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Custom iOS Themes – how to install new app icons

Ever wanted to give your Home Screen a real makeover? Thanks to the Shortcuts app, it’s easy to set custom icons for all your apps – but finding a cohesive batch of graphics that match your chosen aesthetic isn’t always so simple.

If you’re handy with editing or illustration apps (and have plenty of time on your hands) you could design your own icons from scratch. But considering the installation process is already quite time-consuming, we figure most people would prefer to grab a ready-made icon pack that suits their aesthetic. Here’s how to find one and set it up.

How to set custom icons

To set a custom app icon, open the Shortcuts app and press + to make a new shortcut. Add the Open App action and select your app of choice. Hit the Share button at the bottom of the screen and choose Add to Home Screen.

Here, you can type the name of the app and tap the icon preview to set a new one. Choose a photo from your camera roll to crop down to a square, then hit Add and you’re all set! Repeat for as many apps as you need and return to the Home Screen to see your handiwork.

Now you know how to make the shortcuts, let’s get back to sourcing the images we need.

Finding a theme pack

A quick App Store search will uncover plenty of apps with built-in theming solutions. The problem is that most of them are overcomplicated and expensive.

To our mind, that money is better spent purchasing individual icon packs directly from the artists who make them. You’ll find hundreds of high-quality themed collections with an Etsy search for ‘iOS icons’ including this colorful set that we’ve used in our example screenshots. We also found some nice clean themes on Gumroad for just $2.

There are plenty of free icon packs out there too, though it might take a bit more digging to find a high quality set. The r/iOSthemes subreddit is a good place to look.

Wherever you get your theme, it will almost certainly be provided as a .zip file. Download it in Safari and it should find its way to the Files app under iCloud Drive > Downloads.

Tap the file once to ‘unzip’ it, and open the folder that appears to see your images. Press the button in the top right and choose Select. Tap or drag or select all the icons you plan to use, then tap Save to add them all to your camera roll.

Now when you go to set up a shortcut as described above, you’ll find all the right images ready and waiting in your camera roll. Follow the steps above to add each one to your Home Screen via Shortcuts.

Finishing touches

Your icon pack might include transparent backgrounds, but iOS doesn’t allow icons to use transparency. Instead, you can fake the effect with an app like Icon.Luxe. Here, you’re essentially adding a background to each icon that blends seamlessly with your wallpaper.

You can also use a custom widget-maker to design Home Screen widgets that match your icon’s aesthetic. Our favorite is Widgetsmith, used below, which even in its free incarnation allows users to use custom background colors and photos.

With all that done, sit back and admire your new Home Screen! This level of customization isn’t easy, but it can be quite addictive once you get started – and such a unique look is sure to impress your friends. Enjoy!