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How to Add Non-Steam Games to Steam and Apply Custom Icons

Steam’s game management client is very streamlined if you’re only using Steam-purchased games, but it needs a little tweaking if you’re adding non-Steam games to the launcher. Read on as we show you how to add any game, application, or emulator to Steam with custom icons and artwork.

Why Do I Want to Do This?

The Steam client is a really handy way to organize your games and it works for both games you’ve purchased from Steam and games you’ve added from your own collection (e.g. a game you manually installed that isn’t part of the Steam ecosystem). The big hiccup when you do that, however, is that Steam doesn’t automatically apply their lovely icons and artwork to your game; you’re on your own to tinker around and customize the look.

This tutorial will guide you through both sides of the process: adding a non-Steam game or application and editing the artwork so that it looks good both in the windowed launcher and in Steam’s Big Picture couch-friendly interface.

Adding a Non-Steam Game to the Steam Client

The first step, actually adding the game into Steam, is the easiest. In fact, if you don’t care about having pretty icons and cover art for your collection, the whole process will take about two minutes.

Launch your Steam client. Look for the “+ Add a Game” link in the lower left hand corner of the screen. Depending on which tab/view style you’re in, your background may not look like ours in the screenshot below but the link still be there (we’re in Library -> Grid View).

Select “Add a Non-Steam Game” from the popup menu. A new window will open and you’ll see a list of your games (as well as other applications).

For this tutorial we’re adding Black & White, a fun little 2001-era title from Lionhead Studios that isn’t available on Steam (but that we manually installed). Although we’re only selecting one game for the tutorial, you can select as many games/apps as you want during this step and bulk add them all at once. Remember, what you add doesn’t need to be a stand alone game. You could also add in gaming benchmark tools you use or emulators that you load up to play other games with. Ultimately, the non-Steam game function is essentially just a shortcut menu/dashboard so any .exe can go into it.

After you’ve selected the items you want to add, click “Add Selected Programs”. At this point all the applications you added are now in Steam (albeit without icons or cover art of any sort).

Customizing Your Non-Steam Games with Icons and Grid View/Big Picture Artwork

We don’t know about you, but we love a well organized and appointed collection. Even though we have our game in the Steam client now, it’s not very pretty. Non-Steam games get generic artwork in Big Picture view, and the icon of the executable for the game in Detailed/Grid view (if the game executable doesn’t have an embedded icon file, you get a generic icon there, too). That’s the situation we ran into with Black & White; there is an icon file in the installation folder but it’s not embedded in the executable, so we get the ultra generic icon see in the screen shot above.

Big Picture view isn’t any better. Black & White isn’t a Steam title and doesn’t have custom art like all the other games, it just has a generic Steam logo. That’s annoying because the whole point of Big Picture is to easily see your games, but with the generic icons you only know which game is which by selecting the generic icon to see the title. Let’s fix that.

Before we actually start swapping in artwork, however, we need to outline what exactly you need for the different customization options. There are three things you can customize: icons (small squares, just like desktop icons) and cover art (the large tiles you see in the screenshot above, like music and movie cover art found in media organizers like XBMC or iTunes). In Steam-specific lingo, the cover art items are known as “grids”. Here’s what you need for each:

Icons: These are standard icons, you’ll need either a .exe with an embedded icon (like the .exe of the app itself, if it has an icon you want) or the icon you want to use as a .PNG  or .TGA file that’s square (e.g. 256 x 256 pixels) like a regular icon file.

Grids/Cover Art: These files are 460 x 215 pixels. You can use .PNG, .JPG, or .TGA file types.

Where can you find the right icons and artwork? Icons are pretty easy to come by, most recent games will have the icon embedded right in the .exe; a quick search in Google Images will turn up alternatives if you don’t like the icon you have or replacements for missing icons.

Grids are a little trickier as they’re such a non-standard size compared to normal DVD-type cover art. There’s a few ways you could go about it. You could make custom artwork yourself, but that’s time consuming. Fortunately if you’re short on time or Photoshop skills, there are several resources available. You can search Steam Grids and Steam Banners, two sites dedicated to cataloging fan-generated Steam Grid artwork. You can also search in Google Images and use the Size function to specify exactly 460 x 215. Finally, if you’re not having luck with that, you can hit up Deviant Art; you’ll find individual images and packs.

Now that you’ve taken a moment to find icons and Grid images for your game, it’s time to actually apply them. Let’s take a look at how the transformation works with Black & White.

With your Steam client in desktop mode (not Big Picture mode), go to your library. Switch the view to Detail View:

If you look at your freshly added game, you’ll see that it has a generic icon. Right click on on the entry in the detailed list found on the left hand side of the pane:

Select “Properties”. In the Properties menu, click on Choose Icon at the top of the window. The window will update and show you a file browser:

Here you can select an executable file to pull the icon image from or, as we have done, you can filter by image file types and select a custom PNG icon (we used the logo of Lionhead Studio). Click Open and then click Close to return to the library view. Black and White now has a custom icon:

The small icon updates are fun, mind you, but we’re sure you’re really here for the wow factor of nice Grid tiles. Let’s move onto customizing our grids. Switch your view from Detailed to Grid by clicking on the appropriate icon in the upper right hand corner.

In the grid view, right click on the entry for the game you wish to customize:

Select “Set Custom Image…” and select, via the Browse button, the image file you want to use for the custom Grid tile.

Once you’ve located it, click “Set Image”.

Back in Grid view, we see the custom Black & White tile has been applied. This new tile will appear in both Grid view and Big Picture view:

That’s all there is to it! With a little tweaking and a few minutes spent searching for some quality icons and cover art, you can enjoy the same beautiful artwork on your non-Steam games as you’ve come to expect from your Steam games.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/9/14

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