alternate Ardour 3 theme

Hi users and devs,

I have been playing with Ardour 3’s gtkrc file and I’ve “released” some modifications, using some elements from a GTK theme called “Ecstatica” from, along with some screenshots here:

If anyone’s interested feel free to try it out. Devs, feel free to use any/all changes as part of the official A3 theme :slight_smile: …It requires the presence of the Murrine GTK engine and calls for a specific font (LCDDot from, but it might still look fine with good ol’ clearlooks.

in the case of my Pultec style EQ, I think it makes perfect sense to emulate the control layout as well as the sound
As you're emulating a well known piece of hardware with a unique control layout that's a fair point.

My favorite Ardour theme was actually 0.99 :-). A2 looks good to me, but I find the A3 color scheme makes it more difficult to see certain things, like which plugins are activated for example. Sometimes more colours on everything make individual things harder to see. I really don’t like the solid bright red background on recording tracks in A3, as it’s distracting and makes it harder to see clipping. I do like the theme manager though, as it allows me to dull down some of those colours ;-). All down to personal taste of course.

(Edit - Just noticed I was replying to an ancient post too :-)
- Well I guess its a debate that will go on and on.. For what its worth, I think the user interface (and the validity of 'photo realistic' or other types) depends very much on what you are trying to create. For example, in the case of my Pultec style EQ, I think it makes perfect sense to emulate the control layout as well as the sound - it means that you have a familiar layout / grouping of the controls (if you are used to the real hardware) and personally I find this makes instinctive adjustments much easier (than for example a block of grey sliders which all look the same). As for trying to turn a control with a mouse - this doesn't have to be a problem - again, with my plugins, you just click on the control and drag up or down exactly as you would with a slider (the control turns as a means of indication and the value is displayed numerically, but essentially its just another 'slider' control). As far as Ardour's theme goes - I'm sorry, but I hate it (I always have) but that's so much to do with personal taste, that I don't mean it as a criticism, however, while A3 has improved, I still find something about the colour palette that I just can't get along with (less muddy greens / browns please..) If A3 looked a little (no, actually a lot) more like Reaper or Pyramix ( it would be perfect :)
I don't agree that Ardour looks like a toy. It just looks like a computer program, rather than a photo-realistic rendering of a physical tool. For me, that is not a disadvantage of Ardour.

It’s a positive advantage IMO. As an old school audio engineer with many years of experience on analog equipment, I find pictures of non-existent hardware to be a waste of screen space on a computer. Hardware evolved the way it did because it made ergonomic sense. What works well on a hardware control panel can be a total PITA on a computer screen. Few things are more irritating to me than being forced to turn a picture of a knob with a mouse, but that seems to be the way most other DAWs have gone.

Ardour 2 looks like a serious tool, not a computer game or toy. More importantly it is ergonomically superior to many other DAWs, which is a lot more important to a professional user than pretty pictures.

(Edit - Just noticed I was replying to an ancient post too :slight_smile:


That looks really good! Kudos…any chance of an A2 version?

For some reason, it never occurred to me to do an A2 version… I’ll see what I can come up with – though I’ll likely leave the colors the same as the original theme, as they are quite cumbersome to change!


I always swap out the fader belts for actual fader pixmaps on my own installs too, of course that’s a lot simpler than hacking the gtkrc like you’re doing, at any rate it’ll be interesting to see what you come up with…Thanks for at least checking into it!

Okay, I added an Ardour 2 version… The change is not as dramatic (and was much easier to do) because I left the colors original. Turns out the original color scheme is quite nice though, my scheme kind of looks like a circus in comparison. :slight_smile: I did go ahead and remove fixed references to the “Sans” font so it will use your system’s font, and I put the LCDDot font reference in there for the clocks, but you can change that if you like by searching for “LCDDot” in the file and removing it (change it to say “bold 16”, which is what it originally was).


Thanks! I’ll have a look.


Nice work! I have it working with the sacreligious faders in Ardour-i686 2.8.11-3 from Debian, however it causes Wine 1.3.8 to explode on my custom Ardour-VST AV Linux build, (not that it’s your problem). Thanks for sharing!

Nice, a really nice & fresh design for Ardour2 :slight_smile: Looking even more forward to using Ardour3 now!


If anyone wants to hack on it a bit, for the Ardour 3 file I took the time to factor out a lot of the common colors into one place using GTK’s “symbolic colors” feature… meaning you can change most of the color scheme by just tweaking the line that says “gtk_color_scheme”=… (though be careful not to change the spacing in the string, GTK is picky about that). The “ard_bg” variable, for example, is the main widget grey color, which a lot of other colors get calculated from.

Oh, and the canvas colors are all totally separate from the gtkrc… Those you’ll have to change in Ardour’s config file (~/.config/ardour3/ardour3_ui.conf) or through the user interface. I tried to make my scheme work with the existing canvas colors.

@seanbutnotheard: i admit that i really don’t like your theme BUT i am very very grateful that someone has taken the time to use the GTK symbolic color stuff. I’d like to try to integrate that into the mainstream RC file. I know how much work this must have been and its really fantastic that you’ve done it.

@paul: my pleasure… I didn’t expect everyone to like it, but I’m glad a few people did. As you’ll see, I didn’t get everything factored into symbolic colors, because there were a lot of cases where I wasn’t exactly sure what the color was for. Plus I was getting a little tired of the tedium. :slight_smile: Also, I couldn’t quite get the [PRELIGHT] stuff working correctly on the various colored buttons, so there’s some stuff in there that should be tweaked if you’d like to that to work.

I just painted new faders for Ardour. Now it looks like a PRO for me :wink:

@rusk: looks good, but misses the entire point of the fader belt. Are you one of those people affected by style over substance? :slight_smile:

Are you one of those people affected by style over substance? :)

Couple months ago I started discussing Linux as a recording platform at my forum (i’m a programmer there) in a music soft section.
I noticed two main things in brains:

  1. It can’t work like a Pro audio application because it looks like a toy.
  2. It can’t work fine because it’s free…

First thing can be fixed, isn’t it? I found this screenshot
And started to search a solution to change the theme. It was easy. I think much greater results would be with texture backgrounds, but only fader change make mixer look like a real console, which is more comfortable for sound engeneers.

but misses the entire point of the fader belt

Oh, Here is correct version, Now I compared with fader from Ardour3.

@rusk: i wasn’t trying to be flippant, just mildly humorous. there are two conflicting goals with the fader belt:

  • look like a row of faders so that people who expect a row of faders feel comfortable that this is a "pro" app
  • make it clear that it doesn't matter where you click or click+drag, the action will work one way or another
Different people are going to disagree on which one of those two is a more important goal. It would certainly be nice, perhaps, to offer a choice.
to offer a choice.

Exact what I mean!

make it clear that it doesn't matter where you click or click+drag, the action will work one way or another

Hm… I do understand how fader works in Ardour. And it’s great. Especially for touchscreens. But people says that ALL mixers in all DAWs looks like real consoles and this is the differense between Pro Tools mixer and Creative Surround mixer :wink:

Yes, I agree that things should show what they do.