How to change desktop appearance on Raspberry Pi?

Today we will see how to customize the appearance of your Raspberry

So what can you do to improve the look of the graphical interface of the Raspberry PI?
Like any Linux system, you can change a lot of things: the display options, the desktop wallpaper, the general theme and even the splash screen

Let’s see this step by step:
– Step 1: change the display options (resolution, icons, …)
– Step 2: Change the desktop wallpaper
– Step 3: Change the Raspbian theme
– Step 4: Change the splash screen


Change display settings

I imagine that if you read this article is that you use your raspberry on a desktop screen or a TV.
I won’t approach the specific configuration of a portable screen here


The first thing you may need to do is adjust the settings of your display
That means that if it is disproportionate or if the size of the elements does not suit you, you’ll have to change it

For that, go to:
– Start menu
– Preferences
– Raspberry Pi Configuration
– Click on “Set Resolution”

A window like this is displayed, allowing you to choose the resolution to use

Refer to the specifications of your screen to know what to choose


A few words on a common problem with Raspberry Pi connected to recent monitors
By default, the Raspberry Pi uses the “Overscan” setting to adjust the screen display size
On current hardware, this setting is no longer needed

So if you find yourself in a situation where your Raspberry Pi displays black on the edges of the screen and you can not make them disappear by playing with the options of your screen, follow the steps below

  1. Edit the /boot/config.txt file on your Raspberry Pi
    sudo nano /boot/config.txt
  2. Uncomment disable_overscan setting (remove #)
  3. Comment other overscan settings (add #)
  4. Save (CTRL+O+Enter), exit (CTRL+X) and reboot
    sudo reboot

After restarting the Raspberry Pi, see if it’s better than before, or adjust these options again if necessary

Change desktop wallpaper

From graphical interface :

To change the background of the Raspberry Pi, you can either use one of the images provided or download a new one on the Internet
If you download one, save it somewhere on your Raspberry Pi to find it later

To change the wallpaper, right click on the desktop, then Desktop preferences

appearance raspberry pi

And now you have to change the image in the Picture field
By default, it will display the system folder where the Raspberry Pi stores all the preloaded pictures.
If you have downloaded an image elsewhere change the folder and apply it

With command line :

I don’t see the interest in using the command line in this case, but know that it is possible

First, download your wallpaper image with wget:


Then change the wallpaper with this command:

pcmanfm --set-wallpaper /home/pi/Images/wallpaper.jpg

Change theme

Graphical environments

First of all, you need to know that there are several graphical environments on Linux, and so on Raspberry Pi
A graphical environment is a package of display options, which allows you to manage most of the graphical aspects of your desktop differently

Here are some examples of graphical environments:
– Gnome
– Mate
– …

So first you need to know which desktop environment you are currently using, so you can look for themes for that particular environment

Install a new desktop environment

You can also try to install a new desktop environment on your Raspberry. Trying different environments will allow you to choose the one that suits you the best and then you can look for themes associated with this environment

I will now explain how to install MATE on your Raspberry Pi and how to activate it
Then it will be pretty much the same thing for other environments

  1. Edit the /etc/apt/sources.list file
    sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list
  2. Add the mate repository by adding this line :
    deb stretch main

    Replace “stretch” with your Raspbian version if you have a different one

  3. Update apt
    apt-get update
  4. Install mate
    sudo apt-get install mate-core mate-desktop-environment
  5. Add mate as default environment for your user by adding this line
    sudo update-alternatives --config x-session-manager

    In the wizard, type the number corresponding to mate

  6. Reboot
    sudo reboot


Get a new theme

Now that you have found the desktop environment of your dreams, you can move on to installing a theme

In order to do that, just search for the package manager of Raspberry Pi (via apt-cache search or through the graphical interface)

For example, I have done this search :

$ sudo apt-cache search mate | grep "\-theme"
arc-theme - Flat theme with transparent elements

There is also a lot of sites that will give you a link to download more themes via .deb files or PPA repository
Feel free to do your search online to find the ideal design, and most of the time it will allow you to have a preview

Install it

If you find your happiness in apt, it will be enough to install the theme with the usual command. For example:

sudo apt-get install arc-theme

If you have downloaded a theme online, follow the instructions on the page

To enable a theme with Raspbian Mate, go to System > Control Center (you should have something similar in other environments)
Then choose Change Theme in the menu, and select the theme

So we are veiling on a new desktop environment, with a custom theme, and our favorite wallpaper, we start to feel good no?

Change splash screen

Here is the last challenge for those who want to go after this “Pimp my Raspberry Pi” 🙂

What is a splash screen?

The splash screen is the big picture that appears when you start your Raspberry Pi, just before displaying the desktop

Change splash screen

The splash screen is now managed by Plymouth on Raspbian and this makes everything easier
Before, it was complicated to edit this picture, now you just have to do this:

sudo cp /home/pi/Images/splash.png /usr/share/plymouth/themes/pix/splash.png
sudo reboot

/home/pi/Images/splash.png must, of course, be replaced by the name and location of your original image


And that’s it. I think you’ve learned enough for today 🙂

You now know how to:
– set the best resolution for your screen
– change the desktop wallpaper
– install a new graphical environment
– get a new theme
– change the splash screen display when starting the Raspberry Pi


If you would like to learn how to custom other things on your Raspberry Pi, do not hesitate to ask in a comment, I will try to complete this guide with it

raspberry pi customization

Patrick Fromaget

I'm the lead author and owner of My goal is to help you with your Raspberry Pi problems using detailed guides and tutorials. In real life, I'm a Linux system administrator with a web developer experience.

11 thoughts on “How to change desktop appearance on Raspberry Pi?

    1. Hi Ken,
      Which part?

      I have used Mate recently without any issue

      If you have an error or something, I could help you

  1. Not sure where that comment came from. Your directions worked perfectly. I now have the Mate desktop on my Raspberry Pi 4.
    Thanks so much for the great article.

  2. *Amazing * splash screen actually shows up but only for less than 1 second,
    how can we show the Splash Screen for at least 3-5 sec long? what should be the image size for full screen?
    & can we change the boot up screen also & add our own image or .GIF file?

    1. Hi Prisa,

      You can try this tool:

      I think that “fbi” has an option for the duration (maybe -t or -T)

    1. Hi Gerry,

      Sorry, I never tried, but I would say that it should be the same instructions
      Even on Debian you can do the same thing

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