There seems to be a lot of misinformation and low quality content out there on how to use a theme with Flatpak. So I’m going to break down how it all works.


Before we talk about Flatpak we have to talk about how GTK3 itself decides what theme you use.


If you use Wayland this is very simple. It talks to xdg-desktop-portal-gtk to get your theme name from the host. The setting location on the host is in GSettings:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface gtk-theme 'Adwaita-dark'

gnome-tweaks sets this value for you, so I’d recommend just using it. Other desktop tools may set this value in their respective settings applications.


If you are on X11 it relies upon a standard known as XSettings. How to configure this is less straightforward. On GNOME it uses gsd-xsettings as part of the gnome-settings-daemon project and it reads the GSettings value discussed above.

If you use a different daemon like xsettingsd you have to set Net/ThemeName in its configuration file. Other desktops may have their own daemon that need to be configured.

Getting themes inside of Flatpak

Now that your theme is actually configured properly you need to get the theme files inside of flatpak. You often can run a single command, flatpak update and everything will work now. It reads the GSetting discussed above and downloads a packaged theme.

Not packaged themes

If no package for the theme was found a common direction people go in is modifying permissions to add folders to the sandbox. I don’t recommend this. Instead here is how you package your theme.

DEFAULT_ARCH=`flatpak --default-arch`
THEME_NAME=`gsettings get org.gnome.desktop.interface gtk-theme | tr -d \'`


cp -r /usr/share/themes/$THEME_NAME/gtk-3.0/* $THEME_EXTENSION_DIR

This simply copies your theme into a private flatpak extension and everything should work fine as long as there aren’t weird symlinks in your theme. Replace /usr/share/themes with a different directory like ~/.themes if needed.