Do-It-Yourself Windows Icons

I’ve found that you can use the following procedure to create a “custom icon” for a Windows shortcut. I have a question at the end about the results:

  1. Find a picture you want in the icon, such as a logo from a website, etc.

  2. Right-click the picture on the webpage, and choose “Save Picture As”

  3. Save it somewhere on your hard disk, with the .bmp format selected.

  4. If only part of the picture is desired for the icon, go to Windows Paint, open the .bmp file, and edit and re-save the file as a .bmp.

  5. Right-click the shortcut you’re going to iconize, and in properties, go to the icon selection screen. Put the path/name of the .bmp file into the file name for the icon.

  6. Close the shortcut. The new icon appears!
    Now the problem: sometimes this works perfectly, but many times, especially when the picture had what appears to be a white background, the resulting icon has a black background, and the picture is indistinct and/or has a squashed appearance. I wonder if someone has insight into how Windows interprets a .bmp file when displaying icons (.bmp files aren’t apparently the preferred file type, since in the icon selection screen in shortcut properties, .bmp is not one of the choices, so I just sort of happened upon the fact that they work). Is there some special way that I need to save the .bmp file, or some way that I can alter them in Windows Paint so they will appear correctly? I notice in Paint that there are different formats of .bmp files, and thought that might be it, but can’t seem to find the combination of colors and/or formats that will work. And, like I said, sometimes this procedure works so well, I have to believe there’s a clever way to do this. (Request: I know that there are special programs available to make icons, and there are probably other graphics programs other than Paint that can manipulate images better, but I’m looking for a relatively simple procedure that I can do using basic Windows utilities.)


If you use the program Irfanview (it’s freeware), you can save the file as an .ico file, which would be the traditional icon format. I don’t know if this will get rid of the background problems though. Another thing you need to consider when saving your images as icons is most icons (Windows default) are 32 pixels by 32 pixels, so if you save a file that’s 48 by 32, or something that doesn’t have a 1 to 1 ratio, you’ll end up with squished looking icons.

Doesn’t it have to be a specific number of pixels wide and tall?

32 x 32

A great program is Microangelo. It lets you import other file types or just paint from scratch and saves as .ico format.

Or even easier…
Just change that file extension from “.bmp” to “.ico”.

Nothing to it!

Thanks, but I specifically asked that the solution not involve 3rd party software! (I’ve tried Microangelo, but it’s shareware…but I will try out Irfanview.) Meanwhile, I’d welcome anyone who could answer my original question. Thanks.:confused:


As abel,sailor and OpalCat point out, a Windows icon needs to be a specific size (32 x 32 for large icons, 16 x 16 for small ones). In addition, if you pick up an image off the web and save it as a bitmap, it may have a “transparent” background colour set, and you may lose that transparency information, so the background shows up when you display it as an icon. Windows Paint does have an option to set transparency, but you’d really be better off with a proper icon editor. I’ve used Microangelo, it does the job.