iPhone Home Screen Aesthetics: How to Create Custom App Icons

Thanks to the new widgets in iOS 14, iPhone users can finally customize the look of their home screens. Yes, Android owners are probably laughing at home Apple is ten years late to the party, but it’s still a big deal for lifelong iPhone users.

There are two parts to the equation. The first, as we’ve previously written about on GearBrain, is how apps can be used to create custom widgets beyond those offered by Apple and app developers. The most popular of these customization apps is Widgetsmith, which is free but paid to create a weather widget.

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The second part uses Apple’s own Shortcuts app to create a set of custom app icons. This isn’t really new to iOS 14, as the Shortcuts app has been available for a year. But its ability to change app icons has only just been realized by the majority of iPhone users.

Before explaining how to use the Shortcuts app to create custom iPhone app icons, there are a few important caveats. The first is that these icons won’t show notification badges, and the second is that tapping the icons first opens the Shortcuts app, which then quickly opens the desired app. The Shortcuts app only appears for a brief moment, but it’s there nonetheless.

This is clearly not Apple’s intended primary use for the Shortcuts app, but it works.

How to Create Custom iPhone App Icons with the Shortcuts App

First, you need to find (or create) an image you want to use as a new app icon and save it to your iPhone’s camera roll. Now follow these instructions:

  1. Download and open the Shortcuts app
  2. Tap the + in the upper right corner
  3. Tap the Add Action button
  4. Tap the search box, type “open app” and tap Choose
  5. Now tap on the three dots in the top corner and then choose the app you want to open with the shortcut
  6. Tap the Add to Home Screen button

Create App Shortcut in iOS 14GearBrain

You should now see a placeholder app icon next to the shortcut you created (which you’ll have named after the app you want to open). Follow these instructions to continue:

  1. Tap the gray placeholder icon next to the shortcut name
  2. Press the Choose Photo button and choose the image you want to use
  3. Tap Add, then Done and the new shortcut will appear on your iPhone home screen

Creating an App Shortcut for iPhone in iOS 14GearBrain

Finally, you’ll want to hide the original app so you don’t have two on your home screen. To do this (which is new for iOS 15), long-press the app, then tap Delete App, then Move to App Library.

This way, the app stays installed on your phone but its icon won’t appear on the home screen. Instead, it will be moved to the App Library listing on the right side of your home screen.

With all that done, you now have a shortcut that has the name of the app you want, but has a custom icon. When tapped, the shortcut briefly opens the Shortcuts app, but then quickly opens the appropriate app.

It’s a trick not without its limits, but – along with the new Custom Widgets – means your iPhone screen can be personalized far more than ever.

To inspire you with the style of your home screen widgets and app icons, search twitter for ‘iOS 14 aesthetic’.


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