7 September 2009 Tips 50 Comments

How to change your icons in Mac OS 10.6

How to change your icons in Mac OS 10.6

Changing an icon in Snow Leopard is simple. You don’t need fancy software like CandyBar. Although it makes changing system icons a lot simpler than by hand, you can customize file, folder and app icons right in Finder.

Find an icon

There are a number of different places where you can find icons and system replacements sets for your Mac. Here are just a few great resources:

Wherever you look for icons, make sure they are Mac compatible. This is usually illustrated by the  symbol.

Changing the icon

Once you’ve downloaded the icon or set, unzip it and take a look inside. Most sets come in a variety of formats. These may include PNG, ICO, ICNS and Macintosh formats but the naming may be different depending on the author.

Here we see the contents of a typical icon set. Look for 'Icons' or 'Macintosh Icons'.

Here we see the contents of a typical icon set. Look for 'Icons' or 'Macintosh Icons'.

Look for the Mac format. You can easily tell thesite apart because the icons themselves are folders. Simply put, if you double click on an icon, you will be shown the contents of an empty folder.

Once you’ve found the icon you like, right-click it and chose Get info. Do the same for the icon you wish to change.

Open the Info window

In the info window, click on the new icon. You know it is selected when you see a glow around it. Hit ⌘+c to copy it to the clipboard. With the Info window of the target opened, click on the old icon and hit ⌘+v to paste it. If all went well, your file should now show the new icon.

Copy-paste the new icon onto the old one

  • timothygroovy

    Work well in Leopard, but it's doesn't work in Snow Leopard. Don't know why..

  • http://snowleopardtips.net Snow Leopard Tips

    Are you sure you're using the right icon format? This will not work with PNG or ICNS.

  • nicole12345

    How can i change the trash and finder icons? do i need the application candy bar to do so?

  • timothygroovy

    Opps….Thanks for the info..What kind of format support then?!

  • http://snowleopardtips.net Snow Leopard Tips

    Candy Bar is great because it allows you to change and restore your icons easily without too much hassle. Otherwise, it's possible to change the Dock icons manually. InterfaceLIFT has a good article on how to do this: http://interfacelift.com/icons-mac/articles/doc… (even though it says its for panther, it will still work in later versions of Mac OS). Note: I consider this to be for intermediate users as is requires playing around with the Terminal and changing system files.

  • timothygroovy

    Found the way out!

    “Click Get Info. In the Permissions section at the bottom of the Get Info tab, change Everyone to Read and Write. By the way, click the lock at the bottom of the pane if it is locked, and open it first, otherwise you wont be able to change anything. Now you can close this pane and change icons to your hearts content.”

  • http://snowleopardtips.net Snow Leopard Tips

    That's right. You need to have permission write permission on the file to change the icon. Just make sure you set the permissions back to the way they were after you're done.:)

  • Dude

    This totally does not work, and now I have a horrible .png thing.

  • Dude

    no no i did it sorry to be an ass

  • swappy

    this thing does not work

  • Pingback: Changing Icons - Mac-Forums.com

  • Jonathan

    Anyone know how to make the change of Finder icon take effect? I’ve changed it in Finder’s Package Contents but the old icon still shows in the dock even after a killall. Same thing for the trash.

  • hakintosh

    I think you guys missing something really important !
    1- unlock the info window “bottom right corner “
    2- highlight your username (name/privilege) same info window
    3- switch to read&write
    4- make your username a systemowner by highlighting your username and clicking the 3rd bottom where the -/+sign and the lock

  • Icepup

    You can use liteicon.

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  • http://twitter.com/KasperGross Kasper Gross

    It actually works with png. Just open the image in Preview. Select the image by dragging your cursor around the image, that will “highlight” the picture. Now you can click Cmd+C to copy, and then Cmd+V to paste.
    This will paste the image and not the png-logo.

  • Evansblue Cf

    Its not working on Safari or iTunes…

  • Kremesko

    hey, this does not work since the “get info” window on the icon I WANT does not show the actual fun icon but some kind of white default file picture, does anyone else have a similar problem???

  • Kremesko

    I have the same problem, I tried everything possible but it does not work in snow leopard

  • Kremesko

    THANK YOU!!!! You have no idea how many hours I have been trying to figure this out. I read so many mac forums and started feeling dumb….and you resolved it for me!!!!! I was copying npg logo and no one besides you mentioned this little mistake….GOOD JOB!!!!! ;-)

  • Chris L.

    All you have to do for that is open up Terminal (/Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app) and type

    sips -i path_to_file

    where path_to_file is the icon or png (or any image for that matter) file you want to save an icon for. It will save the image with an icon to match it, not the generic ones that Mac OS uses when it can't find a custom icon in the metadata.

    After doing that, choose the icon or png in Finder and click Get Info (File–>Get Info in the Mac OS Menu Bar or simply hit command-I). Verify that the icon in the top left corner of the Get Info window matches the actual image. Once verified, try copying and pasting the icon file again.

    It took me a while to figure out why that was happening, but once I learned how to do this, it has worked 100% of the time. Hopefully this helps.

  • Tristantmk


  • Newbee

    1. right click on the itunes icon
    2. select the show package content
    3. find the itunes.icns in the resources folder
    4. rename your onw icon with “itunes.icns”
    5. replace the old one with yours
    6. ignore the system warnings by clicking yes
    7. done

  • TimmyG

    You need to copy the picture. If the get info window shows a generic white icon, open the picture in preview, select all and copy that. Then you can paste that into the target get info window.

  • siggie

    make sure it's .icns i.e. folder.icns

  • misha

    this is brilliant! i've been looking for a solution to this problem for a while. thanks so much!

  • Pweller

    I've tried all of these and it still doesn't work. Why can't we just cut and paste anymore? My iMovie file is using a random image from iPhoto (which is not in the movie) as the preview image. huh?

  • Proundy

    This worked perfectly. Thanks.

  • Dj Boucher

    Brilliant ! Took two nights of searching to find your simple explanation.. This should be the first result in google..

  • Sgdeluxedoc

    in regard to Pweller.. i think you have too turn off the 'preview' option first (in get info) in snow leopard if your getting those ugly monotone things with letters like 'png' or 'bat' yadda yadda.. otherwise it wont show your new pasted icon

  • Sgdeluxedoc

    oops i meant in 'show view options' not 'get info'

  • Sebans

    What an easy way!!!

  • Hu

    thank you so much!

    for the “sips -i”

  • Thomasf-13

    what if it does not work for some apps

  • G Herrick

    I was used to using Image Capture to import photos from my camera, and had set an option for it to create icons for the photo files from the images themselves, on the fly. BUT then I upgraded to Snow Leopard, and Apple'd seemingly removed this option, and I'm not finding what i need; I have used File Buddy for years, which has this ability [after the imports of course], but it's not long for this world, since FB is no long supported – a major pity: such a wonderful tool gone. Suggestions?

  • Pete

    Thanks Heaps man!!

  • Lorenzo

    yes, thank you — saved my life!

  • Devika Chandnani

    Yes I do! And I need to know how to reverse it. I have my safari icon as a file picture.Png It’s not actually the image. HELP!

  • Harrybosch46

    Brilliant indeed!  I just spent well over an hour trying to do this, Googling my butt off and then, I find your comment. BINGO.
    Thanks very much.

  • G Herrick

    Yes.  Cool.  The terminal command, sips -i path_to_file
    does the trick.  For those who don’t know anymore how to get a path_to_file, simple select the file in Finder and cmd-C copy the puppy, and paste that into the terminal command, or into for instance a Spotlight search window.
    BTW, File Buddy’s website is gone.

  • G Herrick

    OK, now has someone automated this.  I’m lame automating moves.  I was spoiled by being able to select the file and use a contextual menu command.  Equipped with this I could now give all my photo file icons of their respective images.

  • Thomrader

    Doesn’t work on the trash can.

    Sometimes you have to restart to get the icon to take effect.

  • Jb

     Brilliant.  Thanks so much

  • A. F.

     I have been trying everything unsuccessfully until I tried what Kasper Gross suggests: furthermore, it works in Snow Leopard as he explains above (opening file in preview and highlighting the image you want to use to create the file), but it works not only with png, but with ANY KIND of graphic file, and you can choose the whole file or only a fragment. Brilliant! Thanks so much!

  • boostedneon

    This response should be much easier to find.

  • Sojourner7

    Brilliant indeed.  I spent a while trying to Bing & Google this to no avail.  No one explained the key step like you have, and that is to select and copy it in preview, then paste.  Thanks!

  • Davidmendoza364

    When i copy the icon of the generic white icon i don’t get the image just another white generic icon. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/laurie.hoover.mcvey Laurie J McVey

    this worked! Thank you

  • :0

    it’s not working. :( i hit command and c, and then command and then v, but it didn’t work! please help… cuz the icons i found are so CUTE!!! sorry… kinda carried away…

  • Biff Bifferson

    If it won’t paste you may need to change the access for the hdd down at the bottom of the get info window from everyone – read only to everyone – read and write.
    My problem is my Windows 10 partition. It just says read only and there’s no padlock icon to unlock so I can change from the generic hdd icon. I’ve changed it when booted in Windows, but it reverts when I go back to Snow Leopard. Any ideas?