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How To Install The Paper GTK Theme On Linux

Material design themes are a favorite on the Linux desktop as of late. One of the best implementations out there is the Paper GTK theme. It’s a minimal, flat theme that adheres very strictly to the Google material design specifications. This GTK theme is primarily focused around the GTK 3 toolkit, and works best with it. However, despite this, Paper still manages to work pretty well with GTK 2 based applications and desktop environments.

Install Paper GTK Theme

In this tutorial, we’ll cover building Paper from scratch, as it’s the best way to get the absolute latest version without much issue. The first step to building Paper from source is to install all of its dependencies. Specifically, Paper needs Git, GTK Engine Murrine, and a few other things.


sudo apt install gtk2-engines-murrine gtk2-engines-pixbuf git autoconf


sudo apt-get install gtk2-engines-murrine gtk2-engines-pixbuf git autoconf

Arch Linux

sudo pacman -S gtk-engine-murrine gtk-engines git autoconf


sudo dnf install gtk-murrine-engine gtk2-engines git autoconf


sudo zypper install gtk-murrine-engine gtk2-engines git autoconf

Other Linuxes

In this tutorial we focus primarily on the most popular Linux distributions (like Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, etc.) however that doesn’t mean Paper won’t work on other Linux distributions. Given that in this guide Paper is being built, there’s no need to worry. If you’re running a lesser known Linux distribution, track down the following dependencies. Keep in mind that they may have different names.

Search your operating system’s package manager for “Git,” “Autoconf,” “GTK murrine engine,” and “GTK engines.”

To start building Paper, open up a terminal and use the Git command to download the latest source code to your Linux PC.

git clone https://github.com/snwh/paper-gtk-theme.git

Downloading all of the Paper theme’s source code may take a bit of time depending on your internet speed. When it finishes, use the CD command and move the terminal from the user home directory it started at into the newly cloned paper-gtk-theme folder.

cd paper-gtk-theme

Inside of the Paper GTK source code folder, the building can begin. The first command you’ll need to run during the build process is the autogen.sh script. This script will scan your Linux PC, determine if you’ve got all the correct libraries to start the build process, and generate the necessary files.


Running autogen.sh also generates a configure script. Run it to finish the configuration that autogen.sh started.


After the autogen.sh script finishes up, the next step in the building process is to use the makefile. In the terminal, run the make command. The compilation will start when this command runs, and it’ll take a bit of time, so be patient.


At this last step, you’ll use make again. However, instead of running it to build, you’ll use it to install the code. Run make install with the sudo command, to install the theme system-wide.

sudo make install

Install For Single User

The Paper GTK theme builds and installs to the Root file system, in /usr/share/themes/. A lot of times running make install without sudo privileges will install everything for a single user inside of ~/.themes instead. However, the Paper GTK Theme doesn’t work this way. Instead, if you’re looking to make this theme available for one user on the system, you’ll need to follow the traditional installation procedures, then move the files to the right place manually.

First, cd into your Linux PC’s theme directory. Then, using the mv command, move Paper to ~/.themes directory.

mkdir -p ~/.themes

sudo mv Paper ~/.themes

After moving Paper to the right folder, it should be useable to only the user who holds the theme. Repeat this process for as many users as desired.

Paper GTK icon theme

No GTK theme is complete without an icon theme. Luckily, the developer of the Paper GTK theme also has an icon theme to use. It’s designed to be the perfect companion for the desktop theme. Like Paper GTK, the icon theme needs to be built.

To install the theme, grab it from Github, with the git clone command.

git clone https://github.com/snwh/paper-icon-theme.git

Move the terminal into the paper-icon-theme folder with the CD command.

cd paper-icon-theme

Inside the Paper icon sources folder, the building process is identical to the GTK theme instructions. First, run autogen.sh to generate the configure file and makefile.




Finally, install the icon theme into /usr/share/icons/.

sudo make install

Install Icon Theme For Single User

Running the make install command with sudo installs the icon theme globally, for all users. If you’re not interested in making the icon theme available for everyone on the system, you’ll need to install it locally, to the ~/.icons folder. Unfortunately, the build scripts with the Paper icon theme don’t work that way. Just like the GTK theme, you’ll need to move the files manually.

To get started, CD into  /usr/local/share/icons

cd /usr/local/share/icons

Next, make a new ~/.icons folder in ~/.

mkdir -p ~/.icons

Lastly, use mv to install the icon theme.

mv Paper* ~/.icons

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