There are a few home directory locations that complement /usr locations. Files in these locations override their /usr counterparts. For example:

  • ~/.local/bin complements /usr/bin
  • ~/.local/share/applications complements /usr/share/applications

If I want to override an application, I can create a custom .desktop file and store it in ~/.local/share/applications. This is helpful if I want to tweak how the application is invoked, but overkill if all I want to do is change the icon.


  • if the original .desktop file is non-trivial I either lose the original functionality or need to keep my local copy in-sync
  • I can't modify non-application icons (status icons, etc)

I could modify or maintain icons in /usr/share/icons/hicolor/48x48, but I would prefer to maintain them in my home folder, and these would be fallback icons not overriding icons.

Is there a home folder location that complements /usr/share/icons, where I could store application icons and other icons, and they would override existing theme icons?

For example, I'm using the Papirus theme but I want to use my own icon notepad.svg for the Text Editor application. This icon is defined in /usr/share/applications/org.gnome.gedit.desktop as Icon=gedit. Where should I place notepad.svg?


2 Answers 2


The historical equivalent is ~/.icons, the XDG equivalent is ~/.local/share/icons (strictly speaking, icons subdirectories of the paths in $XDG_DATA_DIRS). When you specify an icon by name only in a .desktop file, that relies on icon themes, so it’s worth reading the icon theme spec.

Ideally you should use xdg-icon-resource to install icons locally.

  • Have you tried using xdg-icon-resource? Or the appropriate subdirectory of ~/.local/share/icons? Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 10:15
  • That’s what it’s supposed to do, yes. By default it installs in the hicolor theme. And yes, “appropriate subdirectory” is THEME/SIZE (but you should just use xdg-icon-resource). Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 10:17
  • I've had a bash at using xdg-icon-resource but I'm not succeeding, so I've updated the question with a concrete example of an app icon replacement, I'll find time tomorrow to expand on my attempts
    – lofidevops
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 10:57
  • It looks like there is a bug in the documentation: "specifications.freedesktop.org/icon-theme-spec/…": "By default, apps should look in $HOME/.icons (for backwards compatibility), in $XDG_DATA_DIRS/icons and in /usr/share/pixmaps (in that order)" - the directory "~/.local/share/icons" is nowhere mentioned (and is not part of $XDG_DATA_DIRS)?!
    – becke-ch
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 21:09

The xdg-icon-resource program is apparently stupid about "scalable" SVG icons. It requires a --size argument but does not let you specify scalable as the size.

I was trying to get the Alacritty icon to work and here is what did it:

$ mkdir -p ~/.local/share/icons/hicolor/scalable/apps
$ mv /tmp/Alacritty.svg ~/.local/share/icons/hicolor/scalable/apps/

To explain a bit, the "hicolor" theme is the fallback, default parent of most all Gnome themes. You can see its definitions in /usr/share/icons/hicolor/index.theme

You can find your current theme with

$ gsettings get org.gnome.desktop.interface icon-theme

And you can see how it inherits from hicolor right at the top:

$ head -4 /usr/share/icons/Yaru/index.theme
[Icon Theme]
Comment=A desktop adaptation of the Ubuntu mobile icons.

If you are trying to override the icon for a specific theme then you need to put the icon into the directory for that theme because putting it into hicolor would not override it for Yaru, for example.

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