Customize GNOME Desktop in Ubuntu with a Clean Look

4 min

This tutorial gives you some easy steps to customize GNOME Desktop with a clean look with minimal effort. Here’s how.

We are continuing with the “GNOME look and customization” series with various ways of customizing the default GNOME look in the popular Ubuntu desktop. Here’s another instalment on giving Ubuntu GNOME desktop a clean look.

Let’s install some theme icons and do some tweaks to uplift your desktop. We will transform the below desktop (the latest Ubuntu with GNOME).

Before customizing GNOME desktop in Ubuntu
Before customizing the GNOME desktop in Ubuntu

This customization session will use the great-looking Colloid GTK theme, Mkos-Big-Sur icons, a cool cursor theme with additional extensions, and Conky.

Customize GNOME Desktop and uplift it with a Clean Look

To customize GNOME Desktop with a clean look in Ubuntu in this guide, you need to enable GNOME Extensions and install GNOME Tweaks. You can do both with these quick steps.

1. Enable GNOME Extensions in Ubuntu

Make sure you have Flatpak enabled in your system. If not, follow this guide. Or, run the following commands in sequence from the terminal.

sudo apt install flatpak
sudo apt install gnome-software-plugin-flatpak
flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub

The extensions used in this GNOME customization guide need the Extensions Manager application to search and install them. You can follow this guide on installing GNOME extensions and search for the name of the following. This applies to all the GNOME-based Linux distros. You can also use the following command to install it:

flatpak install com.mattjakeman.ExtensionManager

2. Install GNOME Tweaks

Install the GNOME Tweak Tool. You can use Ubuntu Software to install Or run below from the terminal.

sudo apt install gnome-tweaks

3. Install Extensions

Open the Extensions Manager app and install the following extensions. Search with the extension name and install.

Extension Manager app in application menu
Extension Manager app in application menu

4. Download and install icons, themes and cursors

  • Create .themes and .icons in your home directory (if it does not exist).
  • Download the Colloid GTK Theme from the below link. After downloading, extract the files and go inside the extracted folder. After you have done this, open a terminal and run the file.
  • Download the Mkos-Big-Sur icon theme from the below link. Once downloaded, extract the files and copy the parent folder to ~/.icons in your home directory.
  • Download the below cursor theme. After downloading, extract the files and go inside the extracted folder. After you have done this, open a terminal and run the file.
Installing themes and icons
Installing themes and icons

Now, it’s time to install Conky and some extensions that will eventually give your GNOME Desktop a clean look. To install Conky and a Conky manager, open the terminal prompt and run the below commands.

sudo apt install conky
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntuhandbook1/conkymanager2
sudo apt update && sudo apt install conky-manager2

5. Configurations

After completing the above steps, it’s time to do some basic configurations. You may see some of the changes when you install the GNOME Extensions above. For example, the clock should already be shifted to the right side when installing the Move Clock extension above.

5.1 Arc Menu configuration

Open the Arc Menu settings from the extensions manager app.

  • Choose Menu > Manu Layout > Alternative Menu Layout > Raven
  • Then select Raven Layout Tweaks > Default View > All programs.
  • Also, choose Menu > Menu theme > turn on Override theme.
  • Choose any icon you want for the menu from the Menu button > menu button icon.

5.2 Dash to dock configuration

Open the dash to dock settings from the extensions manager app.

  • Go to Appearance > and enable Shrink to dash
  • Customize windows counter indicator to Dashes
  • Customize Opacity to Fixed
  • And Opacity to 12%

5.3 Conky settings

If you want Conky with a clock and other items on your desktop, then launch Conky manager.

Choose the widget, Gotham. And set its alignment to the middle right.

6. Icon, theme and cursor

Open the GNOME tweaks tool from the application menu.

Go to the appearance tab and set the Shell theme as Colloid dark.

And change the cursor theme to vimix-white-cursors, icon theme to Mkos-big-sur

Apply Themes
Apply Themes

7. Wallpaper

If you made it this far, pair your desktop with a nice and calm wallpaper that goes with your GNOME desktop’s overall clean look. For this demo, I have used a sea-themed abstract wallpaper.


After all the configuration, and if all goes well, your desktop should look like this.

Ubuntu and GNOME desktop customization with a clean look
Ubuntu and GNOME desktop customization with a clean look

You can play around with different variants of this theme with several combinations of settings. And create a look that suits you better.

I hope this guide helps you transform your GNOME desktop with a clean look. Let me know in the comments down below if you like this setup.


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