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The software for editing icons needs to run on OSX Lion.

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I found a windows application claiming to do *.icns file, but it would be really humiliating to revert to Windows to edit Mac icon files because no software is available for mac that I could find. –  ron M. Feb 16 '12 at 22:48

5 Answers 5

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Is depends on the kind of editing you need to do. icns Editor is on the App Store. Maybe this one too?

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

In 10.5+, Apple's built-in Preivew.app lets you do edit .icns files!

(Preview used to be pretty bare-bones back in 10.2 days, but with every OS release it has gotten more and more powerful.)

After opening the file, use the up/down arrow keys to switch between the different sized icon and bitmask images contained in the .icns file.

Then with each image you can:

  • Cut/Copy/Paste
  • Annotate (draw rectangles, add text, lines, arrows, ...)
  • Change transparency
  • Scale
  • Adjust color (saturation, tint, sharpness, etc)
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I can't figure out how to Paste a single image over an icns file opened in Preview on 10.9.2. Paste is never enabled. Does that still work for you? –  Thomas Tempelmann Mar 29 at 19:09

Apple provides Icon Composer as part of their free developer tools.

This is the only officially sanctioned way to create icns files. Most other editors don't support all the possible features.

The idea is you create a png file for each size you want, then create an icns file in Icon Composer, and import your various png files into it.

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Note: per Apple, Icon Composer doesn't handle @2x icons: "Note: Don’t use Icon Composer—it can’t create high-resolution icns files." –  Clay Bridges Feb 3 at 20:30

I would think that the program Opacity would be a good place to start for designing icon art as well as all manner of math and code drawing options.

It was designed from the ground up to do vector drawing and output many sizes of a master drawing as needed for icons to work well. Due to both limited resolutions for small icons as well as beefy artwork scaled up for resolution independence, the layers and tools work well.

The free trial should let you know if the tutorials and help on building icons is suitable for your skill level and needs.

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