Ebony and Ivory, icons together in perfect harmony

Updated: March 17, 2018

One might say, on a rather philosophical day, that my Moby Dick is finding a nice and elegant monochrome icon theme set that will make me all happy and bright on the inside. So far, my pursuit of happiness has been less than ideal. I had some success doing this with CentOS 7, but not much since.

Sure, there are many awesome icon sets - Papirus, Numix, Moka, Faenza, you name it, full of color and whim. But I want black & white icons. Difficult? Well, I recently came across a series of nice desktop pictures in Gizmo's Freeware forum, asked a few smart questions, and then learned about a set called ACYLS. And thus beginneth anew my quest after monochrome icons. Let me tell you, and show you, how it went. After me.


Fedora Gnome test

Not bad. Not bad at all. The setup was a bit confusing, as there are three or four different GitHub projects offering these icons. I went for the most recent on. Now, apart from an odd missing item or two, which I fixed by creating symbolic links, I had pretty much everything covered. There's a certain calm elegance to Fedora in 50 different shades of gray, and I do apologize for my lame joke. It's stylish enough, especially when you take into consideration all the fine pimping I've already applied.

Gnome Tweak Tool

Panel, some icons missing

Panel, symbolic links fixed

Fedora, ACYLS applied

Fedora, ACYLS applied

Fedora, some icons missing

Fedora, Files

OpenSUSE Plasma test

This did not work quite as intended. Simply put, there are too many icons missing, and you just end up with a mismatched set. Never a good thing.


OpenSUSE, not good, too many icons missing

ACYLS, Dolphin

Ubuntu test

Discouraged, I decided to go for Ubuntu next, because most of the sources around icons, ACYLS included, focus on what you can do with the most popular distro available. Indeed, we're talking a dedicated PPA and all that. Worked all right, but again, there were some icons missing.

All in all, the experience was similar to Fedora, but I'd have to say that overall, pure Gnome compatibility seems better than Ubuntu, even though the latter offers a slightly more refined aesthetics. Just the tiny differences of how it all comes down together. Technically, the difference isn't that cardinal to warrant the change.

ACYLS in Ubuntu

ACYLS, Ubuntu, zoomed in Default Ubuntu icons


Well, I did find a few interesting specimen...s, and ACYLS was the catalyst that started it all. Once you go white & black, you start exploring some more, and then you come across really neat and highly aesthetic projects. To wit.

Ghost Flat

This is another black & white icon theme, and I had it tested in openSUSE and Ubuntu. The plasma test was even more disappointing than ACYLS, with icons just not working well with the Breeze theme. I guess the focus should be on Gnome-based systems. Indeed, it was slightly better in Ubuntu, with a similar level of compatibility to ACYLS.

Ghost Flat icon theme, Ubuntu

Numix White

Now, here's an interesting one. Numix ain't no stranger to Dedoimedo. It's a pretty neat, cross-desktop icon theme, and there seems to be a monochrome-like version available. You still get some color, which might even serve a functional need of helping differentiate icons more easily, so perhaps we're cheating a little with the rules of the game, but overall, the focus is on calm grays, and I believe it is the most complete black & white icon theme I've seen so far.

Numix White desktop

Numix White, desktop, horizontal launcher

Numix White, file manager


Writing about taste, style and colors is like unraveling chaos. There's no end to it, and everyone has their own particular taste. Flat and shiny icons seem to be quite popular nowadays, but I'm actually looking for something calmer, less conspicuous, and perhaps less eye-wearing. You want to see things when you need to focus. The rest of the time, the desktop elements should be a neutral background. Nothing speaks neutral like gray.

Over the years, I've tested and tried a lot of available art packages. I won't backlink to all of them, please peruse the software section at your own delight and peril. I've never quite found what I needed, until recently. ACYLS and Ghost Flat are good candidates but Numix White seems to offer the best overall results, except this set might be hard to come by, and we're cheating color wise. Well, if you have any ideas or suggestions, send them over. And enjoy the full spectrum of your desktop.


You may also like: