How to Change Your iPhone App Icons Without Jailbreaking

By , Oct 24, 2010

We Apple users are picky about our aesthetics. Some of us try to pretend that we aren’t, but we are. Things like app icons matter to us. Apple doesn’t make it easy to customize your iPhone’s look on a system mod level, but luckily there are still jailbreak-free hacks out there to taunt Apple’s need for aesthetic control.

I’m going to walk you through how to manually change app icons on your iPhone without jailbreaking. There are multiple reasons you may want to change an app icon; you think the developer’s icon is ugly, you want a retina display-compatible icon, or you just want to mess with your friend while he’s away from his phone. Here’s how you do it:

Step 1: Download iPhone Explorer (OS X or Windows)

Step 2: Plug in your iPhone over USB and open iPhone Explorer. Navigate to the app you want to change, “Phone/Apps/AppName/AppName.app”

Step 3: If you are using a retina display device, drag the “icon@2x.png” to a folder in the Finder for safekeeping. If you are on a 3GS, 3G or older iPod touch, drag the “icon.png” to Finder for a backup.

Step 4: Find the replacement icon you want to use and name it exactly “icon@2x.png” for the retina display or “icon.png” for older devices (case-sensitive). The file must be a .png file and the size must be 114×114 for retina display and 57×57 for older devices. The image must also be 72 PPI with no transparency and no layers. If you’re using an icon from a designer’s icon container, you shouldn’t have to worry about PPI or the transparency and layers.

Step 5: Delete the default icon and drag your replacement icon to the aforementioned app folder in iPhone Explorer.

Step 6: Reboot your iPhone.

You should now have your replaced icon. If you use a square image, iOS will automatically round the corners to make the icon look uniform to the rest of your homescreen. If you want to make a retina display icon for an app that hasn’t been updated yet, 114×114 is the resolution to use.

Don’t worry about bricking your phone. You don’t have root access to your device, so, you can’t make any changes to crucial elements of iOS. Just make sure to keep a backup of your app’s original icon in case you ever want to switch back.

I tried this process by replacing the default Twitter icon with the Tweetie 2 iPhone icon from Matthew Rex. I use CandyBar on OS X to manage my icons. I exported the icon I wanted to the right resolution through CandyBar.

What app icons will you be changing?

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  • Nad

    u can just do it by going into itunes right clicking the app icon you want to change go to the get info link and add whatever pic u want. then sync with ur iphone. much easier :) thx for tutorial anyways

    • Ashley

      Can you tell me how to do that, but more discriptive? I think what you are saying will work better for me. Thanks sooooooooooooo much if u can! :)

      • Tadd

        Yes pls go more in deets

    • Simon Siekierski

      no you cant

      • http://www.facebook.com/tanner.waterman Tanner Waterman

        Yes u can dumbass

      • Michelle

        you can copy the app icon but you cannot delete or edit it so no u cant

      • Estrus Wanton

        No you can’t,dumbass.

      • pravine9

        You can you dumb idiot

      • Michelle

        you can copy the app icon but you cannot delete or edit it so no u cant

    • http://www.facebook.com/bradley.paddock Bradley Paddock

      how do you do change the icons this way….nothing happens when i right click on the app in itunes under apps

  • Cojendo

    Thanks Nad. Will try.

  • http://mmplas.com Arampe

    Just fucking jailbreak , it is inevitable , free your iPhone !!!!

    • Fire

      Nice pic Arampe!

    • LOL!

      Lol pic…

    • Mariela Sepulveda

      You’re a hoe

  • http://www.flipbooth.com Lucky

    @Nad.. correct, I wonder if people did not know about this…

  • http://www.metzener.com/ Dave M.

    @Nad, @Lucky, the apps stored in iTunes Mac/Windows are compressed. They have to be decompressed in order to see the directory tree given above in that screenshot. Then it has to be re-compressed. I don’t know what compression tool would be used to do this, so editing the .ipa files might be difficult at best.

    • http://www.xshare.com Z

      @Dave M. By the sounds of it, @Nad and @Lucky know what they aretalking about. I sure am going to test it out with iTunes right now.

      @Lucky You’re right, I didn’t know. I’m not much of an iTunes user, as a matter of fact, I can’t stand it for multiple reasons. So I didn’t know it was possible.

      @Nad Thanks for the tip!

      • http://www.metzener.com/ Dave M.

        Sorry @Z, but I’m afraid that @Nad didn’t know what they were talking about. Although, to be fair, I misunderstood what “Get Info” they were referring to. Either way, you can’t change the icon of an App Store App without going into the iDevice itself and modifying it like the article describes.

        You don’t know this about me, but I’m a developer and have dabbled with Xcode and creating a few apps for the iPhone. I haven’t released anything to the App Store since they were just test apps to get my feet wet. Still, I do know a little about how .IPA files are created and stored in iTunes.

  • http://www.iphonedownlaodblog.com Alex

    @Nad- If you notice in the “Artwork” pane of the “Get Info” dialog box of an app, you aren’t allowed to add, delete, or change the icon of the app in any way. You can drag the decompressed icon .png to your desktop, but you can’t edit it in anyway in iTunes.

    As far as I know, the process I outlined in the tutorial is the only way to actually change app icons without jailbreaking.

    • Nad

      yes u are right ther i double cheked because i havent actually changed any icons i only saw the pane. i stand corrected :)

    • Nick Arlinghaus

      I can’t even find a way to do it WITH jailbreaking..

      • pravine9

        You can if you know how

  • Vik071

    All non-stock icons for iPhone have to be optimized as per Saurik. For Mac, one can use PngCrush or Img Optimizer (I beleive that those are the names).

  • Joshua Arnao

    Followed instructions and the icons came out undersized. Help?

  • Joshua Arnao

    Icons exported from Candy bar too.

  • http://grahambirdsall.com/iphone/ Jake

    Trying this out very soon!

  • http://tiny.cc/mialazar Mia Lazar

    NIce tutorial I like those step by step articles.

  • Justin

    I just keep waiting for the iDB icon to finish loading, but it never does.

  • xMort

    I want to change YouTube icon. The stock one is horrible. I don’t know why they don’t use icon with logo (similar to Facebook, etc.)

  • Ponycrest

    I changed all icons in my iPhone, looks very unique and I love it the way it’s now.

    Thank you fir the tutorial !

  • http://www.iphonedownlaodblog.com Alex

    @Joshua- Are you on an iPhone 4 and using the non-retina display dimensions?

    If you are using the correct resolution, I still noticed that that can happen occasionally. The only thing I can recommend is to try exporting the icon again in CandyBar with a slightly higher resolution until the app is no longer undersized on your homescreen. The dimensions I gave in the tutorial should be right.

    • Joshua Arnao

      I am on a iPhone 3G and was exporting the same icons you mentioned from Candy Bar,increasing the resolution doesn’t help,tried already.

  • http://www.iconspedia.com IconsPedia

    Great tutorial, My iPhone has some brand new icons :)

  • datrossboi

    will someone make a download for a good facebook icon on cydia please

  • Br00gl3

    what about the default youtube icon? i am on iphone 4 fw 4.1 jb and cannot find the right path to change this icon. /Application/Youtubemobile.app/icon.png or icon@2x.png don’t make any changes.

  • janne

    the standard apps won’t show in iphone explorer with my iphone 4. Just the new ones I downloaded

  • Sarah

    Oh you are a lifesaver! Seriously, until now I’ve been paying for apps with nice icons, even if there’s an app just as good and free, purely ’cause I don’t want to taint my pretty iPhone with ugly app icons. This is also great as a lot of really popular apps still don’t have retina display optimised icons yet and I’ve got a bunch that are fuzzy and nasty looking!

    Made my day!

  • http://gonis.me zjg

    Just so you know, iPhone Explorer won’t let me drop files into my phone on a PC, but on my Mac it works beautifully. I changed my Twitter for iPhone icon to the Tweetie2 icon. Thanks Alex! @zjg

    • http://www.facebook.com/bradley.paddock Bradley Paddock

      I guess im not understanding the method….
      I have a Mac and i still cant get the icons to change for me…
      any help would be great

  • darknight29

    is there program that lets PC users do this

    • W/e

      Probably not :/ If you want the full benefits of Mac, guess you have to go Mac all around. They are biased like that, which sucks.

  • darknight29

    searching for hours

  • Mira

    where do you get the icon.png thing from??? thanks before =)

  • Anonymous

    I’ve tried this so many times and cannot get it working. Is there a reason why the iphone 4 would not work with this. It’s a little annoying.

    • http://twitter.com/KYwoodall Kyle Woodall

      I can’t get this to work either… I have swapped the icon@2x.png for another 114×114 and 72 ppi. When I go into the iExplorer and look, it shows that file as my new one even after restarting phone. But on the phone, the old app icon is still there. Using iPhone 4 with newest iOS. Any ideas?

      • jjademariie

        Same exact thing is happening to me.

      • W/e

        I’m pretty sure that is not the correct pixel size…I think its supposed to be like 152 x 152.

    • http://www.facebook.com/pauline.dobson.1 Pauline Dobson

      I have tried this with my iPhone 5 on a PC and it wont even delete the existing icon, the PC version doesnt have the buttons on the screenshot you have above, so I cant refresh, I cant view the actual picture of the icon to see what it looks like to tell if it has been replaced or not. Nothing works

  • jjademariie

    This is not working for me!
    In iExplorer it shows a changed icon but on my phone it is the same default icon that it was before. Please help

  • Nick Arlinghaus

    This isn’t working with my iPod, but I’m wondering if it will if I change the “iTunesArtwork” file to my custom icon, it will work. But iTunesArtwork doesn’t have a file extension, or dimensions.. Anyone know what file extension that’s in and/or dimensions?

  • http://www.facebook.com/pauline.dobson.1 Pauline Dobson

    This is still not working for me. So frustrating. iExplorer on PC doesnt have the same buttons as you image above. It seems to hang on Loading the icon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pamelagibsondesigns Pamela Weiss

    is there a way to change the stock icons like mail and phone and messages?

    • W/e

      Some stock icons you can change, like iMessage, Phone, and Navigator (I found out via Cocoppa) but others I haven’t been able to change like Calendar and videos. I tried to use iExplorer to see if I could access the images for them and I couldn’t find them. Another problem I was thinking about is how would you customize your calendar icon and still get it to change the date everyday? Also, iExplorer is not free.

  • Cristal

    I downloaded iExplorer but I can’t open it. It won’t let me… ? Help, please !

  • W/e

    Well I’ve been searching on how to do this for a while. I already heard about the program somewhere else. I still haven’t found out:
    1) A FREE program like iExplorer
    2) A FREE program like iExplorer that is PC-friendly
    3) A FREE program like iExplorer that is PC-friendly that lets you change stock apps (iMessage, Phone, Safari, etc.)
    4) How to change the calender icon and still have it change dates.

  • lol

    it updated so you can’t anymore