Change Ubuntu / Debian GDM login screen theme/wallpaper

Notice: Tested for Ubuntu releases up to Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat)

Every Linux distribution now days sets its default theme and wallpaper. That theme and wallpaper is usually login screen theme and wallpaper. What if you don't like it? You can change theme and wallpaper for your user account but login screen theme stays the same. Lets do something about it...

This is the plan. In a way GDM (Gnome Display Manager) is like every other user. It can have theme, wallpaper and programs to be run when it starts. Why not adjusting Gnome appearance properties (gnome-appearance-properties) window to start at login screen? Then we can adjust things like theme, fonts, wallpaper and everything Gnome appearance properties allows us to do. So first step is to enter this at your terminal (following code is single command):

sudo ln -s /usr/share/applications/gnome-appearance-properties.desktop /usr/share/gdm/autostart/LoginWindow/gnome-appearance-properties.desktop

Next step is to logout. Gnome appearance properties window will start together with GDM login screen and you can adjust everything as you like. The last step is to undo what we have done in the last step. So after next login enter this at your terminal to stop Gnome appearance properties window form showing its face every time you're at GDM login screen:

sudo rm /usr/share/gdm/autostart/LoginWindow/gnome-appearance-properties.desktop

Next time you need to change your login screen appearance you repeat this process. That's it. No more steps.


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19 thoughts on “Change Ubuntu / Debian GDM login screen theme/wallpaper

  1. Daniel

    Oddly, I have no autostart directory under /usr/share/gdm. And when I create one (and the LoginWindow directory under it) and follow the above, it’s ignored. I’m running squeeze, btw.

  2. Marko Martinović Author


    Hi. This is what I would do. I would go to synaptic and find gdm package. In its properties you have list of files provided by it. On that list I would see where gdm stores its files and is there any autostart folder, it must be there. You can try this 😉

  3. Marko Author


    I also have adblock software but I add every Linux related web page I find useful as an exception to help spread Linux. I think that Adblock software is great and that web pages should deserve to get to the exception list. If you think TechyTalk haven’t deserved that, by all means block the message it self I would also. Cheers!

  4. jimbo

    I would never add a website to my exceptions list unless adblock broke it. Even then, I would not like it very much. Generally, I’d find another way around it.

  5. Marko Author


    Jimbo I wonder would you keep that way of thinking if it ever happens that you invest a few years and a big part of your self in your own Linux related site or open source software. Just as info from ads on page in last three years you couldn’t buy a decent hamburger. Luckily I don’t do what I do for money or you would be blocking ads on some other Linux related site a long time ago 😉

  6. Konstigt

    Tried this on LMDE. Changing theme worked fine but changing background has no effect.

    $ lsb_release -rd
    Description: Linux Mint Debian Edition
    Release: 1

    1. Marko Author

      Hi, when changing background you should be able to see change in real time. Does it change when you click on some other background and revert after restart or it doesn’t change at all?

  7. Gunther

    I’m using Linux Mint 11 and this isn’t working, I get the Appearance window on login, but it doesn’t recognize themes that I’m trying to install.

    1. Marko Author

      Hi! I haven’t tested on Ubuntu newer than Maverick I’m using on my PCs. I’ll try it and edit post with notice if necessary. Thanks for reporting.

  8. tarpmoks

    I ran your script on Ubuntu 11.04. Unfortunately, now I cannot remove the shortcut that was created. It’s read only and I don’t have permission to remove it. I’m logged in as an administrator. I don’t know what the problem is.

    As far as changing my loggin screen, this had no effect. I installed Ubuntu Tweak and was able to change the screen with that. It works great so far.

    I am a noob at this so any help would be appreciated.


  9. Carmelo

    Easy way to change wallpaper
    In terminal: sudo nautilus | then go to /var/lib/gdm | the move your wallpapers to the folder of your choosing | then add the photo to the list of wallpapers in gdm.

    Easy way to change theme
    Put you theme.tar.gz file on a USB drive (or any external media drive), then install in the gdm. This also works with x11 mouse themes.

    Also this worked Successfully on Ubuntu 11.04. (Zorin OS5)


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