How to customize your app icons with the Shortcuts app
With iOS 14, one of the most significant changes was the ability to customize Home screen app icons without the need for a jailbreak. However, this is not done natively but through the Shortcuts app. If you weren't aware, the Shortcuts app can be used for many things, such as automations and other valuable tools, to make your life easier. But one of the most popular use cases for it is definitely customizing your favorite iPhone's aesthetic. It may not be on the level of Android, but it's one step closer.
If you want to personalize your best iPhone or iPad to suit your tastes, then you'll want to customize those app icons with the Shortcuts app. The process is a little tedious, but the results can be well worth it, depending on how bad you want to customize. Here's how to do it in iOS 15.
Don't forget to check out our guide on getting started with Shortcuts for even more possibilities.
How to download an icon pack to your iOS device
The first step to customizing your iOS 14 app icons for a "pleasing aesthetic" Home screen is, well, downloading an icon pack on to your device. If you want some ideas, I highly recommend the Depths icon pack, which is the one that I'm currently using. You can also find plenty of other themes and icon packs that others use on r/iOSsetups if you want inspiration. However, keep in mind that some icon packs may be available for free, but others need to be purchased first before you get access.
- Find a download link for the icon pack you want to purchase or download.
- Click the download button.
- In Safari, tap on the Downloads icon to check the progress.
- By default, any downloads from Safari will be found in the Downloads folder in the Files app (under iCloud Drive).
- Locate the folder with your icons in the Files app to view your icons. I recommend taking a look first so you know what icons are available to you.
How to customize an app icon in Shortcuts
Once you have your favorite icon pack downloaded, it's time to start customizing your iOS 14 Home screen pages however you'd like. Here is the basic process for changing one icon (repeat these steps for however many app icons you want to customize).
- Launch the Shortcuts app on your iPhone or iPad (if you don't have it installed, make sure to download it (opens in new tab) first).
- Tap the New Shortcut button (+) in the top right.
- If you see Open App appear under Next Action Suggestions, tap it to skip to step 7.
- Tap Add Action.
- Under Categories, tap Scripting.
- Under Apps, tap Open App.
- Tap App and select the app you want the shortcut to open.
- Tap the More button at the top (it's blue with three sliders).
- Under Details, tap Add to Home Screen.
- Tap the text field to give your Home Screen shortcut a name.
- Tap the icon to bring up a menu.
- Tap Choose File.
- Locate and select the custom app icon that you want to use.
- Tap Add.
- Your custom app icon will now appear on the Home Screen, but you're not done quite yet.
- Back in the Shortcuts app, tap Done to close out the Details/More menu.
- Make sure to give your shortcut a name in the Create Shortcut screen.
- Tap the X button in the top right corner to save.
- Repeat steps 2-18 for as many icons as you need.
When you have all of your necessary app icons changed, you can now rearrange them as you see fit. For even more personalization, you can check out the best home screen customization apps for widgets and take it a step further.
Just be warned, once you open your apps with these custom shortcuts, you will see a banner at the top for a brief moment indicating that you essentially launched a shortcut. This is just how it is right now, unfortunately, but at least it goes away by itself after about three seconds, or you can now swipe it away immediately if you prefer. However, it's still a big step up from the previous version, which launched the Shortcuts app first before taking you to your actual app.
However, it seems that this will be changing in iOS 15.4 and beyond, which is currently in beta. With iOS 15.4, there will be an option to turn off banner notifications for Shortcuts automations.
Create your own aesthetic Home screen
As you can see, customizing your app icons in iOS 15 is not too hard, but it can be tedious depending on the number of icons you want to change up. Still, it's a relatively straightforward process, and I'm glad that Apple is starting to open up a little about customization. Hopefully, we can get a way to change app icons natively in future versions of iOS.
Get the best of iMore in your inbox, every day!
Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.
When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.
I've always found it to be just like Android, ie only skin deep. Unless you have a phone from someone like Samsung or Huawei that lets you alter all the icons at a system level and apply themes then altering the homescreen only alters the homescreen. I mean, go ahead if you want to but be aware that the illusion of all those black icons (or whatever) will be broken as soon as you load up the app switcher or Settings. It would be great if Apple did support system-wide icon packs but given this is the company that used to require a crowbar solution like Candybar on the Mac and still doesn't support 3rd party watchfaces we may be in for a long wait.