I've a fresh Ubuntu install running in VMWare. I installed i3 with sudo apt install i3.

It seemed to install fine and I can switch to it in the Display Manager no problem. Loading in however there is no desktop background, just a black screen. I can change this with xsetroot -solid "color"

gsettings get org.gnome.desktop.background picture-uri Shows the path to the default background.

gsettings get org.gnome.desktop.background draw-background Returns true.

Logging back into Ubuntu at the display manager everything works fine with the background showing up.

Any idea what's going on and how I can get the background showing up with i3?

EDIT: I should note, i3 is working fine functionally. There's just no background.


Sorry about first answer, google fu slipped:

I found this other pertinent answer :



upon further investigation this is the procedure to set background under i3, via feh :

feh --bg-scale /path/to/your/image.jpg

And then add

eval `cat ~/.fehbg`

to your .bashrc or something else run at startup.

  • Unfortunately this doesn't seem to help. I installed Feh and added the section to the i3 config. However it just opens a feh viewer for the image. As stated originally xsetroot does affect the background. But I don't think I can use this to display an image. – Dylan Oct 1 '18 at 12:49
  • I updated with a guide. maybe now? – tatsu Oct 1 '18 at 13:07
  • 1
    Aye, it seems to do the trick alright! Bit odd that I need an external program to set it with i3 running. Think there's some tricks for feh to be used with multiple monitors too. Variety seems to pick up once Feh sorts it out too! Thanks for the help! – Dylan Oct 1 '18 at 13:22
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    For future reference installing feh and running the background command ephemerally then installing Variety seemed to be enough, Just added variety to start on startup and it's good to go. – Dylan Oct 1 '18 at 14:05
  • glad this solved it :D ! do you mind paying it forward with an upvote? in anycase happy to hear it works! – tatsu Oct 1 '18 at 14:12

Install feh if you haven't already.

sudo apt-get install feh

at your i3 config file (probably at ~/.config/i3/config) add the following:

exec_always --no-startup-id feh --bg-scale ~/pathtoyour/image.jpg

This is what I currently use to display my background.

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