It is truly amazing how much difference an icon set can have on not only the look of a computer, but on how it “feels” to use it. I don’t know how exactly to describe the “feel” of an icon set (or even what I mean by it), but in all my years of using a computer, the quickest way for me to get more comfortable with a new computer was to configure it the way I liked, with my favorite themes, wallpapers, and icon sets. I recently started using Kubuntu, a version of Ubuntu Linux running the KDE desktop environment instead of Ubuntu’s default GNOME desktop.
Because it had been so long since I’d used KDE, one of the first things I did was start looking for good icon themes. Some of the following themes are also available in GNOME, while others are specific to KDE (or at least that’s where they originated). Some of the themes I enjoy because I’d used them in GNOME (while others remind me of my days using a Mac), and am familiar with them, while others I enjoy simply because they are new to me. All of them, however, are a great way for any KDE user to spruce up his or her desktop, with a fresh new look.
One thing to remember is that not all icon sets are as complete as others. Some will mainly modify your folders, which does provide a nice change, while others include everything from toolbar buttons, office suite buttons and media player controls to special icons for your wireless connection and volume controls. Others, while not really complete icon themes, may rely on a different icon theme to fill in the gaps, thereby providing a new experience.
Okay, that said, here are six great icon themes. I’ve fiddled around with all of them for varying amounts of time, and with few exceptions, am more than happy with all of them. A couple of them – MeliaeSVG and the Gnome-Colors varieties – were not designed with KDE in mind. In fact, the version of MeliaSVG I’m using is specifically described as an icon theme for GNOME. Because of this, you’ll notice some icon duplication, especially in the preferences area. A true KDE icon theme would have a different icon, for example, for the Account Details, File Associations and Personal Information preference panes. These do not. However, I’ve decided that for me, personally, this doesn’t matter, because the overall look of the theme is so good that I can deal with a few shortcomings.
That said, here are some fantastic icon themes to spruce up your KDE desktop:
Faenza-Cupertino For KDE
This is my current favorite icon theme. Which is strange, because I first saw it a month ago when using GNOME, and I can honestly say I didn’t like it at all. The icons were all so square that something about it didn’t sit right with me. That was standard Faenza for GNOME, with a tan default folder, which I didn’t like at all. And then I started using KDE. And then Faenza-Cupertino came out. It was pretty much the same as standard Faenza, except the default folder had turned blue (similar to the folder used by Apple, a company based in Cupertino, California… hence the name). And in KDE, for whatever reason, I love it. It honestly is the most perfect “fit” of any icon theme to any desktop I’ve ever used. The only one that comes close, in my mind, is GNOME-Colors, a few items below.
I actually just discovered this theme a couple nights ago, when I was thinking about writing this article. And it’s fantastic. It’s another theme, as mentioned above, that is actually designed with GNOME in mind, and not KDE. In spite of that, the only real missing elements I’ve run across are the previously mentioned preference panels. Meliae is a lighter theme. It doesn’t have bright colors, and the icons are all pretty delicate, if that makes sense. They aren’t filled with bold colors, and they aren’t “chunky” like the Faenza icons. They’re just pretty, and with the right theme and wallpaper are a really good choice.
The Breathe icon set is straight out of the Ubuntu repositories. It’s available for other distributions as well, and can be downloaded at its GNOME-Look.org page (linked below). It fits in incredibly well with KDE, and was actually designed by the Ubuntu community using the KDE-default Oxygen Icon Theme as an inspiration. It has bright orange folders and bold colors throughout. It’s very glossy, which fits in well with the aesthetic of the standard KDE setup, but isn’t overly bright. To fully take advantage of the Breathe Icon Theme you’ll also need to install the Human Icon Theme (used by Breate for icons it doesn’t include), as well Gnome Icon Theme (which the Human Icon Theme relies on in the same way). One caveat about Breathe and other icon themes designed with GNOME in mind. Because of their differences (KDE and GNOME typically use different image formats in their icon themes), some larger icons won’t look quite right (a little fuzzy), but I dont’ find it too noticeable.
I decided to lump the Humanity and Elementary icons because they are very similar. The Elementary icon set has long been a favorite of mine on GNOME. It takes the stylistic tendencies of the Tango icon set and tweaks it a little bit to be lighter, a bit washed out (so as to be less distracting), but very consistent across a multitude of applications. It’s a fantastic icon set, being constantly worked on, and is a great choice. Humanity is currently the default icon set for Ubuntu (so if you’re going to install it, be sure to install both GNOME Icon Theme and Hicolor Icon Theme), and is billed as “elementary icons for Humans” as it takes the blue tones of the Elementary Icon Theme and gives it the oranges and purples of the default Ubuntu theme. this is another example of a GNOME theme that looks fantastic in KDE, but unlike others, is crystal clear, even at larger sizes.
This was the first icon theme I thought was truly amazing. It comes with seven different color bases (GNOME-Wise is green, GNOME-Wine is red, GNOME-Noble is purple, GNOME-Illustrious is pink, GNOME-Human is orange, GNOME-dust is chocolate brown and GNOME-brave is blue). It is another theme that shares many characteristics with Elementary and Tango (it credits both as inspirations on its website), but still manages to be unique. GNOME users have the added luxury of installing the Shiki-Colors themes, which are sadly not available for KDE. Still, with a bit of tweaking, the GNOME-Colors icon themes look absolutely great in KDE.
As I was going over my favorite icon themes, I knew what would happen: most of these icon themes “for KDE” are GNOME-related in some way. But that’s just how it goes. I’ve looked at tons of KDE icon themes, but often find them too bright or glossy for my tastes. So this is what you get from me! I was careful to pick out themes that work well with KDE, and think any of these will add a bit of color and character to any KDE desktop. And the “inspired-by” goes both ways, of course, as Breathe truly shows is character as an icon set inspired by Oxygen. So, there it is. Six themes any KDE user in search of a nice looking, consistent desktop should try out. Hope you like them!
Faenza-Cupertino Icons for KDE
Breathe Icon Theme
Elementary Icons for KDE