Folders in OS X generally all look the same, and while that’s great for knowing what’s a folder and what’s an application, it doesn’t really make it easy to distinguish one folder from another.
Folders like those for Dropbox, Google Drive, and your Home and Library all have icons that are different from all the others so you can quickly pick them out from a crowd. There’s no magic behind creating new icons for folders and even apps in OS X, all you need is a little know-how and an image to set as the icon. It’s easy to change folder icons in OS X for free and here’s how.
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Change Folder Icons in OS X
First, navigate to the folder you want to change the icon for. With the folder selected, hit Command + I on your keyboard to bring up the info pane for the folder.
Next, find the image you want to set as the new folder icon in Preview. With the image visible press Command + A to select it, then Command + C to copy it.
With the image copied to the clipboard, go back over to the info pane for the folder you’re working with and click on the folder icon shown in the upper left corner (not the large one at the very bottom, ignore that one for now). With the folder icon in the upper left corner selected with a blue highlight around it, hit Command + V to paste the image. The folder should change to the picture you copied.
The folder now has a new icon, and you’re ready to take over the world. If you want the new icon removed, just open the info pane again and this time select the folder and hit the Delete button on your keyboard. This will remove the new icon, giving you the original one back.
Now that you know how to change folder icons in OS X, here are some quick tips to make your new folder icons look even better
Tips for Folder Icons in OS X
PNGs – The biggest tip to make your new folder icons look their best is to use transparent PNG files for your new icons. These have no background and will show up with the exact shape you use. If you use JPG files for these, you will always get a background.
Editing Tools in Preview – Preview for OS X has quite a few editing tools to make your images look their best. Click the edit button (in blue) to open up the editing tools. Play around with these to get your image looking perfect.
High Quality – Make sure to use a high quality image when making your folder icon so it looks good at any size. System icons use a variety of icons at different sizes to make sure they always look great, but since you’re only adding one, it needs to look good at the largest size you set your folders at.