tl;dr - How do I determine which icons the NetworkManager applet uses so I can replace them with custom ones?


I have the NetworkManager applet in my main panel/taskbar/systray area (was there when I installed os) and have added several VPN connections. The connections all work fine but I find that I dislike the default icons and would like to replace them with ones that stand out better against a dark background. I have been trying unsuccessfully to find which icon is being used so that I can replace it with custom icons that are bright green (vpn) and magenta (wired/non-vpn).

Here is a screenshot of the default icons I wish to replace: NetworkManager icons

System details

I have multiple pcs/partitions and have tried this on several distros. I use the same theme setup and same DE on all of the distros involved.

DE: Cinnamon (same for all) Distros: Fedora 33, LMDE-4, Linux Mint 19.3 Theme: Window Borders: Mint-Y Dark, Icons & Desktop: Mint-Y Dark Aqua, Mouse Pointer: Adwaita

happy to test from any of my distros. but since i'm writing from fedora:

$ uname -r

$ dnf list NetworkManager|grep NetworkManager
NetworkManager.x86_64                  1:1.26.4-1.fc33                  @updates

$ dnf list cinn*|grep -P '^cinnamon\.x|menus\.x'
cinnamon.x86_64                                  4.6.7-1.fc33          @anaconda
cinnamon-menus.x86_64                            4.6.1-2.fc33          @anaconda

any other info needed, please let me know

What I have tried so far

  • I am aware that most system icons are located somewhere under /usr/share/icons. I opened the nemo file manager here and manually looked around trying to find one that looked similar but either I need my eyes checked or I am missing something. There were a lot of pictures in there so even paying closer attention to things starting with 'network*' or 'nm-*', I could easily have just missed it...

  • Using above method, I thought I had found it in /usr/share/icons/Mint-Y/status/symbolic/status-nm-device-wired-secure-symbolic.svg but after editing the color code to be green (sudo sed -Ei "s/(bebebe|d3dae3)/00994c/g" status-nm-device-wired-secure-symbolic.svg) and rebooting pc, the applet still had the old color. After looking more carefully, I noticed this dir doesn't contain anything that looks like the normal/non-vpn wired connection icon.

  • Some searching online led me to /usr/share/cinnamon/applets/[email protected]/applet.js. I tried opening this in a text-editor and seeing if I could figure out where the icon was coming from... I admit I don't entirely understand a lot of the conventions used though (including how nix resolves names/labels to icon file paths) so I am essentially just looking for labels and hoping they match file names under /usr/share/icons.

  • I am aware that there are separate indicator icon applets. I would prefer not to use these. Especially when there is already an icon for this; just seems redundant and wasteful of limited screen space.

1 Answer 1


FINALLY figured this out! At least somewhat... there's more to it that I don't entirely understand and this makes getting the final colors correct a bit challenging. But I was able to make the change and confirmed it works on 2 different distros running Cinnamon: Fedora 33 and Mint 19.3. If others with better knowledge want to fill in the gaps or post a better answer, then by all means please do so.

WARNING: THIS PROCESS IS PROBABLY TOO ADVANCED FOR NOVICES/THOSE WITH LOW TECHNICAL BACKGROUNDS. NO PROGRAMMING NEEDED BUT AIMED MORE AT POWER-USERS/TWEAKERS. If you accept the risk and don't mind mind "voiding your warranty" ;-) ... the last section has the commands I used to get the icons in the screenshot.

colored NetworkManager icons for wired & vpn-connected

I'm going to limit this answer changing the NetworkManager icon for the Adwaita icon theme on Cinnamon DE bc I'm lazy and don't feel like testing everything the many, many, many combinations of Applet/Status/Panel Size/Icon Theme/Desktop Environment/Version/Resolution/Distro/etc.


  • ImageMagick for the convert tool (cli) or Pinta/Krita/Gimp/whatever (if you want to do it in a gui)
  • Gpick (optional but handy for spotting exact color of displayed panel icons)


  • You should have a basic understanding of how icon themes interact. The main points to be aware of are that Linux/Gnome/GTK follows the freedesktop standards which check multiple folders and then fallback to multiple themes from all of those folders. I'm not going to dive into this much here but this post covers it fairly well. For my purposes, we'll just be focusing on the system path of /usr/share/icons and the user path of ~/.local/share/icons. If you know the name of the icon you are interested in, you can see how the system will resolve it to a file path by calling the GTK api. There are also some very handy python scripts that will accept the icon name as an argument and do this lookup for you that you can find in this post -- including a modified version I wrote myself.

  • Now that you know (at least in theory) where and how icons get picked up and how to find the file path to an icon, you need to know what icon names are used by the applet and which applet. This part is a bit hard too. Basically, these are defined in the applet code. For the Cinnamon DE, you can find its applets under /usr/share/cinnamon/applets and while they are written in a form of javascript, the documentation is somewhat outdated and hard to find. However, you don't really need to understand the details of applet code to find the icon names. Now, you might see a file called metadata.json which contains an icon name but before you get excited - this is only specifying the icon used in the Cinnamon Spices / Applet download GUI - not the icon the applet actually uses on the systray. As I said, the actual icon names will be defined in the applet source code. For the NetworkManager applet under Cinnamon, this is /usr/share/cinnamon/applets/[email protected]/applet.js that I mentioned in the OP. If you start searching for icons, in this you will see a TON of icon names for all the various wifi states, offline/disconnected/connected states, and device types (wifi, wired, vpn, cell-network/broadband/whatever). Other applets will likely be much simpler, but it depends on the applet. Most of the basic icon names for this applet are defined in the function _updateIcon which starts around line 2205 in my copy. You can then plug these into the python script mentioned above to get some paths: get-icon-path.py network-vpn.

  • Now here's another part that had my stumped for quite some time. Gnome/Gtk/Cinnamon have 2 basic types of icons. There's the regular icons which are also known as full color icons and what are called "Symbolic" icons (generally monochrome). For the longest time, I was under the impression that symbolic were 100% black and white with no color but this is not the case. I had also mistakenly thought that the only way I'd be able to get colored systray icons was to somehow dive into the world of custom css files / javascript tweaks to heavily modify my theming. I'm sure that would produce better results but I didn't want to take a course in OS theming or make a career out of this; I just wanted to change some basic colors and move on to bigger better things. So when you are searching for icons, you actually will get matches for both get-icon-path.py network-vpn AND get-icon-path.py network-vpn-symbolic. I don't entirely understand all the scenarios where one is used over the other; I imagine I would have to dedicate some time to reading the freedesktop.org / Gnome documention in depth for this. But for my changes I customized the network-vpn-symbolic and network-wired-symbolic icons (as well as a few intermediary/error states).

  • Once you have zeroed in on the exact icon files to modify, you can go ahead and create copies under ~/.local/share/icons/<theme>. In my case <theme> is Adwaita. Also, your "Panel Settings" probably don't matter here: mine said I have a panel height of '32' and symbolic icon size of '28px' (and my resolution is 1920x1080 if that matters). I thought that this would play into the icon size and ending up wasting a lot of time hunting down larger icon sizes and scalable svg vector images... but the thing that actually proved this was working to me was 16x16 png file for network-wired that I had thrown in the folder on a whim. I also realized that even though /usr/share/icons/Adwaita/16x16 does NOT have a network-vpn, you can resize one of the other icons place it in the corresponding folder and it will get picked up.

  • The last troublesome part, that I still don't completely understand is how the final displayed color is set. It seems that there is some intermediary styles in the os that are altering the color from what I have stored in the png icon files but it does't appear to be as simple to calculate as adding/subtracting some offset. Mostly I have gotten as far as I have through trial and error.

My setup

My system setups / themes (for reference)

Attribute Fedora 33 Mint 19.3
Cinnamon version v4.8.6-1 v4.4.8
NetworkManager version v1.26.6-1 v1.10.14
Themes: Window border Mint-Y-Dark Mint-Y
Themes: Icons Mint-Y-Dark-Aqua Mint-Y
Themes: Controls Mint-Y-Dark-Aqua Mint-Y
Themes: Mouse Pointer Adwaita DMZ-White
Themes: Desktop Mint-Y-Dark-Aqua Mint-Y-Dark

You will also note that these all inherit from Adwaita at some stage or another which is why Adwaita is the lowest common denominator I'm targeting. But for systray, I would think it would be based on your Icon theme (unverified).

$ cd /usr/share/icons
$ grep Inherit Mint-Y-Dark-Aqua/index.theme 
$ grep Inherit Mint-Y-Dark/index.theme 
$ grep Inherit Mint-Y/index.theme 

Color table

As I mentioned about the colors for the final icons I was seeing are affected by some other styles/themes somewhere in the OS that I don't know how to get to / would require significantly more effort to find that I wish to expend. For other lazy people like myself, here are a few values that will probably work on a mostly default Cinnamon system. For everybody else, I'll outline the steps I used to get here below and you can experiment yourself.

ImageMagick color in png file color of displayed icon (according to gpick)
DeepSaffron #ff9933 dark purple #3d1660
Light Blue #00fee1 light orange #c8995e
Red #ff0000 medium green #4e9a06
Green #00ff00 orange #f5793e
Blue #0000ff dark red #cc0000
Black #000000 white #ffffff
White #ffffff black? #111647
Yellow #ffff00 dark purple #441446
Pink #ff00ff medium green #1b9c08
Tan? #0000ff dark red #cb9ae5
Gold (gold) dark purple #452964
Gray (gray) light purple #890ca7
Green (green) pale orange/pink #f9bb9e
Tan (tan) green #4ac21e
Brown (brown) gold? #827014
Cyan (cyan) orange #c27b40
Magenta (magenta) green #1b9c08
yellow green #beef00 purple #713691
dark purple #441446 orange #c19367
light blue #5294e2 light green #92b372
dark pink #441446 light purple #6253d2
light purple #6253d2 light green #8ddb8f
mid blue #6689af bright green #8fe085
blue green? #0f808f red #d22600
??? #ff0ff0 deep green #1da30b
??? #ff0f0f mid blue #fa83ec
??? #ff000a lighter blue #c490fd
??? #00f000 bright orange #f58049
??? #000fff very pale light light blue #cbf9f5

Recreating my icons from the screenshot

This is just going to show actual commands used for two specific network-manager icons. This is on a hard-wired desktop PC so I don't have wifi and I'm only really concerned with seeing at a glance if my VPN is connected or I am online without VPN. Since I already covered how to find the icons in the overview, this will just be covering how to recreate what I did in the screenshot above.

If you have other icon themes in ~/.local/share/icons then rename it so that you don't have extra stuff to conflict with during the test. You can move it back/merge it afterward (I had this happen and it took me awhile to realize what was going on): mv ~/.local/share/icons ~/.local/share/icons.$(date +'%Y-%m-%d-%H%M%S').bak

# create directories
mkdir -p ~/.local/share/icons/Adwaita/16x16/devices;
mkdir -p ~/.local/share/icons/Adwaita/16x16/status;
# check what icons you have on your system
# for python script, see linked post above
get-icon-path.py network-vpn network-wired network-vpn-symbolic network-wired-symbolic
# OR alternately, you could run something like
# but this won't consider theme inheritance or user-folders
find /usr/share/icons/Adwaita /usr/share/icons/gnome \( -iname '*network-vpn*.png' -o -iname '*network-wired*.png' \) -not \( -iname '*acquir*' -o -iregex '.*/legacy/.*' -o -iname '*route*' -o -iname '*offline*' -o -iname '*disconnected*' \)|sort;
# recolor the default 16x16 network-wired icon
cd ~/.local/share/icons/Adwaita/16x16/devices;
c='cyan';convert "${f}" -fuzz 20% -fill ${c} +opaque none "$(basename "${f}")";
# no 16x16 icon is provided for network-vpn
# so recolor and resize the 64x64 network-vpn icon
cd ~/.local/share/icons/Adwaita/16x16/status;
c='#6689af';convert "${f}" -resize 16x16 -fuzz 20% -fill ${c} +opaque none "$(basename "${f}")";
# restart cinnamon desktop (or alternately, just log out then back in)
cinnamon --replace --clutter-display=:0 2> /dev/null &

Update: So far I have run the above commands on 2 instances of Mint 19.3 and 1 instances of Fedora 33 without issue. But on my 3rd instance of Mint 19.3, I noticed that the icons I listed above (e.g. network-vpn-symbolic.symbolic.png did not exist but network-vpn.png did). In this case, it is recommend to use the python script I mentioned earlier and look up the icon names network-vpn and network-vpn-symbolic; if you have symbolic use that, if not use the regular one. If you have a 16x16-sized default icon, then you can use the first convert command (without -resize); if not, then pick the highest resolution default icon you have (256 or 128 or 64 usually) and use the 2nd convert command (with -resize).

Update 2: Also note that the get-icon-path.py script does not work correctly over ssh sessions (and possibly in also in other non-graphical sessions). I suspect this is because you need an X11/graphical session for it to query.

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