Desktop Artwork



We are committed to creating a distinctive, usable and beautiful desktop user experience in Ubuntu. The purpose of this specification is to determine the areas of improvement we want to achieve in the BreezyBadger timeframe, across all the components that require custom artwork in Ubuntu.

Artwork Components


The ISOLINUX splash, used at the CD boot prompts has a maximum resolution of 639x479, but should really be around 639x320 (to fit in the text and prompt at the bottom of the screen). It is 16 colors only, which includes the background color of the whole screen. We could experiment with a simple logo+glow or logo-in-lozenge images, with a stark black background (might look somewhat like the Windows XP initial boot screen).

USplash Bootup Artwork

First, see USplash. There needs to be a good transition between this image, and the default gdmgreeter theme.

Login Screen (GDM)

The Ubuntu gdmgreeter theme is very popular and highly distinctive. We do not want to change it significantly from its current design (big glow, Ubuntu logo, etc). Some elements will be changed as per GdmRoadmap. There needs to be a good transition between the background color defined in gdm.conf and the default desktop image background color.

Desktop Splash (gnome-session)

The gnome-session splash is pretty limited at the moment. Ideally, we'd remove it completely, but for now we're stuck with an image of any size under 640x480 that will be shown pixel-for-pixel, with an approx 70px band at the bottom for icons and text displaying the list of GNOME components that are starting up. There's not a lot of flexibility here, basically a choice between portrait and landscape, how big the image should be, and what it should contain (including the Ubuntu logo). Novell had a good one a while back, just a thin, wide strip. We should experiment a lot with different designs and styles.

There needs to be a good transition between the desktop splash and the default desktop, particularly the background image and color. We should not create an image that depends on the background color of the user's desktop (such as faking rounded corners), otherwise the transition may end up looking terrible.

  • Once the startup splash screen is introduced, someone starting up and logging in will be presented with three "Welcome to Ubuntu"-style screens, with different sizes and different designs, in quick succession -- the first from USplash, the second from gdmgreeter, and the third from gnome-session. The FasterBoot becomes, the odder the visual experience will be. How can this be solved? Perhaps the USplash and gdmgreeter screens can have their Ubuntu logos in exactly the same size and position, and the gnome-session screen can be dropped. -- MatthewPaulThomas


Andy is developing an SVG icon theme for inclusion in BreezyBadger. The icons have clear but less obtrusive outlines, so they're both beautiful at file manager sizes, and visible but less distracting from the text when used beside menu items. If coverage of file manager and application icons and quality of the theme is acceptable, it will be used as the default icon theme.

Ubuntu icons and logos should be shipped in ubuntu-artwork only. We will have to track BrandingForDerivatives to make sure we do this well. The Applications menu icon and About Ubuntu icon will change in BreezyBadger to use a good, well-sized, etched/embossed version of the Ubuntu device.

Window Borders (metacity)

JeffWaugh has some metacity theme concepts he is working on, adapted from the Clearlooks metacity theme, but with selection color window borders instead of the 'smooth panel' style borders that are popular in recent metacity themes. The most important element of the metacity theme is actually the GTK+ color selection, and its distinctiveness from the rest of the desktop, but still fitting with the Human theme in general.

Window borders can't be given the same shadow (and therefore lighter outline) style as the new icons, because that would require XOrg composite and damage extensions that won't be stable enough in time for Breezy (see XEyeCandy).

About the metacity default theme, LionelDricot filled the following bug

Desktop Backgrounds

We need to choose a default background image, and develop a set of ubuntu-calendar images for the six months that BreezyBadger is current. The desktops should comply with the following guidelines (as well as the obvious but subjective properties of beauty and compatibility with the Human theme in general):

  • Smooth and clear at any scale: Nothing in the image should look even remotely like a window or icon.
  • Ideally, ratio-independent so we need only ship one image that looks great on 4:3 and 16:10 (not 16:9 surprisingly enough).
  • They're not an advertisement for an OS that you're already using.

LionelDricot suggests the following picture (after perhaps some work) : It fits perfectly in the Ubuntu color scheme. The license is not free (CC by-nc-sa) but the author is of this picture is very active in the free software world and could agree to change this if asked nicely.

I created some backgrounds you can see at, they currently have an ubuntu icon in them but the xcf is there to remove them if you want. The green goes very nicely with the brown in the ubuntu theme i think.


The Human cursor theme is fairly nice, but has some holes: the hand cursor looks like half a hand, the background-activity cursor is a bit unrecognizable, and the drag cursors are bad (they don't match the rest of the style, and suggest dragging an entire document when you're just dragging some text). The last problem at least should be fixed for Breezy.

Ubuntu Artwork Challenge

We will run an Ubuntu artwork competition to attract themes from keen Ubuntu artists and users. They must be complete (see below), and be submitted under a Free license, or derived and distributed under a Free license. The competition will be announced as soon as possible, and most likely end at FeatureFreeze.

Complete themes must define and/or include a gtkrc, metacity theme and icon theme. Included theme components must be supported in Ubuntu, ideally in the DesktopSeed. This is particularly important when using GTK+ engines. The competition announcement will include a list of these.

We may run the competition on an existing artwork site like deviantart, or If nothing else, we should definitely inform all of these sites (and similar ones) about the competition.

Implementation Plan

JeffWaugh will work with AndrewFitzsimon to ensure that regular drops of icons are delivered and available in BreezyBadger. Soon after UbuntuDownUnder, BreezyBadger will switch to using the Human icon theme by default, so we get regular feedback from users, and can track its progress. This is the major goal for artwork this release.

Packages Affected

ubuntu-artwork, additional artwork packages for artwork competition winners

Outstanding Issues

  • Sorting out AndrewFitzsimon's contract for developing and completing the icon theme

  • File many bugs on software that doesn't use images from the icon theme, use separate images (see battstat xpm mess) or use the Ubuntu branding infrastructure
  • Canonical will be developing a branding guide for Ubuntu, which will help immensely in the development of the default Ubuntu artwork
  • Andy wants to figure out a good way of getting community involvement in icon design and creation, and making it easy for contributors to get those changes into Ubuntu
  • Can we include an equivalent to gnome-art (written in Ruby) in Ubuntu? We'd have to host our own repository of themes, but integrating this into the OS would be awesome.

UbuntuDownUnder/BOFs/DesktopArtwork (last edited 2008-08-06 16:19:03 by localhost)