How to Create a Desktop Icon in Photoshop

By Aurelio Locsin

Desktop icons are a compact and colorful way to identify programs. They are typically defined by the software company and placed on your desktop after you install a program. What if you don't like the icon, or it doesn't match the theme you've chosen? Photoshop offers an easy way to create icons of your own. These procedures use Photoshop CS2 on Windows XP. Details vary depending on your program version and operating system.

Creating the icon

Step 1

Choose "New" from the "File" menu. The "New" dialog box appears.

Step 2

Options for the new document

Enter a width and height of 128 pixels each and a color mode of "RGB," and choose "Transparency" in the "Background Contents" drop-down.

Step 3

Enter an icon name, which in this example is "Typing." Click the "OK" button to close the dialog box. The "Document" window appears with an area that is 128 pixels wide by 128 pixels high.

Step 4

Background showing through transparent areas of picture

If needed, enlarge the window to a more visible size with the "Zoom" tool. Draw or insert a picture to use as an icon. Select and delete any parts of the picture that you want to make transparent. This example uses a cartoon typewriter.

Step 5

Choose the "Save As" option from the "File" menu. Choose "ICO (Windows Icon)" from the "Format" drop-down. (If this option does not appear, you need to install an ICO plugin as described in "Tips.") In this example, the file name becomes "Typing.ico." Click the "OK" button to save the file.

Applying the icon

Step 1


On the desktop, right-click on the folder or program icon you want to change and choose "Properties." The "Properties" dialog box appears.

Step 2

Click the "Customize" tab and the "Change Icon" button. The "Change Icon" dialog box appears.

Step 3

New icon

Click the "Browse" button and navigate to the "ico" file you created. Click the "Open" button. The new icon appears in the "Change Icon" dialog box.

Step 4

Click the "OK" button to close the dialog box. Then, click the "OK" button in the "Properties" dialog box. The new icon is applied.