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How to customize your iPhone’s app icons

How to customize your iPhone’s app icons

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By creating your own icons from photos or other art, you can add your individual style to your homepage

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iPhone with icons and illustrated background
Illustration by Samar Haddad / The Verge

Have you ever wanted to make your iPhone your own, with your individualized style and flair? Sure, you can change your homescreen 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 homescreen.

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, it’s easiest to 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 homescreen, 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.
  • On the top of the screen, you’ll see that your new shortcut will be named something like “New Shortcut 1.” If you’d rather have your own name, tap on the arrow next to it and select Rename.
Shortcut can help you create new bookmarks for your apps
Shortcuts can help you create new bookmarks for your apps.
Drop-down menu for shortcut names.
You can name your shortcut whatever you wish.
  • Once you’ve got your shortcut named, tap on the Add Action button below the name.
  • You’ll find yourself on a page that, at first glance, may seem a bit confusing. Basically, you’re looking at all the various things that you can do with Shortcuts. While it would be worth it to spend some time here and try out some customizations, right now, what we want to do is change your app icon.
Page to create actions for a new shortcut.
Type Add Action to start the creating your shortcut.
Busy page listing a variety of actions you can assign to a shortcut.
The number of actions available can be confusing.
  • Type Open app in the search bar and then tap on the Open App link that will show up.
  • Tap on the word App that appears (rather faintly) next to the word Open in the search bar.
Typing “Open” in the top search page, with scripting and voice memo actions appearing.
Start typing “Open app” to find the right action.
Open app field.
Click on the light blue word to choose which app you’re using for the shortcut.
  • You’ll see a list of your phone’s apps; pick the one you want to customize. The name of the app will now be next to the word Open.
  • Tap Done in the upper right corner. You’ll be taken back to your shortcut page.
  • Select the information icon (an “i” in a circle) at the bottom of the screen.
  • Tap Add to Home Screen
The name of an app in blue next to Open.
After you’ve chosen the app you’re making a shortcut for, the name will appear next to “Open.”
Shortcut details and other features.
Now you can add it to the homescreen.
  • 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.
  • 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.
Drop down menu from shortcut icon on creation page.
Don’t like the standard icon? Change it.
Photo of jar with pens highlighted for icon creation.
The app shows you how much of the photo you can use for your icon.
  • 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 homescreen. Congrats!
Final icon in shortcut making app.
You’ll now see what the icon will finally look like.
Home page with icons.
And here’s your new icon on your homepage.

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 your wallpaper until all your icons start wiggling. Tap on the minus sign of the app you want to hide.
  • 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.
Home page with icons with minus signs.
Long-press on the background to reveal the minus signs.
Pop-up menu for removing icon.
Tap on the minus sign and select Remove from Home Screen.

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 reminds 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 September 21st, 2022, 4:55PM ET: This article was originally published on Jun 13th, 2021; it has been updated to accommodate changes in iOS 16.

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