How to Organize Your Computer With DIY Icons (Mac)

About: Hi! I'm Miz! I'm just a girl who loves DIY! Happy to create instructables and happy to help with anything I can! \(^-^)/

Intro: How to Organize Your Computer With DIY Icons (Mac)

I am guilty of not ever organizing my computer.

Ever.

Cluttered desktop, download folder, documents, etc. It's amazing I haven't lost anything... yet.

But organizing is boring. Time consuming. How to make it satisfying? Make it look nice. Really nice.

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Below you will find out how to customize the folder icons on a MacBook computer.

This Instructable can be split into two parts:

  1. If you want to use photoshop and make your own icon from scratch
  2. If you want to use an existing image as your icon

For 1, start reading from the beginning. For 2, skip to step 7.

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I'm not a professional, but I tried to make everything as clear as possible.

I hope this is useful!

If you like it, please vote for me in the Spotless Contest!

Step 1: Setting Up Photoshop Page

According to OSXDaily, a MacBook icon can be as small as 16×16 pixels and as large as 512 x 512 pixels.

To be safe, I'd go ahead and make the photoshop canvas 600x600 pixels.

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When you create the canvas, you get a white background. We want it to be transparent, or else your icon will show a white square background around it (Which, you may want. If so, go ahead and keep the color).

To erase the white, you have to get rid of the background lock.

Then, using the {rectangular marquee tool (M)}, select all (command+A) and delete.

(See the full list of photoshop tools here).

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Now you want to create a basic guideline in both horizontal and vertical directions of the canvas to help you snap images to the center of the canvas. If you don't do this, you may later find that your icon is not center-aligned to the icon space.

Go to [View] > [New Guide...] and select a horizontal line with position "300 pixels" (ignore that it originally pops up in centimeters).

Repeat for a vertical line with position "300 pixels".

Now you should see a light blue line running horizontally and vertically across the canvas to form a cross in the center.

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Finally, you have to make sure your photoshop settings are set so that anything you move actually snaps to the guides you made. For this you need to make sure two things are checked:

  1. [View] > [Snap]
  2. [View] > [Snap To] > [Guides]

Step 2: Creating Your Icon Base

Now the fun part begins: making your own icon.

I actually like to make my icons into simple words, like "UKE" for a folder containing my ukulele songs, or "WORK" for files pertinent to that.

For this Instructable, I'll show an example using the word "FUN".

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First, set up the base of the word using the {horizontal type tool (T)}.

Here, I'm just using Arial Black, because:

  1. To not infringe on copyright laws by using downloaded fonts
  2. It's a solid, thick font

Type up the word and snap it to the center of your canvas. For a 3-letter word, I recommend a font size of 60 pt, which will give you some outside space to add on decorations later.

Step 3: Creating a Scatter Brush

Now, let's create a scatter brush!

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First, make a new layer.

Then, using the {brush tool (B)}, select any type of brush you like. I'll be using a simple circle.

Now, in your [brush presets] > [Brush], you can change the settings of this brush to make it scatter-paint for you.

(If you can't find this tool, go to [Window] > [Brush Presets] to toggle the tool window)

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In general, a standard scatter brush I recommend has the following settings:

  • Brush tip shape
    • Hardness 100%
    • Spacing 30%
  • Shape Dynamics: ON
    • Size Jitter 100%
    • Minimum diameter 20%
    • Angle Jitter 100%
    • Roundness Jitter 0%
    • Flip X Jitter: ON
    • Flip Y Jitter: ON
  • Scattering: ON
    • Both Axes: OFF
    • Scatter 1000%
    • Count: 1
    • Count Jitter: 0%
  • Texture: OFF
  • Dual Brush: OFF
  • Color Dynamics: ON
    • Foreground/Background Jitter 100%
    • Hue Jitter 5%
    • Saturation Jitter 0%
    • Brightness Jitter 0%
    • Purity 0%
  • Transfer: OFF
  • Noise: OFF
  • Wet Edges: OFF
  • Airbrush: OFF
  • Smoothing: OFF
  • Protect Texture: OFF

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But of course, you can customize each as you wish! Below is a detailed description of each setting.

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1. Brush Tip Shape

Here you can see the type of brush you've chosen, and alter its size.

Hardness: Variations in clarity of bush outline.

  • High % = more defined (clear) outline of each scatter
  • Low % = more blurry (unclear) outline of each scatter

Spacing: Frequency of scatter points.

  • High % = more infrequent (less) scatter points
  • Low % = more frequent (more) scatter points

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2. Shape Dynamics

Here you can change the 'randomness' of the size of your scatter.

Size jitter: More variety of sizes you will get. The lower the %, the more uniform each size will be.

  • High % = More variety of size of scatter points
  • Low % = Less variety of size of scatter points

Minimum Diameter: Determines the range of how small each scatter point can be

  • High % = Larger size of smallest scatter point (less variety)
  • Low % = Smaller size of smallest scatter point (more variety)

Angle Jitter: Random rotation of each scatter point

  • High % = More variety of rotation of brush
  • Low % = Less variety of rotation of brush

Roundness Jitter: Extent to which your brush can be 'squashed'

  • High % = More 'squashing' (ie. if it's a circle brush, you see more ovals)
  • Low % = Less 'squashing' (ie. if it's a circle brush, you see more circles)

Flip X Jitter: Flipping the brush horizontally

Flip Y Jitter: Flipping the brush vertically

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3. Scattering

Both Axes: Allows the scattering to occur in both the X and Y directions. (I usually turn this off because if it's on, you can't draw on a spot that's empty to fill it; it'll scatter to a place different to where you click. For me, that's just inconvenient.)

Count: Frequency of scatter points

  • High % = More points
  • Low % = Less points

Count Jitter: Randomness of Count Number (ie. you will have some areas of more and some of less scatter points)

  • High % = More variations
  • Low % = Less variations

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4. Texture

Here you can add a texture (design) to the inside of each brush. Photoshop has some preset textures, but you can download more free textures online, such as here.

Invert: turning this option ON and OFF will invert the design's dark and light regions; areas with solid color will become transparent and vice versa; darker areas will become lighter and vice versa.

Texture each tip: determines whether you can see the outline of each scatter brush point

  • ON = outline of each scatter point will still be distinctive
  • OFF = scatter points blend in together

Depth: how defined the texture is

  • High % = texture is clearly visible
  • Low % = texture is faint (light)

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5. Dual Brush

This is rather like the texture, but you pick another brush to be confined within the first brush shape you pick.

Okay, let's clarify.

For example, if your original brush tip shape is a circle, and your dual brush tip is a splatter design, your scatter will show splatters confined in circles.

Modes: There are many modes. They determine the way the dual brush shades in the original brush tip. I would honestly recommend you just go through each one to see what it looks like here. Anyhow, the modes are: Multiply, Darken, Overlay, Color Dodge, Color Burn, Linear Burn, Hard Mix, and Linear Light.

The flip, size, spacing, scatter and size if for the dual brush tip, but it's the same as that for <1. Brush Tip Shape> and <3. Scattering>.

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6. Color Dynamics

This creates a variation in the color of your scatter points. The color variation will be based on the two colors you pick (foreground and background colors) to your brush palette.

Foreground/Background Jitter: the extent to which your background color can mix into the foreground color

  • High % = more of the background color visible (ie. at 100%, you will see the full range of colors between the foreground and background color)
  • Low % = only a little bit of the background color visible (ie. at 0%, you will only see the foreground color)

Hue Jitter: the extent to which the color can deviate from the foreground and background colors

  • High % = more random colors (ie. at 100%, you will see completely random colors)
  • Low % = colors similar to foreground and background colors (ie. at 0%, you will only see the foreground color)

Saturation Jitter: the extent to which the color saturation can change from foreground and background colors. If you're not sure of what saturation is, just think of it as adding in white to the color.

  • High % = colors show larger variation of saturation (ie. more 'faded' colors)
  • Low % = colors similar to foreground and background colors (ie. less 'faded' colors)

Brightness Jitter: the extent to which the color brightness can change from foreground and background colors. Imagine it as adding in black to the color.

  • High % = colors show larger variation of brightness (ie. more 'dark' colors)
  • Low % = colors similar to foreground and background colors (ie. less 'dark' colors)

Purity: okay, so this one is "the color shift towards or away from the neutral axis". I skimmed through a paper on the neutral axis here, and I'll be honest... I still don't really get it. But, I experimented and my conclusion is...

  • Positive % = colors become closer to the center of the center line of the color swatches (the 'brightest' and 'strongest' form of the color
  • 0% = foreground and background colors are just as the color you pick
  • Negative % = colors become closer to the top of the color swatches, eventually losing all color to form white

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7. Transfer

Opacity Jitter: extent of variation in opacity of scatter points

  • High % = more variety in opacity
  • Low % = less variety in opacity

Flow Jitter: extent of variation in flow of scatter points

  • High % = more variety in flow
  • Low% = less variety in flow

The difference between opacity and flow is that if you go over a stoke again within the same stroke, you can make the overlap darker if the flow is low, but you can't if the opacity is low; you'd need to make it a separate stroke. (It's more clearly explained here.)

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8. ON-OFF only Settings

Noise: If ON, it makes the edge of your brush pixelated

Wet Edges: If ON, it emphasizes the edge of your brush and reduces its flow slightly

Airbrush: If ON, it reduces the flow of your brush to allow airbrush-like building up effects

Smoothing: If ON, it enables mouse path smoothing

Preserve Texture: If ON, it allows texture to be visible despite other changes to brush settings that would otherwise make it hard to see the texture. Hence, it is only applicable if you use a <4. Texture>.

Step 4: Applying Scatter to Word Design

Now, let's scatter brush a design into the word!

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First, click on the original layer with the text.

Select the {magic wand tool (W)}, and click on each 'area' of the word.

I say 'area' because if your font has its letters connected, you only need to click it once.

In my case, the letters F, U and N are all separate, so I need to click on each of them separately.

Make sure to hold shift when you click different 'areas'.

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Now return to the new layer you previously created.

Using the color swatch and picker, select the colors you want.

Select the {brush (B)}, and draw a scatter.

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Be creative!

Step 5: Adding an Outline to the Text

To accent the words, you may decide to add an outline to the text.

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Double click on the layer with the text to open the [Layer Style] window.

Toggle ON the [Outer Glow].

To have a solid outline, change the settings to the following:

  • Blend mode NORMAL
  • Opacity 100%
  • Noise 0%
  • Color (whatever color outline you want the letters to have)
  • Technique PRECISE
  • Spread 100%
  • Size 10 px (depends on font size)
  • Quality section -- leave as preset

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Attached is the photoshop file that I used for this Instructable, with some other design ideas on a base letter "A".

Some designs are rather childish, others are interesting... please use it however you wish!

Get creative! :)

Step 6: Saving Your Icon

Command + Shift + S to save your file as a PNG format.

It is important to save it as a PNG as it will then keep the transparent background. If it's a JPEG, it will show white instead of transparent.

Then, when you save it, a pop-up of [PNG Options] will show. Leave it as the preset "None".

Step 7: Making the PNG Show As the Folder Icon

Now for the grand moment!

I will show 3 different processes here:

  1. If using icon you made
  2. If using icon from online
  3. If using image

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1. If using icon you made

Open the file with Preview.

Select all (Command + A).

Copy (Command + C).

Select the folder you want to change the icon of.

Get info (Command + I).

Click on the folder's icon on the top of the pop-up.

Paste the icon you previously copied (Command + V).

DONE!

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2. If using icon from online

Here, I'm using an icon from Creative Commons to avoid copyright problems. I will assume the icon you download has a colored background to show how to remove it.

Open the file in Preview.

Open [Markup toolbar].

Click on [Instant Alpha].

Click on the background area and drag a little bit until the background is all highlighted, then let go. The background should now be selected.

Delete.

Select all (Command + A).

Copy (Command + C).

Select the folder you want to change the icon of.

Get info (Command + I).

Click on the folder's icon on the top of the pop-up.

Paste the icon you previously copied (Command + V).

DONE!

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3. If using image

Here I am again using an image from Creative Commons to avoid copyright problems.

Open the image with Preview.

Here you can either just select all, in which case your image will be rectangular, or open the [markup toolbar] and use a [selection tool] to select a elliptical selection.

Copy (Command + C).

Select the folder you want to change the icon of.

Get info (Command + I).

Click on the folder's icon on the top of the pop-up.

Paste the icon you previously copied (Command + V).

DONE!

Step 8: Now Organize!

Now you can make the perfect folder for each group of document!

Go organize your computer's files!

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If you enjoyed this Instructable, please vote for me in the Spotless Contest!

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