If you’re one of those who adopted the first couple of betas of Android 12, by now, you’d have either come to a loving or hating Material You on Google’s new mobile OS. Material You has been the standout feature in Android 12 as it not only lets you tweak wallpaper themes on your device but also lets you personalize Android by changing the color tone of UI elements and system settings.
With Android 12 Beta, you now have full control over how Material You is applied on your Android device.
What can you customize on Material You?
Android 12 has been in beta testing for a few months now and perhaps the biggest changes coming to the next version of Google’s mobile operating system is a new ‘Wallpaper & style’ interface that lets you customize which system theme you may want to set from your wallpaper. During the initial releases, it was Android itself that chose the colors from your wallpaper and applied them to different system items.
But Google has since then updated the ‘Wallpaper & style’ system app (previously known as the “WallpaperPicker” app) on Android 12 to add the ability to generate different color palettes dynamically for different wallpapers you set on your device. Based on the colors tones of your wallpaper, you’ll be offered four different dynamic color palettes to be applied as your Material You theme. You’re also given the option to choose from basic colors that will be available no matter which wallpaper you apply.
In addition to custom Material You colors, you also get support for Themed icons. When you enable this feature, Android will apply custom icons for apps on your device based on the Material You color you chose earlier. Icons of most Google apps will now switch to your Material You color but app icons of third-party apps remain the same. It’ll be left to developers of these apps to enable “themed icons” for their apps.
Related: How to Take a Scrolling Screenshot on Android 12
Required: Get Android 12 Beta first
The new customizable Material You option is available as part of Android 12 which is currently in beta version 4.1. If you’ve already enrolled your compatible device on the Android 12 Beta program, then you just have to update it by going to Settings > System > System update and then tapping ‘Check for update’.
Material You’s dynamic theming only works if you set a wallpaper that has different colors popping up. If your wallpaper is set to a solid color or an image that primarily boasts a single tone, Android will automatically apply the color palette that it thinks is right for your system.
How to Get Dynamic Theme for Material You
Once you have updated your device to the latest Android 12 Beta, you’ll need to first apply a wallpaper with a bunch of colors on it. For this, tap and hold on an empty area on your Home Screen and select the ‘Wallpaper & style’ option in the overflow menu that appears.
Inside the ‘Wallpaper & style’ screen, tap on ‘Change wallpaper’.
Now, choose a wallpaper that has different colors by choosing one from ‘My photos’ or the several categories that are listed on the screen.
When you select the desired wallpaper, Android will automatically pick a color as your Material You theme. Don’t worry, you can customize it your way in the next section. You should get an idea of the color that has been picked by noticing the ‘Home screen’ tab that gets highlighted here. Now, you need to apply the chosen wallpaper by tapping the tick mark on the bottom right corner.
Next, choose ‘Home screen and Lock screen’ inside the ‘Set wallpaper on’ dialog that appears on the screen.
Your new wallpaper will now be applied to your device. You can now apply dynamic themes for your Material You by following the steps in the next section below.
How to Choose a Wallpaper color (theme) for Material You
Once you’ve set a background that’s rich in colors, you’re now all ready to choose a dynamic theme for Material You. For this, you again need to access the ‘Wallpaper & style’ screen which you can do by tapping and holding on an empty area on your Home Screen and selecting the ‘Wallpaper & style’ option from the overflow menu.
Inside the ‘Wallpaper & style’ screen, scroll down till you reach ‘Wallpaper colors’. This section will show you four different themes or color palettes to choose from based on the colors present in your wallpaper. By default, one of the color palettes will be selected and applied, as you can see in the screenshot below.
You can choose other options available inside ‘Wallpaper colors’ to customize your Material You theme according to your choice. When you do that, you should see the color tones of UI elements and background change according to the color palette you choose.
You might notice that the color palette is comprised of several colors. From our testing we came up with the following conclusions:
- Top half of the palette circle applies as the highlight color for marking tabs, quick setting tiles, and themed icons.
- Bottom right portion applies as the background color for the Settings app and other system UI elements like Notification shade.
- Bottom left portion: Haven’t determined where this color applies to.
- Tick mark color shows up when you select a color palette. This color tone is applied on toggles inside the Settings app, volume sliders, etc.
You can select the color palette that you like from under ‘Wallpaper colors’ by simply tapping on your desired option.
If you want to stick to Android’s basic theme, you can tap on the ‘Basic colors’ tab adjacent to ‘Wallpaper colors’ and choose one of the four default colors that are available. Android 12 currently offers only Blue, Green, Purple, and Brown as basic colors.
Does Material You theming work with Live Wallpapers?
Until the release of Beta 4 of Android 12, Material You only allowed users to extract colors from a static wallpaper. When users chose a Live wallpaper, Android set the Blue color palette from the ‘Basic colors’ section and allowed users to select any one of the other three colors – Green, Purple, Brown.
With Android 12 Beta 4, Pixel’s Wallpaper & style app is now able to extract colors from live wallpapers and apply them for you.
By default, when you’re applying a Live wallpaper, the app will set a theme that it thinks suits best for your selection but you may be able to choose among other options from within the ‘Wallpaper colors’ section.
The number of options you get under the ‘Wallpaper colors’ section is, however, dependent on the Live wallpaper you choose.
Android may be able to offer you four theming options for one wallpaper but only one for another wallpaper. At any time, you will have the default basic color themes to choose from under the ‘Basic colors’ section inside the Wallpaper & style app.
In our testing, we found that not all Live wallpapers are supported by this Material You theming. Android 12, however, lets you quickly check which Live wallpaper supports it by changing the colors of options inside the Preview screen when you select a wallpaper. You don’t need to apply a wallpaper to see if the colors change, you can simply select it from the Wallpaper & style app and see if there are any changes.
If the colors on the ‘Home screen’ tab or ‘Lock screen’ tab change whenever you select a wallpaper, it means that Material You is able to extract colors from it. If not, the wallpaper isn’t yet supported by Android 12’s theming.
How to Enable Themed App Icons on Android 12
The new changes to Material You have also brought the ability to apply theme-able icons to Android 12. You can now set a color from the ‘Wallpaper colors’ palette as your main theme for app icons. When you apply themed icons, only icons on the Home Screen will be themed and they won’t show up inside the app drawer. The app drawer will continue showing apps in their default icons.
Themed icons can currently be applied to almost all Google apps while third-party apps stick with their original icons. Fortunately, Android 12 will let developers of third-party apps enable theme icon support for their apps.
Themed icons will use the color from the top half of the palette circle inside ‘Wallpaper colors’ as its main background color and with a darker tone applied to elements inside the icon. These colors will get inverted when the user switches on ‘Dark theme’ on their phone, meaning the lighter color will now apply to the icon while the dark color applies to the icon background.
Once you’ve set a Wallpaper color (theme) for Material You, you can enable Themed icons by first getting to the ‘Wallpaper & style’ screen. For this, you need to tap and hold on an empty area on your Home Screen and select the ‘Wallpaper & style’ option from the overflow menu.
Now, scroll down the ‘Wallpaper & style’ screen and toggle ON the ‘Themed icons’ switch.
You can now go back to the home screen and you should see icons of all compatible apps appear in a new avatar based on the Wallpaper color you picked earlier.
That’s all you need to know about customizing Material You on Android 12.
Those themed icons are horrendous no matter what color they are in. Too flat and not recognizable. No thanks.
Phone just updated to Android 12, I HATE the “customized” palettes and the 4 basic colors. Is there a way to turn it off and just have it the way I had (and wanted it) before?
Compared with A11’s ability to dial in your theme (via Developer Options) was far more customisable than Material You is. Rather ironic.
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