How to Create Your Own Picture Icon

By Tammy Clevenger

Updated September 22, 2017

Microsoft Paint can be used to create picture icons.
i paint image by Darren Nickerson from

Creating custom picture icons to associate with programs, files and folders in Windows is a fun and rewarding activity. Picture icons may be created with Microsoft Paint, a lightweight graphics editing utility shipped with all Windows operating Systems. Picture icons are small Bitmap (BMP) graphic files with the file extension of .ICO. Creating BMP images to use for picture icons is a quick and simple task with the Microsoft Paint application.

Click the Windows “Start” button and click the “Accessories” folder to expand.

Click the “Paint” program link. Microsoft Paint will launch.

Click the “File” option on the top navigation bar, and then select “New.” A new, white canvas will appear in Paint.

Drag the edges of the new canvas to measure approximately one inch by one inch on the screen.

Draw a picture, apply backgrounds and insert shapes onto the canvas.

Click the “File” and then select “Save As” from the context menu.

Click the downward-pointing arrow in the "Save As Type" drop-down box and select the “24-bit Bitmap (.bmp, .dib)” option from the list. The Paint program will assign the name “Untitled.bmp” to the graphic.

Replace the file extension with “.ico” and type a new file name for the picture icon file.

Click the “Save” button. The picture will save in 24-bit Bitmap format with the ICO file extension.

Right-click the Windows "Start" button and select "Explore" from the context menu. Navigate to the icon of the program, file or folder to change and right-click on the icon. Select "Properties" from the context menu. Click the "Customize" tab, and then click the "Change Icon" button. Click "Browse" and navigate to the new icon file location, and then select the icon.


Photos and other graphics files may be imported into Paint. Size the image and save it as an icon bitmap, just as if the image was created from scratch.


Icon images are tiny. Therefore, keep the graphics simple for icons.