How do I get an image to appear in an Ubuntu desktop shortcut?

I am trying to get an icon to appear in my desktop shortcut. I am using Ubuntu 20.04.5 LTS. This is what my desktop file looks like:

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Picture Show

I right-click and select Allow Launching, and it works, except I get a red logo with the international NO symbol (a circle with a cross through it) as the icon. If I add a leading right slash after Icon=, I get no shortcut image, just the title. I have tried the original image in .svg format. I have tried .png images in 44 x 44, 48 x 48, 64 x 64, 128 x 128, and 150 x 150.

What am I doing wrong?

Is there something specific about the color depth of the images? Do the images need to be in a specific location, like usr/share/icons? Do they need to be in a specifically named subfolder? Just what size image should I create for an Ubuntu desktop shortcut?

  • Use absolute path names
    – rusty
    Jan 25 at 11:48

2 Answers 2


Try running this:

install -D MyPrograms/PictureShow/PictureShow64.png ~/.local/share/icons/hicolor/64x64/apps/PictureShow.png

Then change Icon=... to Icon=PictureShow

Usually Icon= entries in .desktop files refer to an icon by its basename (without extension). Icons being installed, for example, at /usr/share/icons/hicolor/{px}x{px}/apps/myprog.png

A program might ship with a range of icons, including a SVG icons in /usr/share/icons/hicolor/scalable/apps/myprog.svg



.desktop entry:


Users can have locally-installed icons as well in ~/.local/share/icons/hicolor/{px}x{px}/apps/.

  • @Crash Edited my answer with specific instructions at top Jan 24 at 17:48
  • I have put appropriately sized pictures into 32x32, 36x36, 48x48, and 64x64, of course in the usr/share/hicolor/sizexsize/apps. Then i changed the text inside the desktop file to Icon=PictureShow36, and I also tried PictureShow42, PictureShow46 and PictureShow48. None of these causes the image to appear in the shortcut. I also tried Icon=PictureShow36.png Still no icon image.
    – Crash
    Jan 24 at 18:34
  • or do I need to rename the images so they all have the same name ? ie., take off the indication of the size of the image ?
    – Crash
    Jan 24 at 18:45
  • I just ran that line...but nothing seems to have happened. No image in the icon. I changed it back to Pictureshow64.png in the desktop file. Still no image. I tried just PictureShow64, and PictureShow64.png. Then I went back and changed it to Icon=MyPrograms/PictureShow/PictureShow64. Still no image. Then I tried Icon=MyPrograms/PictureShow/PictureShow64.png. Still no image in the shortcut.
    – Crash
    Jan 24 at 19:40
  • Thank you for your help. I will be working on this again soon, later today. Last night before leaving I looked up the Install command. What I found talked only about installing programs, not images. The line above that I copied and ran tries to install an image. Is that what you intended, or did you mean to Install the program itself ? And if you did mean to install the program, what all will it do ?
    – Crash
    Jan 25 at 18:07

It will help to provide a correct file path to your image file. Your current path starts with "MyPrograms". That means the system tries to find a directory "MyPrograms" in whatever is the current directory of the process that interprets the launcher.

Icon images may also be indicated by only the base file name of a graphic (i.e., only the name coming before the extension), provided the graphic is located in one of the standard locations. The system will first search for a graphic with that name (and extension either .png, .svg, .bmp) in ~/.icons, ~/.local/share/icons and then in icons directories under the directories enumerated in the XDG_DATA_DIRS environmental variable.

Thus, bottom line:


  • Provide a valid file name in your desktop file, e.g. /home/youruser/MyPrograms/PictureShow/PictureShow64.png. (Tip: find the graphics file in your file manager, then hit Ctrl+c to copy the file path to the clipboard.

  • Place your graphic in ~/.local/share/icons (create that directory if it does not exist, and refer to it in your desktop file with Icon=PictureShow64.

  • That did it. Thank you very much. It was Control-C that did it. I have been having trouble with paths. Using Control-C I had an image showing in my shortcut in 1 minute. In another minute I had the shortcut image working for the other completed program I put on this computer.
    – Crash
    Jan 26 at 17:07
  • There's actually quite a bit of useful information in these answers. I used the absolute path to make it work, pointing to a 44 x 44 image. Paths have been difficult because sometimes my name is part of the path, or home, and sometimes not. Sometimes things are shown with some uppercase, and sometimes not. Control-C would have helped my get shortcuts working at all in the first place, much sooner. I wonder...with all those folders for different sized icons, when are other icon sizes used by Ubuntu. Why are so many different image sizes usually provided ?
    – Crash
    Jan 26 at 17:16
  • If this answer did it, then please show your appreciation by "accepting" it. Feel free to open other questions if you have more.
    – vanadium
    Jan 27 at 10:10

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