Give your dock a spring clean

Stack icons
I decided it was high time I shared something creative, and with Spring in the air I thought this little tip for tidying up all those pesky dock icons seemed appropriate. So, if you use software suites like iLife, iWork or Final Cut Studio on your Mac and like the sound of spring-cleaning your bloated dock with some CS-inspired icon stacks, then read on!

The first step is of course to create your very own Adobe-Creative-Suite-inspired icons, and whilst I did this with Photoshop you can use any graphics application you like. Creating basic artwork for your own icons as illustrated in the header graphic above is actually really very easy…

  • Create a new document 512×512 pixels with transparent background layer
  • Draw a rounded rectangle centred on the canvas about 470×470 pixels filled with whatever colour you like
  • Create a new layer underneath and draw in a shadow using a soft 25px brush
  • Add your text in a layer above the rectangle and give it a touch of embossing effect

That’s it really for the template, but it needs a bit of polish. You’ve probably already realised what to do next, but to add the highlight simply create a new layer above the coloured rectangle, make a selection using the circular marquee tool (moving and scaling off the canvas until it’s in the perfect spot) and fill it from bottom to top with a white-to-transparent gradient. Next, command-click the coloured rectangle layer to select it and use this selection to mask the highlight layer – we don’t want any of the highlights to bleed over the edges of the coloured rectangle in the layer below. Lastly, change the blend mode of the highlight layer to ‘overlay’ and adjust the opacity until it looks just right. If you chose purple for your rectangle and the characters “iL” for your text layer, then your artwork will hopefully now look something like this….

iLife icon

Actually, it won’t look exactly the same, since I forgot to mention adding another layer to give the coloured rectangle some depth, and the highlight really needs feathered at either side. Hopefully though you’ve grasped the concept by now, however if you’re still struggling or got lost along the way, here’s an illustration of what’s going on in my Photoshop file to help straighten things out at your end….


See, I told you creating the artwork was easy! Even better, is that it only takes a few simple steps to turn your wonderful new artwork into an actual Mac icon. First, save your artwork as a transparent PNG file. Next, download the wonderful little img2icns application and install it – the free version is fine for our purposes here, but if you get seriously into creating icons and find it useful, I’d encourage you to support Shiny Frog by buying the Pro Version. Finally, use img2icns to convert your saved PNG into a Mac icon.

The last piece of the Spring cleaning puzzle is to actually get your shiny new icon into your dock, complete with shortcuts to your apps. Once again, it’s a very simple process and you can even skip the first step if you saved your icon as a folder using img2icns…

  1. Create a new folder on your Mac to store your application shortcuts in
  2. Using the ‘Make Alias’ command (cmd-L) create shortcuts for your chosen applications and drag them to the folder
  3. Drag the whole folder you created in step 1 into your dock (on the documents side near the trash)
  4. Once it’s in the dock, right click your icon and choose to display as a ‘Folder’ and view in ‘Grid’ format…

Dock icon options

And that’s all there is to it!

Once you’ve grasped the concept of the template you’ll realise it’s potential –  personalised icons, different colour themes, text, symbol and even 3D or photographic icons. Why not try building different icons and icon sets yourself, and if you do, don’t forget to drop me a comment to let me know how you got on!

I hope you enjoyed this little mini-tutorial and happy Spring cleaning 🙂


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