Create your own mouse cursor theme
Before getting started, we must make sure that you have all the required packages installed and ready for use.
For this tutorial you will need the following packages:
You can find the installation commands for some distributions below.
sudo pacman -S xorg-xcursorgen
Step 00 - Getting Started
In this tutorial we will guide you on how to create your very own custom mouse cursor.
Before continuing, make sure you have all the requirements on your machine.
You can check if the required packages are installed by using the
For this tutorial, you can check with the following command:
which xcursorgen .
If the output says
xcursorgen not found, then you don't have it installed on your machine,
and you should follow the installation steps for your distribution.
If the output has a directory, like
/usr/bin/xcursorgen, then you have the package installed on your machine.
Now, let's get ready to create your first cursor!
Step 01 - Creating the image file
The first thing you will need to create your own cursor is the image file for it. You can start by creating an empty PNG file.
You must use square images, meaning that they share the same
Preferably, they should be at least 16x16 pixels in size, but you can also create multiple resolutions
and bundle those into one cursor file.
Make sure to keep the transparency layer (alpha information) on your file when saving, otherwise your cursor will have a square background.
Image Size Note
You can download other cursor themes and inspect then to see some common resolutions. For instance, the default KDE
Breeze, uses the following resolutions:
At the end of the day, it's up to you to decide which resolution to use.
Once you have created the image file, it's time to draw. It's up to you if you want to draw your cursor now or if you want to do it later. Regardless of your choice, you will need to save your file.
It's recommended to save the file with a name that will make it easier for you to infer its usage.
The structure should follow this pattern:
.png is the extension part, while the
filename is the name you choose for your file.
For the sake of simplicity, let's proceed with the name
default as this will represent the default
cursor. After you saved your file, you should have something like
NoteYou will need to repeat this step for every other cursor you want to create and/or customize. There is no standard naming scheme that you need to follow, but you should make your cursor filenames descriptive. This will make things much easier later on, when we get to the symlinking step.
Step 02 - Determining the Cursor hotspot
You might be asking yourself: What is the hotspot?
The hotspot of a cursor is the point where the click occurs. It's the position on your image where the system will interpret and understand as the position of the cursor.
To determine the pixel where the hotspot should sit, it's necessary to use graphic editing software capable of determining the exact pixel for the hotspot. KDE's own Krita is well suited for this task but, of course, other software works just as well.
The origin point (0,0) it's in the upper-left corner of the image. The X axis goes from left to right. The Y axis goes from top to bottom.
With that in mind, when you add an offset of 10 pixels on the X axis, it will shift the hotspot 10 pixels to the right from the upper-left corner. Likewise, an offset of 5 pixels on the Y axis will shift the hotspot 5 pixels down from the upper-left corner.
Important!If you have multiple resolutions for your new cursor, you have to do this step for each of them.
Step 03 - Creating the .cursor file
Now that you have your image file, and you know where your cursor hotspot is, you can create your
.cursor file is the configuration file that will tell
xcursorgen how to generate the cursor.
.cursor file is structured as follows:
(resolution) (hotspot-x) (hotspot-y) (filename) (animation-time)
|The resolution from your file.
|The x coordinate of the hotspot on your cursor image.
|The y coordinate of the hotspot on your cursor image.
|The image filename for this cursor.
|The time for this frame in the animated cursor.
There are a couple of ways to create your
.cursor file. Mainly, any program that allows you to save
your file with a custom extension should do. For the sake of simplicity, in this example we are going
to use the
echo command on a terminal.
Let's check an example:
echo "32 10 5 default.png" > default.cursor
When you execute the above command, it will create a
default.cursor file with the content
32 10 5 default.png
in the working directory.
Let's look at it in detail, accordingly to the
.cursor file structure.
- 32 is for the resolution, so this represents a 32x32 pixels file.
- 10 is for the hotspot-x coordinate, so this represents an offset of 10 pixels in the X axis.
- 5 is for the hotspot-y coordinate, so this represents an offset of 5 pixels in the Y axis.
- filename is for the corresponding image filename, including its extension, for this cursor. So in this case,
it will be using the
- > is for the echo command to dump the result into the following destination.
- default.cursor is the destination file that will receive the output from the echo command.
With that, you have your
.cursor file ready for this cursor.
If you want to create animated cursors, like the
wait cursor, the procedure is a bit different.
You need one PNG for each animation frame (
Then add all of these as a list to the
filename.cursor file with the following content:
(resolution) (hotspot-x) (hotspot-y) (filename) (animationtime)
32 16 16 wait_1.png 50
32 16 16 wait_2.png 50
each of them in a separate line.
Step 04 - Using xcursorgen
In this step we will use the
xcursorgen command to generate the cursor for your system.
If you haven't already, open a terminal and navigate to the directory where your cursor image files are stored.
xcursorgen command works on the following structure:
xcursorgen config-file output-file
|The configuration file for your cursor.
|The filename for your newly generated cursor.
Let's check an example:
xcursorgen default.cursor default
When you execute the above command, it will read the configuration from the
default.cursor file and generate
a new cursor named
default on your working directory.
NoteRepeat steps 01 to 04 for all the different cursors you want to create.
Step 05 - Creating a theme folder
In order to be able to use your custom cursors, you need to structure your files properly to make then available to you at your system settings.
Let's create a folder with your cursor pack name to put your cursors inside it before moving to the
proper location. In this tutorial, we will call our cursor pack
With that in mind, we must create a new
KoolKursors. You can do that by executing the following command:
This will create a new folder called
KoolKursors in your working directory.
Once you have done that, change your working directory to the folder your just created.
You can do that with the following command:
Now that you changed your working directory to your theme folder,
KoolKursors in this tutorial, you need to create
a folder called
cursors inside it.
You can do that with the following command:
The purporse of the
cursors folder is to hold all the cursors files and the symlinks necessary for it to work.
Don't worry about the symlinks now, we will teach you how to create then at the next step.
Now that you have your folders ready, move all the cursors that you have created before at Step 04 to
cursors folder. In this tutorial, you should have created at least one cursor named
default, using the
Step 06 - Creating the symlinks
When you hover your mouse over certain elements or perform certain actions on your desktop, you cursor state changes. For instance, hovering over a text field will show a text cursor, and hovering over a link typically shows a hand cursor.
To make our custom cursors match the cursor states available to the system, we need to create cursor files for each
state inside our
cursors/ folder that have specific names.
The names that can be used can be found in
Alternatively, you can click here to showcase the cursor list:
More often than not, we only need a single cursor file for multiple cursor states. Since the requirement to make our custom cursors match is to have files named after each cursor state, we can use symlinks.
To create a symlink, you use the
ln command with the following structure:
ln -s file-path symlink-path, where:
|The path, relative to your working directory, to the file that will be linked to.
|The path, relative to your working directory, to create the symlink that will point to
For instance, to set the default cursor we created with
xcursorgen to appear in most cases when using the mouse in
right-handed mode (with the cursor pointing to the left), you can create a
left_ptr symlink, following the name
ln -s default left_ptr
At this point, the
default cursor should already be at your
cursors folder. Remember that we named our theme folder
KoolKursors, so we have to make the
KoolKursors/cursors folder our working directory.
cursors folder should have 2 files:
default: the default cursor file that we generated
left_ptr: the symlink that we just created.
NoteThis task can/should be scripted, provided that you have a complete list of regular cursor names and their irregular aliases. Note that this step might cause some frustration regarding incomplete lists of cursor name aliases.
Now that we have our symlink ready, we can proceed to create the
Step 07 - Creating the
index.theme file is responsible for storing the information about the custom theme. In this tutorial, we are
KoolKursors. The minimal structre for the
index.theme file is the one as follows:
However, you can add more information on your
index.theme file. For instance, you can add comments or make it inherit
from other themes.
Name attribute of the
.theme file must be exactly like the theme folder name. Make sure to double-check
that in order to prevent issues.
index.theme file should be placed at your main theme folder. Please, create an
index.theme file with the following
Comment=My very own cursor theme
With that, you have your
.theme file setup and ready to proceed.
If you want to add translations for multiple languages, you can do
so by using language tags like
[fr], etc. for each
Put each of them in a separate line within the
Comment[en]=My very own cursor theme.
Comment[pt_BR]=Meu próprio tema de cursor.
If you are interested in the Localization process, please check out the KDE Localization main page.
If you just want to check which tag is the appropriate one for your language comment, you can check out all the currently available languages supported by KDE on this page, alongside their language tag.
Step 08 - Moving the files
Now that you have your cursors, your symlinks, the
.theme file and the proper folder structure, we can copy them to
the proper folder on the system for testing.
To test our custom cursors, we need to place the whole
KoolKursors folder in
To do that, you can open a file explorer like Dolphin and copy the
folder to the
Default "icons" folder location
For user-specific installation, you should check the following folders:
~/.icons(Deprecated in favor of 2)
For system-wide installation, you should check
You might still find some themes and cursors that make use of the
but this is no longer recommended. Use
Step 09 - Applying your custom cursor to your system
Select your new cursor theme in the system settings of your OS.
On Plasma you can follow these steps to select your new
System Settings > Appearance > Cursors > KoolKursors > Apply
Done! Enjoy your new
KoolKursors theme. :)