OS X: Using Icons from System Preferences

I’ve written a tip before about how to grab high-quality application icons from your Mac if you need, say, the iPhoto icon for an article, sending instructions to others, or what have you. But what if you want one of the icons from within System Preferences? I mean, you could take a screenshot if you really had to, but that ain’t the prettiest way to go, especially if you need a larger size.

Here’s what you should do instead. Open Finder first and choose Go> Go to Folder from the menus at the top of the screen (or press Shift-Command-G). Then copy and paste the following path in the box that’ll appear: 


Like so:

When you press “Go” and collect $200…I mean, when you arrive at that folder, you’ll see all of the familiar icons from System Preferences, and you can follow similar steps to open and use those as I discussed in the previous article. So for example, to grab the Time Machine icon you’ll select that item from the Finder window first.

Afterward, press Command-C (Edit> Copy) to copy its icons to the clipboard. Then launch the Preview application and press Command-N (File> New from Clipboard). That’ll pop all of the sizes of those big beautiful icons into a new document, where you can manipulate or export them in many different ways. 

As I mentioned before, my favorite thing to do is to select the size I want to use from the thumbnails in the sidebar and press Command-C. Then if I press Command-N again, I’ll get a new file in Preview with just my selected size.

Aw, lookit the cute little fella.

Finally, keep in mind that if you’re looking for a third-party System Preferences icon (like Adobe Flash), those don’t appear in the same place as Apple’s default ones. They typically live within /Library/PreferencePanes instead of /System/Library/PreferencePanes, and you may have to right-click on one and choose “Show Package Contents” to sift through and find the icons (which are usually in a subfolder called “Resources”). Whew!

In some cases, though, the preference pane icons that third-party vendors use aren’t as high-quality as the ones that Apple provides, so it may be easier to get the files from the developers’ websites if you need to refer to their products. OK, OK, I may be a little obsessed with using pretty images, but really, what is life about if not impressing people with gorgeous instructional icons?

You’re impressed with my System Preferences> General icon, right? LOOK AT IT.