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

  • 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.
    – JasonGenX
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 22:48
  • 1
    I strongly suggest people to look at this answer (it gives information on how to access the images embedded inside an ICNS file) or this one (which is a script that generates an ICNS from a single image)
    – lauhub
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 15:02

5 Answers 5


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

  • 2
    Both of those are dead links now. Any idea where they can be found these days?
    – Ky -
    Commented Mar 28, 2022 at 20:51

In 10.5+, Apple's built-in Preview.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)
  • 2
    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? Commented Mar 29, 2014 at 19:09
  • 2
    You can cut (clear) and paste. But before hitting cmd+X or cmd+V, you need to select an area with the rectangular selection tool, to act as a "target" of the clipboard operation. If you select an area alrger than the icon size, it will automatically clip to its bounds (e.g., 1024 x 1024). Commented Feb 19, 2016 at 7:19
  • 1
    This info was really helpful for visually distinguishing an app I use two versions of on the same machine. I created a desaturated icon for the legacy version.
    – Mentalist
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 7:16

EDIT: This answer is now out of date. Apple recommends using "Asset Libraries" instead of creating icns files.

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.

  • Note: per Apple, Icon Composer doesn't handle @2x icons: "Note: Don’t use Icon Composer—it can’t create high-resolution icns files." Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 20:30
  • As of XCode 8.2, Icon Composer is no longer available in Additional Tools, as it cannot create high resolution icons.
    – Till
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 8:08
  • That being the case, what does Apple recommend for such delicate work? what do THEY use for designing their icons? Commented Dec 29, 2019 at 20:54
  • @MottiShneor Icon Composer has been replaced with the xcassets system which is just a json file listing various png files and Xcode has a nice GUI to generate the json code. Any image editor that can create png files will work fine and individual employees at Apple would have their personal favourite, but Sketch has to be as close to "the" standard as you can get. In particular it has great tools for dealing with all the different pixel resolutions required for icons. Commented Dec 29, 2019 at 23:58

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.


Use web tools: 1. Create: http://www.xiconeditor.com/ 2. Convert: http://iconverticons.com/online/

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