Use different wallpapers on multiple monitors in Linux

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I have a dual-monitor setup and I am trying to use use different wallpapers on multiple monitors in Linux. What I want is simply to have a different background on each of the two monitors. Most of the solutions I Googled were about Ubuntu and about virtual desktops (aka workspaces). I only use one workspace, but two monitors, i.e. my laptop and a monitor attached via VGA cable. As you can see from the screen-shot below, I finally managed to find a good solution to use different wallpapers on multiple monitors in Linux (well it seems to be working for an unlimited number of Monitors).

I use a Debian derivative Linux distro (Kali Linux) which is designed specifically for penetration testing and it’s somewhat a heavily modified version of full fledged Debian Linux. Now folks, keep in mind that Ubuntu is also a derivative of Debian Linux. So usually anything that works in Debian, works in Ubuntu and would also work in Kali Linux.

Kali Linux uses Gnome 3.4.2 (gnome-session-fallback aka Gnome Classic). Again note that as of todays date, Gnome v 3.14 is available but most distro’s didn’t upgrade to latest Gnome due to different issues.

Finding gnome version

In case you are wondering how to get all these version info about your Gnome desktop, here’s how:

root@kali:~# gnome-shell --version
GNOME Shell 3.4.2
root@kali:~# gnome-session --version
root@kali:~# gnome-wm --version
metacity 2.34.3
Copyright (C) 2001-2009 Havoc Pennington, Red Hat, Inc., and others
This is free software; see the source for copying conditions.
root@kali:~# gnome-session-fallback --version

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Introducing nitrogen – wallpaper browser and changing utility for X.

nitrogen is a graphical wallpaper utility that can be used in two modes, browser and recall. Some of the things to look for in nitrogen are:

  1. Multihead and Xinerama support (setting different wallpapers for each monitor)
  2. Recall mode to restore wallpapers via startup script
  3. Uses standard for thumbnails
  4. Can set GNOME background
  5. Command line set modes for script usage
  6. Inotify monitoring of browsed directories

To install it, run the following command in terminal:

sudo apt-get install nitrogen
(or if you're root already)
apt-get install nitrogen

Run nitrogen

nitrogen doesn’t have a desktop launch file by default when is installed, so you need to run it using ALT+F2 or frrom a terminal.

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If you are using ALT+F2 then just type ‘nitrogen’ and press Run

If you are using terminal then just type nitrogen (but don’t close the terminal window until you’re done).

nitrogen will open and following is what you will see:

Using different wallpapers on multiple monitors in Linux - blackMORE Ops -2Add picture folder to nitrogen

Follow steps below to add wallpapers/folder in nitrogen:

  1. Click Preferences
  2. Click Add
  3. Browse to the folder where you have all your wallpapers. i.e. /usr/share/wallpapers
  4. Click Select to select that folder.
  5. Click OK.

Now you will see those pictures populating nitrogen’s window.

Set different wallpapers on multiple monitors using nitrogen

Follow steps below to use different wallpapers on multiple monitors in Linux using nitrogen:

  1. Select Screen 1 (Screen 2 and so on).
  2. Highlight a Wallpaper you like
  3. Double click on the wallpaper to activate it for that screen (keep doing it until you’re happy)
  4. Press Apply to apply the configuration. (Doubleclick actually applies and let you view it anyway).

Disable File manager from handling Desktop

To be able to set a different wallpaper for each monitor, you need to disable the file manager from handling the desktop. The downside is you won’t have any folders on your desktop anymore.

In GNOME / Unity, install GNOME Tweak Tool:

sudo apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool
(or if you're root already)
apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool

Then open GNOME Tweak Tool from Applications > System Tools > Preferences > Advanced Settings and on the Desktop section, change Have file manager handle the desktop to OFF.

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Set nitrogen to run at each startup:

Add nitrogen to

Applications > System Tools > Preferences > Startup Applications > type in nitrogen –restore in command

(Name and description can be anything).

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Save it


Reboot your PC to test your configuration.


Linux desktop are very configurable and you can do a lot more than any other known operating systems. Having multiple wallpapers doesn’t really add any value to your productivity but it can be very pretty and easy on eyes when you are working longer hours. But hey, for me, I like my desktop them colorful! That’s another reason I’ve added this awesome Conky Manager and Cairo-Dock to my desktop.

Enjoy your colorful desktop and don’t forget to share RT.

Check Also

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Conky Manager on Debian and Kali Linux

Conky Manager is a graphical front-end for managing Conky config files. It provides options to start/stop, browse and edit Conky themes installed on the system. Packages are currently available in Launchpad for Ubuntu and derivatives (Linux Mint, etc). If you are using Ubuntu or its derivatives (like Xubuntu, Linux Mint, etc) you can install it from the Launchpad PPA. For Debian or Kali Linux, you can download .deb files directly and install via dpkg. Keep reading for more details.


  1. Hi,man after setting nitrogen my desktop is not working…no right click of mouse works…and also desktop option is not showing in “copy to” and “move to”…

  2. Changing wallpapers and a lot of others свистульки? Kali user takes no interest in such things. U’d better describe latest vulnerability in flashplayer.

  3. Title should read “Use different wallpapers on multiple monitors in Gnome” can already be done in KDE and maybe desktops.

  4. I don’t see an option to “Have file manager handle the desktop”.
    gnome-tweak-tool version : 3.20

  5. Hello, This worked great on my Fedora29 Cinnamon machine when doing this on my home setup. My machine is my work laptop, which means I also have a multiple monitor setup at my desk at work, but the configuration is different, so a simple nitrogen --restore command won’t work when I switch between working in the office & working from home. I would like to setup a script to load a specific nitrogen setup based on my monitor setup. I just need to know the cli arguments for nitrogen to set the backgrounds.

  6. and how can we do the same with command lines only? fbsetbg isn’t working fine for that exact purpose…

  7. Thanks, It ‘s work for me in Linux Mint 20 with Cinnamon.

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