App Icon: From Sketch to Xcode asset catalog

by @ralfebert · updated September 07, 2021

Exporting the app icon from Sketch to the Xcode asset catalog can be a bit of a pain, because unlike other image assets you can't use a vector PDF here and need to export all the images in the right size. I filed a feedback report about this, so that it might have a small chance to be improved in a later Xcode version.

Until then, here is my recipe for exporting the app icon directly from Sketch into the Xcode asset catalog.

Manually via drag & drop

Sketch comes with a built in template for an iOS app icon (File » New from Template » iOS app icon). Unfortunately, if you want to drag the PNGs as exported from Sketch, you need to append a suffix ~ipad for the iPad icons (thanks @theoriginalbit for this trick).

Unfortunately, the Sketch template is currently not set up in this way. For your convenience, use AppIcon.sketch instead of the built-in template. It is set up so that you can export the icons and directly drag them into Xcode (you only need to manually assign the 1024pt app store icon):

Script to automate updating the icon

Updating the icon can be fully automated. Here is how I recommend to do it:

  1. In Xcode, use the New Group from selection to create a group in Xcode named Assets for all asset-related files:

  2. Use AppIcon.sketch as template as in the manual procedure and add it to this group so that it has a dedicated location. Do not add it to the target so it is not copied to the final app binary:

  3. Create a Makefile in the project root folder:

    Here is an example for a Makefile which uses sketchtool to automatically export the icon and updates the filenames in the asset catalog accordingly - you only need to customize the asset_folder for your project:

    .PHONY: appicon
    asset_folder = "AppIconExample/Assets/"
        curl -o $(asset_folder)Assets.xcassets/AppIcon.appiconset/Contents.json
        /Applications/ export slices $(asset_folder)AppIcon.sketch
        mv -v icon_*.png $(asset_folder)Assets.xcassets/AppIcon.appiconset/
  4. Now you can update the app icon from the command line:

    make appicon

    Why a Makefile you might ask - this might seem a bit old-fashioned. I recommend to use make to automate little scripts for actions related to an Xcode project that can be called as needed: it's easy to use and easy to discover, it's available with macOS out of the box and all the little issues one encounters when writing such scripts are very-well known and have easy-to-find solutions.