(Pocket-lint) – Let’s say a holiday is coming up – like, Halloween or Christmas – and you want your iPhone to look all spooky or festive. To achieve that, did you know you can do more than change your wallpaper to an image of a ghost or a witch or Santa with his reindeer?
There was once a time when Apple wouldn’t let its users customise the home screen. But the company is much more lenient these days. You can completely control the aesthetic of an iPhone, like by changing your home screen app icons to custom ones and by using widgets. If you want to get super spicy, you can even add a video clip of something to your lock screen. It’s simple to do.
To get started, you need an iPhone, of course, and it needs to be running the latest version of iOS.
How to make custom app icons and add them to your iPhone home screen
Get your thinking cap on – because this one requires some creativity.
1. Trim your apps
Before getting started, trim the number of apps on your home screen. Too many apps can look cluttered. Plus, if you want to change the icon for every app on your home screen, it’ll take less time if you only have a few. To remove an app, hold down on one, select Remove App, and confirm. You aren’t deleting it off you’re phone; just swipe from right on your home screen to find it in the App Library, or you can pull down on the home screen to search for it. Apple has a support page with extra information and tips about how to neatly organise your home screen and make perfect use of the App Library.
2. Find app icons to use
Once you have a select few apps on your home screen, go find some photos on the internet or in your camera gallery that you want to turn into app icons. On Etsy, sellers offer thousands of themed icon packs you can buy and download online in a matter of seconds and for super cheap. There are also apps (like Color Widgets) and websites (like Flaticon) that offer free icons for you to download and use. Or, you can use a photo you took and saved. If you’re going for an aesthetic, stick with a theme. Those of you going with Halloween, for instance, could try pics of bats, witches, etc, for icons.
3. Make app shortcuts
Open Apple’s Shortcuts app. It’s a pre-installed app, so there’s no need to download it.
You’re going to use Shortcuts to replace the app icons on your home screen with all the icons and photos you curated in step two above. You just create a shortcut for an app and then add it to your home screen. It will look like an app and work like one – but it’ll have the custom icon and name you gave it.
In the Shortcuts app, follow these steps:
- Tap the + in the corner.
- On the new shortcut pane, tap Add Action.
- In the menu that pops up, search for and select Open app.
- On the new shortcut pane, tap on ‘App’ to select the app you want to open.
- Click the drop-down at the top (next to Open app) to access the details pane.
- On the details pane, tap Add to Home Screen.
- On the preview pane, tap the shortcut name field (under Home Screen Name and Icon).
- Delete the words “New Shortcut” and enter a new name for the app.
- Perhaps use the name of the app you’re trying to open (like “TikTok”).
- Now, tap the icon next to the shortcut name (again, under Home Screen Name and Icon).
- In the edit icon menu that pops up, select Choose photo.
- Your photo gallery will pop up. Select a photo you want to use as an icon.
- On the preview pane, tap Add.
- Now leave Shortcuts and look at your home screen to see the result.
- You should see the app shortcut you created with a custom icon and name.
- Remove the original app from your home screen so it doesn’t show both apps.
Now repeat all the steps above for every app you want to change on your home screen. Again, if you’re going for an aesthetic, stick with a theme.
Note: With the Shortcuts app, you can get extra creative. You can make custom shortcuts or use Apple’s starter shortcuts and save them as “apps” to your home screen – with their own icons, too! The idea is, with a quick tap on the app shortcut you’ve made, you can open a specific YouTube video or message your partner on Snapchat or launch Shazam. The possibilities are endless. You can really go overboard creating app shortcuts and icons for everything.
Apple has a support page with extra information and tips about how to use the Shortcuts app to maximise your iPhone experience.
How to make custom widgets and add them to your iPhone home screen
There are several apps in the Apple App Store you can use to create a widget and add it to your home screen. Widgetsmith and Color Widgets are both popular examples. With them, you can pin a small, medium, or large photo to your home screen. For instance, if it’s Halloween, add a pumpkin photo.
For the purposes of this guide, we will tell you how to easily use Color Widgets because it has a better UI than Widgetsmith, in our opinion.
- Open Color Widgets and go to the Widgets tab.
- You will see premade widgets under Discover.
- Tap on one and select Edit Widget.
- You can then set a specific style.
- Try tapping on Add Photo to change the photo, for instance.
- In the photo gallery that pops up, select a photo and confirm the crop.
- On the customise screen, you can add a theme and font and border color.
- When done customising, tap Set Widget.
- You may be asked to replace an existing widget or Set as a New Widget.
- Now, leave Color Widgets, go to the home screen, and press down in an empty area.
- Tap the + in the corner.
- Search for the “Color Widgets” widget.
- When it opens, go to the size widget you want to add and then select Add Widget.
- It will then be added to your home screen.
- You may need to edit your widget later. If so, hold down and tap Edit Widget.
- Select the widget you intended to add to your home screen.
Note: There are caveats to widget customisation apps. For instance, many of them cost money to use after their free trial expires. They also add their name to the widget on your home screen and either don’t allow you to remove the name or they make you pay extra to do so. Finally, the widgets themselves are often very limited. They can be a photo that opens to the widget customisation app, they can be a clock or calendar, and not much else.
How to make a video wallpaper and add it to your iPhone lock screen
You should probably also change your iPhone’s home screen to finish the aesthetic makeover you’re trying to achieve. Don’t know how? Apple has a support page with more information, but here’s the quick version: Go to Settings on your iPhone, tap Wallpaper, then select Add New Wallpaper. Easy peasy.
Those of you who want to go a step further should also change your lock screen to something more on theme. You could even go all out and use a video wallpaper (or “Live Photo”, as Apple calls them). These are GIF-like wallpapers that move when you press down on the screen. Neat, right?
Check out our guide to learn more: How to turn any video into a live wallpaper for your iPhone lock screen
Is there an app or service that will do all this for you?
Yes, actually. Search “home screen” in the app store. You will see apps like Brass, Aesthetic Kit, and Themify that allow you to quickly and easily change your home screen and lock screen aesthetic. This guide explains how to do it yourself. Doing it yourself gives you way more customisation options and allows you to be more creative. But if you don’t want to put too much time or effort into it, use an app.
Want more help?
Pocket-lint also has a roundup of some of the best iPhone wallpapers.
Writing by Maggie Tillman.