UI Theme workgroup

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The aim of this project is to equip GIMP with a professional, visually appealing UI theme.

Designers, Developers

Jehan Pagès

Sven Claussner

Benoit Touchette

Klaus Staedtler-Przyborski


Currently GIMP comes with two UI themes: 'Default' and 'Small'.

The Default UI theme uses the systems theming. This eases visual integration into the operating systems UI, but doesn't always match. The Small UI theme is basically the same, but uses smaller icons.

The current situation has the following drawbacks:

  • Both themes have come to ages. Some people might find them not appealing.
  • The colored theme itself competes with the image under work for the users attention.
  • Users with High-DPI-displays (such as Apple's Retina display) complain, that the UI has become to small to be recognizeable. This hampers their workflow.

There already were some attempts to equip GIMP with other UI themes. Many of them use a dark theme or a different icon set. Jakub Steiner and Barbara Muraus designed Artlibre, an icon set for creative applications in GNOME. The artist jEsuSdA 8) and Jehan Pagès continued the idea, added missing icons and fixed bugs. Another icon theme by Andrew Pullins can be found at DeviantArt. Partha Bagchis build for OS X comes with a dark Clearlooks derivative.

Beside GIMP there are many other custom made UI themes and icon themes for GNOME. Perhaps choosing and modifying an existing solution to our needs could ease our work.


To address users different needs and preferences we could consider offering variants of the same theme: dark (black or anthrazite-coloured), silver grey, light (white or light gray)


This project is a subgoal to achieve the product vision. This means:

P1. Target users are artists, who work with GIMP all day for hours.

P2. The theme supports artists in getting their work done quickly.

P3. The theme is unobtrusive and not distracting.

P4. The theme preserves the images appearance (e.g. neutral colors) to create high-end art.

P5. The theme is suitable for modern displays, i.e. HiDPI displays (Retina display etc.).

P6. The theme is easily maintainable.


S1. The theme is visually appealing.

S2. The theme is timeless.

S3. Due to restrictions of the current theme engines (i.e. the WIMP engine on Windows does not support theme modifications) a theme engine needs to run on all target platforms (at least on Windows, OS X, Linux).


C1. It's no aim to supersede the current GIMP themes 'Default' and 'Small'. They shall reside as 'System' themes to make the GIMP UI matching to the systems appearance, if the user wishes so.

Planning, Current State

Proposed steps:

  1. Clarify objectives and requirements - done
  2. Brainstorming, collect relevant art, coarse design (=current step)
  3. Evaluate results
  4. Decide for reusing an existing solution, modifying an existing solution or doing all the work ourselves
  5. Implement and test
  6. Merge into GIMP master
  7. Add and merge documentation

Relevant Art

Relevant screenshots etc. for inspiration


Pro's and Con's of existing solutions

Analysis, Design Drafts, Design Decisions


Comments, ideas, unstructured notes

  • The focus of the work should be a supportive, useful product. We should abstain ourselves from cute, fancy ideas and challenges that are a headache for graphic designers.
  • Use transparency to keep the context in floating dialogs that overlap the canvas?

See also

Design guidelines etc.

  • Cooper et. al, About Face 3 - the essentials of interaction design, Wiley Publishing Inc.