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How to customize your iPhone’s app icons

How to customize your iPhone’s app icons

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Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

Have you ever wanted to make your iPhone your own, with your individualized style and flair? Sure, you can change your home screen wallpaper. But if you really want to personalize your phone, why not create your own app icons?

It’s doable, using Apple’s built-in Shortcuts app. You actually won’t be replacing the icons that the apps came with — rather, you’ll be creating separate shortcuts that lead to the app. It’s a tedious and time-consuming process, but in the end, you can have a fully customized iPhone home screen.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Before you begin, it’s a good idea to find an icon for your new shortcut. There are a bunch of icon sources online (Flaticon, for example), or if you’re artistic and / or ambitious, you can create your own. Whether you use someone else’s or your own, save the image to Photos.
  • Okay, let’s begin. Find and tap on the Shortcuts app. It’s pre-installed; if you can’t see it immediately on your home screen, swipe left until you’re at the App Library and start typing “Shortcuts” into the top search bar.
  • Once you’re in the app, tap on the “plus” sign in the upper-right corner. Type the name of your new shortcut on top, and then tap on “Add Action”
Shortcut can help you create new bookmarks for your apps
Shortcuts can help you create new bookmarks for your apps.
After you select the plus sign to start a new shortcut, tap on Add Action.
After you select the plus sign to start a new shortcut, tap on Add Action.
  • There are a lot of interesting things to try out in Shortcuts. But right now, what we want to do is switch app icons. Type “Open app” in the search bar and then tap on the “Open App” link.
  • Tap on the word “App” that appears (rather faintly) next to the word “Open.” You’ll see a list of your apps; pick the one you want to customize.
  • Now, tap the blue symbol in the upper right corner. You’ll be taken back to your shortcut page.
Type “Open app” in the search bar.
Type “Open app” in the search bar.
Tap “App” to select which icon to replace.
Tap “App” to select which icon to replace.
  • Tap “Add to Home Screen.” 
  • You’ll now see a preview of the icon (which will be a standard, uninteresting icon that Shortcuts automatically adds). Don’t worry — we’re going to make it better.
Name your shortcut and tap on “Add to Home Screen.”
Name your shortcut and tap on “Add to Home Screen.”
At first, you get a generic icon.
Select “Add.”
  • Tap on the icon under “Home Screen Name and Icon.” You’ll have the choice of either taking a photo, choosing a photo, or choosing a file. Assuming you’ve already saved an image in Photo, tap on “Choose Photo” and select the photo you want to use.
  • If you’ve chosen an existing photo, a highlighted area will indicate what part of the photo will appear as an icon; you can move the photo around until you’re happy with the section indicated. Tap “Choose” in the lower-right corner.
You can create an icon from a new photo, a saved photo, or a file
You can create an icon from a new photo, a saved photo, or a file.
You’ll have to crop your photo to the right dimensions
You’ll have to crop your photo to the right dimensions.
  • Now, you’ll see your new icon. If you haven’t added a name for your new shortcut, you can still do it here by typing the name next to the icon.
  • All ready? Tap Add in the upper right corner.
  • You should see your new customized icon on your home screen. Congrats!
  • There’s the possibility you may see two new icons on your home screen: one with the first boring icon and one with your wonderful new icon. If that’s the case, just press and hold the icon that you don’t want, and then select “Delete bookmark.” Remember, this (and the other you created) is a bookmark / shortcut — not the original.
Voila! Your new icon is ready
Voila! Your new icon is ready.
You can hide the original icon if you want
You can hide the original icon if you want.
  • You can also hide the original app icon so you’ll just have the new one visible. (You don’t want to delete it completely, of course; that would delete the app.)
  • Long-press on the original app icon and select “Edit Home Screen.” 
  • Tap on the minus sign. On the pop-up menu, tap “Remove from Home Screen.” The original icon won’t be deleted, just hidden; you can always find it in the App Library.

One note: when you use your new icon to go to the app, you will occasionally get a small drop-down notice that tells you what the original app is called and to remind you of the fact that it is a shortcut. But the drop-down will only last for a second or two, so it shouldn’t be much of a bother.

Update October 22nd, 2021, 10:30AM ET: This article was originally published on Jun 13th, 2021; it has been updated to accommodate changes in iOS 15.

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