Customizing the Ubuntu 18.04 login/lock screen with LightDM

Ubuntu was once the pretty alternative to Windows with its clean aesthetics and mostly uniform user interface – at least for those who couldn’t afford to buy a Mac. Ever since Windows 10 was released, Ubuntu seemed to fall behind in looks. Basically, almost nothing changed in the last 10 years even though Unity was replaced by Gnome 3 on the desktop.


Unfortunately, customization seems lacking in many areas. You cannot easily switch to another (actually) pretty icon theme like Numix or switch the login screen background. (Yes, I know you can change the lock screen background, but you cannot change the screen where you enter the password.)

For a time I’ve been playing with Pop!_OS, which was put together with excellent taste, but hardware issues forced me to switch back to Ubuntu again. Maybe I got spoiled by it, but I want that kind of polish when looking at the screen.

Unfortunately the default Ubuntu desktop feels bland, so I started to look into how to spice it up a bit starting with the login screen.

LightDM to the rescue

LightDM was the default display manager running in Ubuntu up to version 16.04 LTS. While it has been replaced by GDM in later Ubuntu releases, LightDM is still used by default in the latest release of several Ubuntu flavors.

You can install LightDM beside the default display manager by entering the following commands into the terminal:

sudo apt install lightdm-settings
sudo apt install slick-greeter

Now that LightDM is installed, you can configure it by running the following command in the terminal or launching it after pressing the Win(Super) key:

lightdm-settings 

Choose a background image, play with the settings and reboot your computer to see the changes.

If you don’t like the results, you can switch back to the default display manager by running this command in the terminal:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure gdm3

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