Color Schemes, Icons, Sounds, and More

Thanks to Apple’s security features, personalizing your Mac with deep system tweaks is not possible. But there are still other ways to customize your macOS desktop.

So, let’s look at how to customize your Mac desktop in seven easy steps.

1. Start With a Brand New Wallpaper

Simply swapping the default wallpaper for a background you like can make your desktop feel new again. To make this tiny change, open the System Preferences app and select Desktop & Screen Saver.

Under the Desktop tab, pick a fresh image from the default Mac desktop themes, or go with a nice solid background color. Also, don’t forget the Dynamic Desktop section—it contains wallpapers that change to match the time of the day.

You can also access your Photos library from the sidebar to set your wallpaper to a photograph you love and don’t mind seeing every day. If you want to see different wallpapers from an album, activate the Change picture box and pick a time duration, like Every 5 minutes.

2. Set Up a Custom Color Scheme

Your Mac lets you mix and match various color presets for system accents and highlights to come up with a fresh color scheme. To do this, visit System Preferences > General and pick new colors under Accent color and Highlight color. You’ll then see the updated color scheme reflected across buttons, boxes, menus, selections, and other system elements.

In the same preference pane as above, switching to Dark Mode is another tweak you might want to consider. It’s available on all Macs running macOS Mojave and later, and gives a sleek dark appearance to elements like the Dock, menu bar, app windows, and sidebars.

Since you can’t add system-wide themes to your Mac, your best bet is to activate app-specific themes. For example, if you use Alfred to control your Mac and have activated the Powerpack, you can use a custom theme to change how Alfred looks, as explained on the Alfred Support site.

3. Add Icons and Backgrounds With Personality

You can not only scale icons up or down in Finder (select View > Show View Options > Icon size from the menu bar), but also change how they look using custom icons.

When you’re browsing online repositories for icons, don’t forget to check for the ICNS extension (which ensures compatibility with macOS). PNGs and JPGs can also work as the source for icons, but it’s best to go for macOS-compatible ICNS images if possible.

To change the icon for a folder (or a file), first copy the new icon file (select and press Cmd + C). Now select the folder whose icon you’d like to replace and click on File > Get Info.

In the inspector window that pops up, select the icon at the top and click on Edit > Paste or press Cmd + V. Now your custom icon should be in place. If you’re not happy with it, select it in the inspector and hit the Delete key to switch back to the default icon.

You can even use an existing icon as the image source by copying it from the relevant inspector. For example, here’s a screenshot of the Music library folder icon featuring the Apple Music app icon.

Want to swap out the default app icons in the Applications folder for custom ones? You can do that for everything except for the apps that come bundled with your Mac. But you’ll have no trouble using the icons of system apps as sources for third-party apps. For example, you can replace the icon for your go-to third-party web browser app with the system icon for Safari.

Also, did you know that you can add a new background to Finder in Icon view? Just select View > Show View Options and pick between the Color and Picture options under the Background section.

4. Revamp the Login Screen

To personalize the login screen on your Mac, start by switching to a new user picture for your account. You can do that from System Preferences > Users & Groups. Select your user account and make sure you’re on the Password tab.

Once you get there, click on the existing user picture next to your username to swap it out for one from Apple’s default set or your Photos library. You can even replace it with a Memoji or an Animoji! Hit Save to get the selected picture in place.

Next, you might want to come up with an entertaining lock screen message. To do that, head over to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General and check the box next to Show a message when the screen is locked.

If the option appears grayed out, you’ll need to click on the Lock icon at the bottom of the pane and enter the system password when prompted. You should then be able to start editing it.

Next, click on the Set Lock Message button, type in what you want the lock screen to say, and click OK. When you restart your Mac, you’ll see the message at the bottom of the screen, right above the power options.

5. Get a Better-Looking Dock

To personalize your Mac’s Dock, you should at the very least declutter it. Remove the icons of apps you don’t use often by dragging them out and releasing them when you see the Remove icon. Then, drag your favorite apps into the Dock from the Applications folder.

You can also reposition the Dock, resize its icons, and set them to magnify to various degrees while hovering with the cursor. To access the settings for these tweaks, head to System Preferences > Dock & Menu Bar. Or, use these Terminal commands to customize the Dock.

Furthermore, instead of fiddling with the Dock, you could try replacing it with a third-party customization solution, like uBar.

6. Give Individual Apps a Makeover

Play around with the built-in settings for installed apps to add more personal touches to your Mac. For example, if you have the Slack desktop app installed, you can brighten up the Slack sidebar with a new theme.

In the Mac Mail app, change how your emails look by tweaking fonts and colors by visiting Preferences > Fonts & Colors. Plus, you can highlight individual messages by selecting them and picking a new color via Format > Show Colors.

You can also get a new skin for the Terminal via Preferences > Profiles when you have it open. Select one of the themes available in the sidebar and click on Default to set your choice as the default. You’ll need to restart Terminal for the new color profile to show up.

If you’re a dark mode enthusiast, how about enabling Dark Mode in your favorite Mac apps? Ulysses, Bear, Things, Tweetbot, Spark, and quite a few other apps support darker themes.

7. Add Custom Sounds to Mac

You don’t have to limit your personalization efforts to visual changes. How about adding a few audio tweaks too? For starters, you can pick a different system voice as the default from System Preferences > Accessibility > Spoken Content > System Voice. Next, choose a new alert sound from System Preferences > Sound > Sound Effects.

You can even set your Mac to announce the time at set intervals from System Preferences > Date & Time > Clock.

Have You Customized Your Mac Yet?

As you can see above, with a little thought, time, and effort, you can make your Mac truly yours. Once you do that, it’ll be even more of a pleasure to look at and work with. After you’ve made all those visual tweaks, why not shift your attention to making everyday tasks easier to perform on your Mac.

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