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How to install the Shadow icon theme on Linux

Shadow is a beautiful icon theme heavily inspired by Google’s material design, and the idea of drop-shadows, and promises to be a complete theme, with a replacement icon for almost every Linux program currently out there.

The Shadow icon theme is available to Linux users via the Gnome-Look website. Though don’t worry, just because it’s on Gnome-Look, doesn’t mean you’ll be forced to use Gnome Shell to use it, as it works on nearly any Linux desktop environment.

Note: don’t want to deal with Gnome-Look? The source code for the Shadow icon theme is up on Github. To grab this version of the theme, ensure you have the latest Git package and then click the “clone or download” button on Shadow’s git page.

To download the latest version of the Shadow icon theme from the Gnome-Look website, click this link here. Once on the Shadow page, look for the “files” button and select it with your mouse.

When you select the “Files” option, a list of Shadow icon downloads will appear. If you’re using Gnome Shell, Cinnamon or another GTK-based desktop environment, download the first file on the list. Or, if you use KDE Plasma 5 or LXQt, click on the download icon next to “shadow-kde.”

Extract Shadow icon theme

With the Shadow icon theme downloaded to your Linux PC, it’s time to extract the TarXZ archive that it comes with so that the files inside can be accessed. To do this, open up the file manager on your Linux PC and click on the “Downloads” folder.

Once in the “Downloads” folder, locate the Shadow TarXZ file and right-click it with the mouse. Then, look through the right-click menu for the “extract” option and select it to decompress the TarXZ file.


Prefer to use the terminal to extract files? Here’s what to do. First, launch a terminal window with the Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T keyboard combination. Then, use the CD command to move the terminal session from your home folder (~/) to the “Downloads” directory.

cd ~/Downloads

Inside the “Downloads” directory, run the tar command to decompress the Shadow TarXZ archive fully.

Shadow for GTK

mkdir shadow;tar xJvf shadow-*.tar.xz -C shadow

Shadow for KDE

mkdir shadow;shadow-kde-*.tar.xz -C shadow

Check the files

With the Shadow icon files extracted, use the CD command to move the terminal session into the extracted folder.

cd shadow

In the Shadow folder, run the LS command and take a look at the files inside.


Install Shadow icon theme

The Shadow icon theme must be manually installed on Linux, due to the fact that the developer does not include an easy installation script, or anything similar.  To start the installation, launch a terminal window. After that, follow the instructions below that outline the different ways to set up the theme.

Install system-wide

Setting up the Shadow icon theme system-wide will allow you to give every single user on your Linux PC the ability to set it as the default icon theme. Though, keep in mind that doing this requires Root privileges.

Gaining root access on Linux is done with the su command, or, with sudo -s if the Root user is disabled.

su -


sudo -s

Now that you’ve got Root access move the terminal session into the “Downloads” folder where the Shadow icon theme was extracted.

cd /home/username/Downloads/

Using the mv command, place the Shadow icon files in the /usr/share/icons folder.

mv shadow /usr/share/icons/

Install for a single user

Don’t want to give every user on your Linux PC access to the Shadow icon theme? If so, you’ll need to set it up for a single user. To do this, launch a terminal window. Then, move into the “Downloads” folder with the CD command.

cd ~/Downloads

Create the “icons” folder using the mkdir command.

mkdir -p ~/.icons

With the new folder made, use the mv command to install the Shadow icon theme for a single user.

mv shadow ~/.icons/

Activate Shadow

If you want to set up the Shadow icon theme on Linux, you’ll need to open up the “Settings” app as it holds all of the appearance settings for your desktop environment.

When you’ve opened up the “Settings” window on your Linux PC, browse through it and look for the option that says “Appearance,” “Themes,” or “Icons” and click on it with the mouse. From there, use the menu to apply Shadow as your system’s default icon theme.

Can’t figure out how to activate the Shadow icon theme on your Linux PC? Check out the list below for the desktop environment you currently use for help on applying the newly installed Shadow icon theme.

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