How to customise folder icons in Finder and on the desktop

Customise folders on the Apple Mac by replacing the default icon

Folders in macOS/OS X are not very exciting. In fact, they are quite dull. However, it is possible to replace the default icon for a folder with one that is much more exciting. Here’s how.

I recently showed how to customise folders by replacing the background with a photo or image of your own. Now I will show how to replace the default icon.

Icons for anything can be replaced, whether they are folders, files or apps, and there are a couple of techniques that can be used, although they are very similar. One is just a variation of the other.

Find and download a new folder icon

First you need a new icon to replace the one that is currently used in Finder and on the desktop, and luckily there are thousands on the the web. After searching Google for ‘folder icons’ this site, Find Icons (, was near the top of the results. There are other sites, but this will do.

Find free icons on the web at tje Find Icons website

It has a good selection of folder icons and there are some interesting ones, such as the second one with the Apple logo.

The Mac uses .icns files for icons, so click the MORE link next to an icon on the page and then click ICNS. The icon downloads in seconds and is saved as a .icns file. You can leave it in the Downloads folder or drag it to the desktop for convenience.

Alternative icons for folders on the disk drive at the Find Icons website

Show the folder info panel

Here I have a folder on the desktop that is to be customised, but it could be in a Finder window and the location doesn’t matter. Next to the folder is the .icns file that was downloaded.

Select the folder to be changed by clicking once on it and then press Command+I to open the Info panel.

The Info panel for a folder or file on the Apple Mac is accessed by pressing Command+I

Replace the default folder icon

The folder icon is in the top left corner of the Info window. Click and drag the .icns file to the Info window and drop it on the icon.

Drag icon files to the file or folder info window on the Apple Mac to replace the default icon

Refresh the screen to see the changes

It looks like it has not worked and the old icon remains. Nothing has happened, or has it. You cannot see the change simply because the desktop and Info window need to be refreshed.

You can log out of your account and log back in to do this, but a quick way to refresh the icons on the desktop is to resize them.

Click the desktop and press Command+J to open the view options panel. Drag the slider to resize the icons (and put it back to your preferred size if you want), and the icon is refreshed. You can see the new icon for the folder.

Resize icons on the desktop or in Finder on the Apple Mac

Doesn’t that folder look great? This technique replaces just one folder icon and all the other folders on the disk remain the same.

It would be very slow and tedious to change a lot of folders on the disk, but if you have a few favourites where you keep certain types of files, then you can find interesting icons on the internet, download them and replace the default icons.

Folders on the desktop and in Finder windows don’t need to be dull, replace them with fun and exciting ones.

More finder tips





Thanks, Roland, for this resource. For anyone out there who may wish to use his or her own pictures or parts of pictures for icons, you can simply Copy almost any image you like (png, jpeg, custom selection, etc) into Clipboard by first opening it in Preview and selecting either the whole thing (Command-A) or just a piece of it (with drag-selectors), and then Copy-Paste it into the icon space in the Get Info box for the file or folder you want to modify (as mentoned in the article). To get the Get Info panel to allow you to Paste into it, single-click on the icon and you'll get a light blue outline surrounding the icon. That's when you can Paste whatever you have in the Clipboard (be sure it's an image of some kind though!). You shouldn't need to refresh the Desktop at all with this method. One caveat is that of course you can make things very ugly indeed by using images which simply don't look good or even perhaps confuse you thinking that a folder is a file and so on. But used wisely, this can be another fun way of spicing up your files and folders a bit. (Perhaps another time I shall write about how to put your own pictures right onto the plain folder icons. Also, Roland, maybe checking to see what Dropbox syncing does to custom icons would be worth some exploration.) Thanks again for this great site!

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