How To Make Custom Icons For Mac OS X

Today, I’m going to show you how to make your own custom icons for the Mac OS X. It’s not as complicated as you might expect, so lets dive into it and see what you can do.

There’s a couple of things you’ll need before being able to create your icons. Here’s a list of programs, you’ll need in order to successfully make an icon set:

Image Editor – Preferably Photoshop, because you can use scripts to create an icon set fairly quickly.

XCode – This is Apple’s free software development kit. If you don’t already have it on your Mac, then you can download it for free, here.


The first, and obvious step is to find an image in which you want to make an icon for. Be sure that you select something that can be shrunk, and expanded easily. PNG files are the best file types to use for creating icons, so keep an eye out for those.

There’s some things you want to remember when designing your icon. First, you’ll need to make images for four different sizes (16×16, 32×32, 48×48, 128×128, and 512×512 if you have Leopard). Next, make sure you create good margin size for your 128×128 icon. The reason is because this will be in your dashboard, and will sit next to other widget icons, so you don’t want them hugging each other.

Next, you’ll want to take your image and load it up on your image editor. Then, clean out all of the background space so that all you have is your icon and a transparent background. Make sure your margins are right, then begin sizing your icons. A good rule of thumb is to make your larger ones first, and then work your way to the smallest. This keeps you from having to backtrack to expand the icon.

Once you’ve gotten your first icon sized right, you’ll need to export it. Click ‘Save As’ and then then select TIFF as the format to export it as. Don’t compress the image, and make sure you save the transparency.

The hard part is over now. Go under the Applications >> Utilities under the XCode folder. Open the ‘Icon Composer’, and then drag your various icon size to the appropriate location. Then save as a ICNS file type, and then VOILA, you’re finished.

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