Customize theme: changing the colors of Windows, Input boxes, etc.

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Customize theme: changing the colors of Windows, Input boxes, etc.

Post by DatesEater »

Hello there,

I've been a long time user of Mint. I do not ever surface as usually my problems are solved by browsing topics where said problems have received adequate solutions. This time however it's different. Let's cut to the point:

In Mate 18.3 you have the option to easily and rapidly customize the colors of your theme: right mouse click on Desktop => Change desktop background => Theme => Customize => Colors. There you can pick a color from the RGB color triangle for the background and texts for Windows, Input boxes, Selected items and Tooltips

This, to me, was one of the strongest points of Linux and Mint especially. That you can so quickly customize it to you liking. Now with the LTS of 18.3 being over I need to migrate over to Mate 20.1 and... what do you know, that feature is gone. Boat sunk.

Can someone explain to me how to get this feature back, what script to use or what file to edit to change the colors of the Windows, Input boxes, Selected items and Tooltips?

I don't like downloading other people themes as they are not what I want. I want to customize something myself.

Thanks a lot
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Re: Customize theme: changing the colors of Windows, Input boxes, etc.

Post by michael-hi »

Hi DatesEater

Sorry to see you haven't had a quicker reply to a very fair question. I don't think you're the first person to notice that Mint has become less customizable in some respects, especially when it comes to window colours. It does offer a range of Mint-X and Mint-Y colours in both light and dark themes and these can also change things like the folder icons and the highlight colour for selected items, scrollbars etc. However, as far as I can see, none of the themes offered in MATE have coloured window borders that can be changed.

One solution is to stick with the Mint themes for most purposes but download a different Metacity theme for the windows only, such as the very plain "OneColor" theme from here:

Download the file OneColor_pack.tar.gz which can then be installed with a couple of clicks by selecting "Install..." on the Appearance Preferences window. Now if you keep Mint-Y as your theme and click "Customize..." you should find seven new OneColor options available for selection on the Window Border tab. You can then match them with any of the Mint-Y options on the Controls tab. Alternatively, if you choose the plain OneColor option on the Window Border tab you can switch between the different Mint-Y options for your main theme and the window borders should change colour to correspond with the Mint-Y colour (but not Mint-X colours for some reason). This also makes it easy to match with Mint-Y colours on the Controls tab. If you change the Mint-Y theme but the window doesn't change colour, go back to the Window Border tab and select OneColor again and then if necessary log out and back in.

Disclaimer - I don't normally use Mate and have only tried this on a Live USB stick, but it should work the same on a full install. If you don't like the OneColor theme it may be worth experimenting with other Metacity window themes from the same site.

You also mentioned tooltip colours. If for instance you wanted black text on a green background you could add the following wording to a text file ~/.config/gtk-3.0/gtk.css and then log out and back in. Make sure that your file manager is set to show hidden files (those beginning with a dot) and create this file if it does not already exist. You might even need to create the gtk-3.0 folder as well.

Code: Select all

/* Tooltip colors */
tooltip {
    text-shadow: none;
tooltip.background {
    background-color: #70e05a;

tooltip * {
    color: #000000;
For other colours just substitute the appropriate six-character hex code. MATE has one advantage over Xfce in that its menu includes a useful colour selection tool.

It's also worth mentioning that some apps (eg Calculator, Disks) come from Gnome and have a thick grey header bar instead of proper window borders. If you prefer visual consistency, you can add the window border back with

Code: Select all

sudo apt install gtk3-nocsd
After installing, log out and back in.

Sorry I can't help with identifying specific files and lines to edit if you want to make your own individual changes to the different themes. But, on a brighter note, at least it's still easy to change the desktop wallpaper and the colour of the panel to make your install more personalised. Good luck. :D
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