Are you interested in customizing your Mac's icons to suit your tastes? Do you perhaps just want to make that one important folder stand out?

While macOS does not make it obvious how to change icons, the process is actually really easy and takes just a few steps, and is easily reversible if you are not happy with the result.

Changing individual icons

For individual files, folders, and applications, the process of changing icons is very simple, but the last step of the process is slightly different depending on wherever you are using a typical image file format like PNG, or macOS' icon format that has the extension .icns.

Get Info window

For normal image files:

  1. Copy the image to the clipboard (note: do not copy the file in Finder, open it in Preview and copy from there)
  2. Find the file/folder/application that you want to change the icon for and right click on it
  3. Click "Get Info"
  4. Select the small file icon in the upper left corner of the window (next to the file name)
  5. Press Cmd+V to paste your icon (or select Edit → Paste from the menu bar)

If you are using a .icns file (such as from an icon pack or from one of macOS' built-in icons), the process is slightly different:

  1. Find the .icns file you want to use in Finder
  2. Find the file/folder/application that you want to change the icon for and right click on it
  3. Click "Get Info"
  4. Drag the .icns file on the small file icon in the upper left corner (next to the file name) of the Get Info window that you just opened

If you want to reset your icon back to what it originally was, just select the small file icon in the Get Info window, and press Cmd+X.

Finding new icons

macOS actually comes with a large collection of icons that it uses for many purposes. You can find them hidden in various places. To quickly access any of these locations, just press Cmd+Shift+G in Finder, and paste one of these paths.

  • /System/Library/CoreServices/CoreTypes.bundle/Contents/Resources/ – various system icons, including icons for many different Mac and iOS devices
  • /System/Library/Extensions/IOStorageFamily.kext/Contents/Resources – hard drive icons
  • /System/Library/Extensions/IOSCSIArchitectureModelFamily.kext/Contents/Resources/ – icons for various memory cards and other removable drives
  • /System/Library/Extensions/IOCDStorageFamily.kext/Contents/Resources/ – icons for optical drives

Along with that, you can also get an icon from any file by pressing Cmd+C while you have the icon selected in the Get Info window for that file.

Changing icons for system apps

Since modern macOS versions have a feature called System Integrity Protection, you will not be able to change icons for system applications such as Mail or Safari by default.

To change icons for these apps, you will need to disable SIP, which you can do by following our guide.

The good news is that once you have changed the icons, you can re-enable SIP, and the changes you've made will stick – though, you may have to repeat the process for bigger macOS updates that may modify these apps, as these updates may reset some of your icon changes.

LiteIcon

LiteIcon is an application that can greatly simplify the icon customization process.

LiteIcon window

This application provides a quick way to modify icons – just drag a new image or icon file on the file type that you want to change. You may change icons for various folder types, external media, and all the applications installed on your system (though, it is still subject to the SIP limitation described above).

It also provides quick options to restore your default icons and to clear the icon cache.

You may download LiteIcon from the official website, or through Homebrew Cask by using the following Terminal command:

brew cask install liteicon

What do you think? Are you going to try changing your icons a shot? Do you perhaps know any interesting icon packs you'd like to try? Let us know in the comments below!