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How to change icons for files and folders on Mac

MacOS makes it easy to distinguish a file from a folder by the icon. The icon for a file represents the type of file. For instance, a text file is a piece of paper, and a zip file shows a zipper. The icon for a folder is even simpler: It’s a folder.

What isn’t always obvious is how to change the icons for files and folders on Mac. Maybe you want an image as a file icon or a different color for a folder icon. In just a few clicks, you can make those icons almost anything you want.

Step 1: Copy the image for the icon

Select Edit, Copy for the image in Preview.

You can use a picture as the icon for either a file or folder on Mac. This is handy for spotting what you need quickly.

You have a few different ways to copy the image you want to use.

  • Open it in Preview and select Edit > Copy from the menu bar.
  • Select the image and click Edit > Copy from the Finder menu bar.
  • Right-click the image and select Copy.
  • Select the image and use the keyboard shortcut Command + C.

You’ll then have the image copied to your clipboard.

Step 2: Open the item information

Select the file icon in the Get Info window on Mac.

Whether a file or a folder, you’ll open the properties for it to access its icon. Select the file or folder and click File > Get Info from the menu bar or right-click and pick Get Info.

This opens a window full of details about the item. You’ll see the icon on the top left of that window.

Step 3: Paste the image as the icon

Select the icon in the Get Info window and click Edit, Paste.

With the image on your clipboard, you’re ready to paste it.

Select the icon in the Get Info window to highlight it. Then paste the image by clicking Edit > Paste from the menu bar or using the keyboard shortcut Command + V.

You should see the image you copied replace the default icon for the file or folder. You can then close the Get Info window.

How to change a folder color on Mac

If you simply want to change the color of a folder icon on Mac, you can do this using Preview.

Step 1: Copy the folder icon

Select the folder icon and copy it from the Get Info window.

Open the Get Info window for the folder as described above. Select it and click File > Get Info or right-click and choose Get Info.

Select the icon on the top left of the detail window to highlight it. Now, copy the icon by clicking Edit > Copy from the menu bar or using the keyboard shortcut Command + C.

Step 2: Open the icon in Preview

Select File, New From Clipboard in Preview.

Open the Preview app on your Mac and select File > New From Clipboard from the menu bar.

You should see the folder icon display for you to edit.

Step 3: Change the icon color

Markup, Adjust Color, and the Tint slider menu in Preview.

At the top of the Preview app, click the Markup button in the toolbar. Then, select the Adjust Color button. Use the Tint slider to choose the color you want for the icon.

Optionally, you can use the other color adjustment tools if you like.

Step 4: Copy the new folder icon

Select the icon and click Edit, Copy in Preview.

Once you have the icon colored the way you want, you just need to copy it and paste it back into the folder details window.

Pick Edit > Select All and then Edit > Copy from the menu bar to copy the icon. You can also use the selection tool in Preview to outline the icon and then click Edit > Copy.

Step 5: Replace the folder icon

Select Edit, Paste to replace the icon in the Get Info window.

Head back to the Get Info window you opened for the folder. Select the icon on the top left once more to highlight it. Then, paste the new icon by clicking Edit > Paste in the menu bar or using the keyboard shortcut Command + V.

Whether you use a photo or a logo for a file icon or decide simply to change the color of a folder icon, you have options to make items stand out on MacOS. For other customizations, check out how to change the background on Mac.

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Sandy Writtenhouse
Sandy has been writing about technology since 2012. Her work has appeared on How-To Geek, Lifewire, MakeUseOf, iDownloadBlog…
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