Give Your Linux Desktop a Halloween Makeover

Halloween is around the corner. Boo!

Of course, there are ways to celebrate Halloween, and I believe you might have a few ideas of your own. How about giving your Linux desktop a spooky, dark makeover? Something like the screenshot below?

ubuntu halloween theming final looks
Halloween themed desktop

Customization is a high point of Linux, and there is no end to it. Earlier, we showed you how to make your Linux look like macOS. Today, I’ll share a few tips to keep up with the Halloween ‘spirit’.

This is possible with a combination of themes, icons, extensions, fonts, conky, etc. While you can do these things on any distribution and desktop environment, it’s not feasible for me to show them all in a single tutorial.

Here, I have used Ubuntu with the GNOME desktop environment.

Getting all the tools

You need several packages and tools. Make sure you have them all (or most of them) before you start the customization.

It’s not mandatory to make all of the changes. But the more you do, the better look and feel you get.

GNOME Tweaks and GMOME Extensions manager

Get the Tweaks tool and the extension manager with this command:

sudo apt install gnome-tweaks gnome-extension-manager 

In KDE-based systems, you don’t any tweak tool to change the look. But surely, you will need the Kvantum-Manager app that I discussed in the KDE theming guide.

Conky

This is actually optional. Since the conky-manager project is not receiving any maintenance, it will be a bit tricky to use conky. But anyway, let’s use it for the additional look-and-feel.

sudo apt install conky-all

Neofetch or shell color scripts

This step is also a personal choice. You can choose neofetch because it’s already available in the repository and can be used easily.

sudo apt install neofetch

Shell-color scripts are another excellent choice. The package is available in AUR and Arch Linux users can install it from there. In Ubuntu, you need to install it manually.

git clone https://gitlab.com/dwt1/shell-color-scripts.git
cd shell-color-scripts
sudo make install

Themes, icons, fonts, and wallpaper

I am using Sweet theme, Beautiline icon pack, simple1e cursors, and Grey-Minimalistic conky theme. Once downloaded, extract them. You should also get Creepster font.

Download a spooky wallpaper from the internet.

Alert! You’ll be doing a lot of customization and change. You can go back to the usual look by reverting all the changes you made. An easier way out would be to create a new user with admin access and make all these changes with this new user. This way, your original user account and appearance doesn’t get impacted. When Halloween is over, you can delete this additional user.

With all resources in hand, it’s time to utilize them.

Install and use the extensions

Open the gnome-extensions app. In Ubuntu 22.04, you can install extensions from within the app, by using the browse section.

install gnome shell extensions user themes blur my shell and dash to dock
Install GNOME-shell extensions: User Themes, Blur my Shell and Dash to Dock

In other versions of Ubuntu and other GNOME distributions, you can install shell extensions through the browser. For our purpose, install the following extensions :

Also, make sure that all the extensions are enabled.

Apply theme, icon, and font

You need to copy and paste the extracted theme folder to ~/.themes directory and icon and cursor folder to the ~/.icons directory.

Now open GNOME tweaks and apply the settings as shown in the screenshot below.

set themes with gnome tweaks
Set themes with GNOME tweaks

To use a custom font in Ubuntu, right-click on the font file that you have downloaded and extracted and select open with Font manager. I am using Creepster font.

right click on font file and select open with fonts
Right-click on font file and select open with fonts

Here, press the install button.

install font using font manager application
Install font using font manager application

Note: In some systems, pressing the install button won’t show the “installed” prompt. In that case, you can just close the app because once you press the install button, it has been installed.

Now open the Tweaks app and move to the fonts section. Here, you can change the fonts of various sections as shown in the screenshot below.

change system fonts using gnome tweaks
Change system fonts using GNOME Tweaks

Note that, for terminals, a monospace font is required. Here, I am using a regular font and thus it may give you a slightly disoriented look sometimes.

Apply Dash to Dock Extension settings

First, you need to turn off the Ubuntu Dock extension using the GNOME Extensions application.

Disable Ubuntu Dock
Disable Ubuntu Dock

Run the Dash to Dock extension if it’s not running already.

Now, right-click on the dash to dock application button appearing on the bottom and select dash to dock settings.

select dash to dock settings
Select dash to dock settings

Here, you need to tweak some small things.

First, reduce the icon size using the respective slider.

setting dash to dock icon size
Change icon size

After that, you need to reduce the opacity of the dock. I prefer a fully transparent dock.

For this, set the opacity to fixed and reduce it to zero with the slider, as shown in the screenshot below.

opacity setting for dash to dock
Opacity setting for dash to dock

GNOME terminal setting

The main tweak you want to get is a custom neofetch look (or a shell color script) with some blurred transparency.

On applying monospace font in GNOME-tweaks earlier, the font in the GNOME terminal is also changed.

First, create a new profile from preferences.

select preferences from hamburger menu
Select preferences from hamburger menu

Here, Click + sign to create a new profile. Type in a name and press create as shown below:

create new profile in gnome terminal
Create a new profile in the GNOME terminal

Inside the new profile, change the transparency setting and set it around the middle, as shown in the screenshot:

set transperancy to gnome terminal
Set transparency to gnome-terminal

Once finished, set this profile as the default. To do this, click on the triangle button associated with the new profile and select Set as Default.

set new profile as default in gnome terminal
Set new profile as default in gnome-terminal

Setting blur effect

The above step will only create a transparent shell. But if you need a blur effect, which is good for better visibility, you need to go to the Blur my Shell extension settings.

blur my shell extension settings
Blur my shell extension settings

Here, go to the Application tab. Now, ensure that the terminal is opened and placed conveniently on the desktop. Click on Add Window button and select gnome-terminal window, to set the blur effect. Note: This feature is in beta so expect minor glitches.

applying blur effect to selected windows
Applying blur effect to selected windows

This same procedure can be repeated for other apps also, like the Nautilus file manager.

Customizing Neofetch

One of the best features of neofetch is its customizability. You can tweak the look with a wide range of methods. For Halloween, I choose a pumpkin image to appear in place of the distro logo.

Neofetch supports adding custom images in a variety of formats. For that purpose, there are a variety of backends supported. Here, I use the jp2a backend, which will use an ASCII converted image.

neofetch --jp2a /path/to/your/image/file.png
neofetch with custom backend
neofetch with custom backend

The above code will create a neofetch instance with the custom image. You can write this code to your .bashrc file, for permanent placement.

Unfortunately, this didn’t work on my Wayland instance.

Customizing Shell Color Scripts

If you installed shell color scripts, you have a variety of shell scripts. To list the available scripts, use:

colorscript -l
ghosts shell color script
ghosts shell color script

You can either get a random script each time by placing colorscript random in your .bashrc file. Or you can get any particular script by placing colorscript -e <name>

Setting up Conky

I am using the Grey-Minimalistic conky theme from Deviantart. Each type of conky theme has a different installation method. So if you are using another conky file, follow its setup method, described in its README files.

Extract the conky theme file. Inside, we have several folders. First, you need to install the associated icons and fonts. That is, install the given font using font-manager. Copy and paste the icon folder to your ~/.icons folder.

copy and paste conky files to home directory
Copy and paste conky files to home directory

Now, go to the conky folder. Make sure that, you have enabled viewing hidden files. Now copy the .conkyrc file and .conky-vision-icons file to your Home directory, as shown above.

Now start conky to get a look like this.

conky theme applied
Conky theme applied

Add the conky to the list of startup applications so that it starts automatically at each boot.

add conky to the list of startup applications
Add conky to the list of startup applications

Change wallpaper

You are almost there. The only thing you need to do now is to change the background wallpaper. You have already downloaded the spooky wallpapers I believe.

set image as wallpaper from nautilus
Set image as wallpaper from nautilus

Behold the final look!

If you followed most of the steps above, you should get a desktop that looks like the one in the below screenshots.

ubuntu halloween theme final look
Ubuntu Halloween theme final look
ubuntu halloween theming final looks
Ubuntu Halloween theming final looks

Is it scary enough for Halloween? What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

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  • Why did I not think of this, the custom fonts especially, I always forget about that ability… I’m on a KDE based system.

    Thank you