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How To: Change an Icon

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Apple is known for its super slick application icons, but sometimes you just need a change. And you don’t want to dole out $30 for Candybar. While there’s nothing in System Preferences that makes it drag-and-drop simple to change an app’s icon, there’s still a way to do it, and it’s pretty painless.

Before you ask, no you can’t change your apps’ icons on your iPhone or iPad. Only app developers can change those icons. Unless you jailbreak your device of course, but you would never ever do that, right? Right.

On my MacBook Pro, I’m bored with Apple’s built-in icon for iPhoto, so I’m going to change it to this nifty Steampunk icon I found here.

1) In Finder, go to Applications, and then Ctrl-click (or right-click, if you have that turned on) on iPhoto’s icon, which looks like this.

2) Click “Show Package Contents.”

3) A new Finder window opens. Click Contents > Resources. Your current iPhoto icon will be located in this folder. Every program gives its icon a different name, so you’ll need to search for it, but Mac icons usually end in “.icns,” so just search for that term, and restrict your search to this “Resources” folder. It should come right up.

4) Make a backup of the current icon. I created an “icon backups” folder on my Desktop, and just dragged the current iPhoto icon file (which is named “NSApplicationIcon.icns”) into it.

5) In a separate Finder window, go to the new icon you want to switch to. Click on it, and then after a moment click on it again, and you’ll be able to change its name. Give the new file the same name as the original .icns file you’re replacing.

6) Drag the .icns file over into your iPhoto > Contents > Resources folder.

You’re done! You’ll probably need to restart your Mac to get the changes to show up, but that’s pretty much it. Not too hard, eh?

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

8 thoughts on “How To: Change an Icon

  1. Yes of course. I should have clarified… This is for changing an app’s existing icon to a new .icns file you’ve downloaded (or made yourself). The command+stuff works if you’re switching to an icon that’s already implemented, but it doesn’t work with an icns file. Doing command+i on an icns file brings up a Preview icon.

  2. Are You Serious??

    cmd+i on the icon you want, click on the item, cmd+c

    cmd+i on the program you want to change, click on the item, cmd+v

    DONE. No backup needed, if you want the old icon back, cmd+i, select icon, backspace.

  3. I tried that repeatedly, but it doesn’t work for me. I’m running a MacBook Pro with Snow Leopard.

    1. same here – open .icns file with preview, select the version of the icon with the highest resolution, copy & paste

    2. huh, youre right – it won’t work with iphoto. only with third party applications & folders

    3. Interesting. It never occurred to me that third-party apps might behave differently with their icons than Apple apps. Kinda figures though, eh?

  4. .icns Files can be opened with Preview, within preview you can copy the icon, and paste it into any application you want.

  5. Ok now I got it.

    iTunes and other pre-installed apps have restricted rights. If you want to change the icon through the information window (cmd+i) you therefore need to give read&write rights for everyone.

    Once you have done so, you can simply paste icons “onto” the original icon. You can always just delete the new icon the same way, going back to the original.

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