Album Art Desktop Background - March 09, 2019

I like seeing the album art of the song I’m listening on as my desktop background. My terminal setup involves some level of transparency, and I find it interesting to see. For additional background, I use the tiling desktop manager i3 and terminal urxvt. Those aren’t relevant to the rest of this guide, but what is, is the fact that I use dunst to handle notifications. Set it first if you want to copy the rest of this guide. I also use nitrogen to handle the desktop backgrounds, but I would expect this to be possible with other environments as well, although I have not experimented there.


  1. A music player that can send notifications
    • Spotify
    • Clementine
    • Probably others
  2. dunst
  3. zsh
  4. nitrogen
  5. playerctl

Configure Music Player

Your music player needs to be configured to send notifications when songs change, and ideally, when it pauses or starts again as well. This varies by application and version, so I won’t explain it thoroughly.

Configure dunst

At the end of your dunst config, add a block like this example for Spotify:

    summary = "*"
    format = ""
    script = "~/scripts/"
    appname = "Spotify"

I don’t know if the section name ([spotify]) matters, but the other fields instruct dunst to match the relevant notifications (summary and appname), while format prevents you from actually seeing the notification. If you do want to see song change notifications, you’ll need to modify that. Finally, the script field contains the location of the script next discussed.

Song change script



function download_image() {
    if [[ ! -d "$IMAGE_CACHE_DIR" ]]; then
        mkdir -p "$IMAGE_CACHE_DIR"


    if [[ ! -f "$possible" ]]; then
        curl -s -q -L -o $possible "$2"

    echo "$possible"
    return "$?"

if [[ "$3" == "Paused" ]] || [[ "$3" == "Stopped" ]]; then
    nitrogen --restore
    url="$(playerctl metadata mpris:artUrl)"

    if [[ "$url" == ""* ]]; then
        url=$(download_image "$short" "$url")

    elif [[ "$url" == "file://"* ]]; then
        url="$(echo $url | cut -c 8-)"
    nitrogen --head=0 --set-zoom "$url"

This script gets run by dunst when the song changes and handles acquiring (if needed) and setting the background image. I know Clementine exposes a local file URI, while Spotify exposes a HTTPS URL that redirects to the actual image. This script can handle both cases, the first directly, and the latter by downloading the image to a cache directory and using that path.


Summary Flow:

  1. The media player sends a notification of song change, playback status change, etc.
  2. dunst captures this notification and runs a script. Setting format to "" stops the notification from being displayed to the user
  3. The script downloads the image, loads it from cache, or finds it on-disk and tells the background manager to use it