of an Ibex! Regardless, the 8.10 wallpaper was distinctive, different, and dripping with personality – things which can’t be said about much of the desktop art that followed it…
Ubuntu 9.04 ‘Jaunty Jackalope’
It was back to basics with the Ubuntu 9.04 wallpaper. Imaginatively rendered mascots were ditched and simple gradients, swooshy lines and lighting effects brought back. It was, for most of us at the time, something of a let down given the originality of the art proceeding it.
Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala
“Where did the brown go?!” was many long-time users first reaction when booting into Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala for the first time. All the earthy tones that had been a staple were swapped for much brighter hues of orange.
It’s far to say this wallpaper gave off a warm and inviting first impression. The texture – photograph or digital effect – provided a tactile touch too.
Ubuntu 10.04 ‘Lucid Lynx’
With the launch of Ubuntu 10.04 LTS came a new identity for the distro. A new colour scheme, brand logo, GTK theme, and icon set look introduced – the orange and brown wallpapers of releases past no longer vibed with the new visuals.
And lo, the wallpaper used in Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx aided the new aesthetic. In came a purple/pink gradient with lens flares and blurry artefacts overlaid. The result was truly lucid; a dreamy default wallpaper.
Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat
A more ambitious wallpaper was planned for Ubuntu 10.10 but time ran out to make it. The substitute image made a competent stand in, with ethereal strobing lending it an otherworldly quality.
Ubuntu 11.04 ‘Natty Narwhal’
Ubuntu 11.04 began a short era of wallpaper designs that only bore subtle changes from the preceding one. Opting to follow a more consistent, iterative approach generated less excitement among long-time fans during artwork drops but, looking back, there’s method to the blandness.
Ubuntu 11.10 ‘Oneiric Ocelot’
I promise you that the wallpaper for Ubuntu 11.10 was updated from that in 11.04 – it’s just a very subtle upgrade…
Ubuntu 12.04 ‘Precise Pangolin’
Since the default background for Ubuntu 12.04 LTS would be seen for 5 years (LTS releases had previously only been supported for 3 years), Ubuntu’s design team kicked things up a gear. The steely cold purples of the 3 prior entries were swapped for a warmer, more welcoming hue.
Ubuntu 12.10 ‘Quantal Quetzal’
After 5 years of largely indistinguishable drapes the default wallpaper in Ubuntu 12.10 was… A shock. It wasn’t a thematic departure as such (the orange and purple gradient remains) but the dark splodge that sits so prominent was likened to a macro shot of someone’s nostril…
Ubuntu 13.04 ‘Raring Ringtail’
Usually, the Ubuntu 13.04 background was revealed super early in the development cycle. Was there a reason for it? Some cheekily suggested it was because it was simply the 12.10 wallpaper flipped vertically…
Ubuntu 13.10 ‘Saucy Salamander’
The Ubuntu 13.10 wallpaper retained the infamous ‘nostril’ but blurred it a little, and introduced a set of richer purple and aubergine tones.
Ubuntu 14.04 ‘Trusty Tahr’
This was the first Ubuntu wallpaper to introduce the paper fold elements prominent in the Suru design language Ubuntu was developing for its Ubuntu Phone effort.
Ubuntu 14.10 ‘Utopic Unicorn’
Notably, Ubuntu 14.10 is the only release to not ship with an updated wallpaper. The Ubuntu 14.04 LTS design remained default.
Ubuntu 15.04 ‘Vivid Vervet’
For a release called ‘Vivid’ the desktop wallpaper that debuted made an immediate impact by adopting an unexpectedly darker look.
Ubuntu 15.10 ‘Wily Werewolf’
The wallpaper for the Wily Werewolf retains the Suru design motifs but bumps the brightness. The result is a lighter overall appearance that uses angular blocks to offset the “corner” folds.
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS ‘Xenial Xerus’
The Ubuntu 16.04 LTS wallpaper was the brightest, lightest entry in a long time. It added more orange and faceted geometric sectioning to create a ‘web-like’ appearance.
Ubuntu 16.10 ‘Yakkety Yak’
The lighter, brighter theme continued in 16.10 with the inclusion of more orange. The angular geometry introduced in the previous design was increased, covering a more substantial portion of the desktop.
Ubuntu 17.04 ‘Zesty Zapus’
Virtually identical to the preceding wallpaper, the Ubuntu 17.04 default wallpaper retained the orange purple gradient but flipped the area of interest to the right.
Ubuntu 17.10 ‘Artful Aardvark’
The return of the mascot! The Ubuntu 17.10 wallpaper was the first Ubuntu wallpaper to feature the codename animal since 2008. The aardvark — Ubuntu returned to the start of the alphabet for its codenames – was rendered from bisecting (I think that’d the right term) circles.
Ubuntu 18.04 LTS ‘Bionic Beaver’
The ‘Bionic Beaver’ background continued the renewed tradition with, well, a beaver once again (mostly) created using intersecting circles and arcs.
Ubuntu 18.10 ‘Cosmic Cuttlefish’
With Ubuntu 18.10 the wallpaper re-introduced a darker purple and orange gradient but continued to construct its central mascot motif from circles.
Ubuntu 19.04 ‘Disco Dingo’
Circles be gone!
Atop a deeper purple background, the Ubuntu 19.04 wallpaper depicted a diligently designed dingo donning headphones. What do you think he’s listening to? GNU-metal? 😉
Ubuntu 19.10 ‘Eoan Ermine’
The Ubuntu 19.10 wallpaper boasted a cute circular stoat motif atop a marginally orange-ier gradient than 19.04.
Ubuntu 20.04 LTS ‘Focal Fossa’
For the launch of its latest long-term support release, codenamed the ‘Focal Fossa’, Ubuntu’s design team added extra flair to the geometric animal head by including ‘focal lines’ — or as some saw it: a feline firing lasers!
Ubuntu 20.10 ‘Groovy Gorilla’
Ubuntu 20.10’s colourful codename was always going to result in a characterful mascot, and users got exactly that on their desktops – with the addition of some slick sunglasses!
Ubuntu 21.04 ‘Hirsute Hippo’
Ubuntu 21.04 had a hairy codename so Ubuntu’s designers took heed in interpretative illustration. But in an echo of the “coffee or ibex” optical illusion of 2007, not everyone saw a hippo in this design. Some saw a pair of hairy… Let’s just call them coconuts.
Ubuntu 21.10 ‘Impish Indri’
A symmetrical indri. What more could they do?
Ubuntu 22.04 LTS ‘Jammy Jellyfish’
Ubuntu 22.04 featured a geometric jellyfish as the centrepiece flanked by a new 3D protrusion on the right. This, to my eyes, adds a textural variance when compared to previous designed, and it heightens the overall look.
Ubuntu 22.10 ‘Kinetic Kudu’
A leaping kudu added dynamism to the default wallpaper that was reflective the codename – but not the release itslef (Ubuntu 22.10 was rather sedate).
Ubuntu 23.04 ‘Lunar Lobster’
A celestial rendition of a star-sign lobster against a night sky.
Ubuntu 23.10 ‘Mantic Minotaur’
The latest default wallpaper features an intricate maze, the walls of which make up the ‘minotaur’ mascot motif itself. Classically classy.