Many thanks to you all for your support and your donations!

Today we’re revealing some of the visual changes we’ve been working on in preparation for the next release.


In Linux Mint 21.1, we introduced the following improvements:

  • Mint-Y was turned into a less-accentuated theme with vibrant colors and new place icons
  • The old look was provided via Mint-Y-Legacy for people who didn’t like these changes
  • A selection of popular 3rd party themes (Yaru, Numix, Breeze, cursor themes..) was added

This was well received and it provided a lot of options for users to choose from.

That said, a few issues caught our attention.

The huge variety of themes and color variants created clutter and made it harder for users to locate a particular theme.

Some icon themes work well with some control themes but not with others. The welcome screen provides a way to quickly switch from light to dark and from one color to another but it has its own limitation: It only works with the Mint-Y theme and only in our distribution.

With this in mind we decided to design a solution which could work for any theme and any distribution and which would make it much easier to browse and pick without having to go through long lists of installed themes and without worrying about compatibility.

Oh, and the striped place icons weren’t as popular as we had imagined. This is something we got very early in your feedback. We worked on that too.


No brown

Brown and Sand are shades of the same color (same hue). We’re introducing color tones so one of them had to go.

No stripe

The stripe on the place icons was cute but it wasn’t well received. People wanted more variety when it came to colors. The stripe color wasn’t visible enough to work well with folder-color-switcher.

The stripe was therefore removed, making the icons look similar to those from the Papirus icon theme, which they were based on.

No mono icons

One of the really cool things about Gtk (the toolkit used by most applications in Linux Mint) is how it supports “symbolic” icons.

Symbolic icons are designed to provide good contrast and to be recognizable in all sizes. Gtk dynamically changes the color of these icons based on the background color which is behind them.

Have a look at the “Copy” menu item below:

This menu is from Nemo which uses symbolic icons. As you can see, the icon changes color and goes from black to white when the menu item is hovered. It matches the label.

In comparison, look at the menu item below:

This menu is from Caja, it uses a normal icon, also known as “fullcolor”. This is an icon which is rendered just the way it looks. Gtk doesn’t change its colors dynamically.

As you can see it doesn’t look as nice. The “Copy” label gets inverted to white but the icon keeps its original color and lacks contrast.

And this particular icon isn’t just a fullcolor icon… it’s a monochrome fullcolor icon. We use fullcolor icons in dialogs, in the app menu and that’s OK as long as these icons are actually colorful. The problem here is that this fullcolor icon is monochrome.

You see, the trend nowadays is to have monochrome action icons. It’s what we’re used to and what we expect. It can either be done correctly, using symbolic icons:

or done badly, using mono icons:

To prevent this kind of issue all the applications and projects we develop use symbolic icons. This ensures they look fine with any themes, whether the themes are dark, light or light and dark.

An application which uses fullcolor icons will only work well with some themes. An application which uses symbolic icons will work well with any themes.

Until now Mint-Y provided monochrome fullcolor icons. This was done to make fullcolor icon applications look nice (almost similar to the symbolic look) but at a cost. First it only worked with light themes, so each color variant had to be duplicated, to provide both a Light and a Dark icon theme. Second, no matter what, this couldn’t work with themes which mixed dark and light elements (Mint-Y-Legacy-Darker or Arc-Darker for instance).

This is Transmission, one of the few applications which still relies on fullcolor icons. It looks nice because Mint-Y provides monochrome icons which look similar to its symbolic icons.. but this application features the same theme compatibility issues as caja.

In Linux Mint 21.2 we will remove all monochrome icons and all Dark icon themes. In applications which still use them, fullcolor icons will default to Adwaita.

Whether or not they look better is subjective, but at least they will work everywhere.

Cinnamon “Styles”

The next iteration of Cinnamon will introduce a new concept called “styles”. A style has up to three modes: mixed, dark and light. Each of these modes can contain color “variants”. A variant is a combination of themes which work well together. The idea behind styles, modes and variants is to make it really simple to switch to something that looks great, and to quickly browse what’s there, no matter how many individual themes are installed and without having to find elements which match each other.

When you open the theme settings, you will see this:

In the style combo you’ll see popular styles such as Adwaita, Mint-X, Mint-Y etc.. choose one mode and the color variants will show up.

You can switch between styles, modes and color variants with a few clicks of a button.

If you want to tune things or select a combination of themes which isn’t proposed, you can click on “Advanced settings” and get back to the familiar settings window where you can choose each theme individually.


Mint-Y-Legacy was renamed Mint-L.

If you enjoy the “Darker” themes, it’s never been easier to select. And now that the mono icons are gone it’s compatible with fullcolor applications.

Two-tone place icons

The stripes are gone on place icons and each color received beautiful two-tones icons.

Here are a few examples, Aqua:


New colorways

In the past we tried to cover all the colors of the rainbow and to make sure they weren’t too similar to each other. This was a mistake. Most people like blue or aqua. We still need to provide variety of course, but it shouldn’t matter if two styles are similar, as long as they bring something tangible and they’re both popular.

So with this in mind, we brought in another orange combination. This one uses Yaru (from Papirus, inspired from the Yaru theme from Ubuntu):

And from blue to green we’ve got 7 beautiful variants. Here’s Teal using Cyan icons:

Distributions and 3rd party themes

Everything will work out of the box for everybody. We want Cinnamon styles to work well for us but also for other distributions and 3rd party theme artists.

Cinnamon styles are defined in JSON files in /usr/share/cinnamon/styles.d/. These files are read in alphabetical order and styles can override one another if they have the same name. This is done to let distributions and/or theme artists define their own styles. Cinnamon provides style definitions for Adwaita. Mint provides additional style definitions for its own themes.

We also made it relatively easy for artists to generate Mint-Y icon themes. Here are SUSE and Gulf examples:

If you’re interested in defining Cinnamon styles or generating your own Mint-Y colorways don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.


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