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Icon Design

Technical {Aspects|Details} of Icon {Design|Creation|Making}

Let's {consider|discuss} {purely|strictly} technical {aspects|details} of icon {design|creation|making}

1. Lines, {angles|slopes}

One of the {most important|vital} {elements|parts} of the {composition|image} is the {framework|outline} of the object, i.e. {rough|solid} {linear marking|line|border}, which {separates|limits} the object from the {background|rest of the image}. When {working with|creating|designing} {large-scale|normal-sized} {graphics|images}, the {designer|artist} {rarely|occasionally} {cares|thinks} about {highlighting of|defining} objects with {additional|complementary} {lines|outlines}. This is {not needed|unnecessary} because of the {scale|size}: even {low contrast|non-contrasted} objects do not {blend|mix|blur} into a {single whole|one}. {Pixel|Icon} graphics is {different|other story}. Two {variants|solutions} are {possible|available}: either {foreground|object} and background colors {must|have to} be from {different|opposite} sides of the color {wheel|chart}, or the {object|foreground} {must|should} be {separated|divided} from the background by {contrast|visible} {lines|outlines} and shadows. I {would like to|will} {dwell on|discuss} lines {in more detail|deeper}.

If we {return|think} {again|more} to the {large scale|big-size} {graphics|images}, we {can note|see} that in order to {highlight|define} {contours|edges}, we can use {any|all} ({including|even} the most {complex|complicated}) angles, Bezier {curves|splines} and {borders|edges}. {In any case|Anyway}, the line will {look|appear} {ideal|perfect} {thanks|due} to anti-aliasing. When {decreasing|shrinking} the {image|graphic} {scale|dimensions} to the {size of an icon|small icon size}, situation changes {greatly|dramatically}. When {every|each} {single|particular} pixel is {equally|vitally} {important|valuable} and can {change|ruin} the {overall|whole} {appearance|look} of the {composition|icon}, anti-aliasing is {simply|just} {unreasonable|not applicable}. It {comes|means} that you {should|have to} {think about|consider} the possible line {angles|slopes}.

The {angle|slope} you {choose|select} for the line, {specifies|determines} the step {for|of} this line. {This means that|Because} {each|every} line {consists|is made} of {basic|primary} elements, the {combination|union} of which {determines|defines} its {accuracy|neatness} and {esthetics|visual appeal}.

For {example|instance}, a 18-degree {angle|slope} {consists of|contains} many {small|tiny} 3-pixel lines {connected using|combined with} a 1-pixel downshift:
Lines and pixels

This is how {almost|nearly} {every|each} line looks like. {Basic|Primary} element {followed by|with} joining {followed by|and} {another|second} {basic|primary} element. {However|Unfortunately}, not {every|each} {angle|slope} {makes the line|creates lines that look} look {attractive|neet} and not {annoying|messy}.

For example, {here are|look at} 25 and 20-degree {angles|slopes}:

It can be easily {seen|known} which line is more {attractive|appealing}. The 25-degree {angle|slope} {makes|produses} a line {containing|consisting of} {equal|even} 2-pixel {basic|primary} elements. The 20-degree {angle|slope} has a {basic|primary} element {containing|consisting} of three {lines|parts}: 3-pixel, 3-pixel and 2-pixel. The {angle|slope} is more {complex|complicated}, {thus|therefore}, {when|if} not {supported|combined} by {other|additional} visual effects, it {creates|brings} a feeling of {untidiness|messiness}: the {basic|primary} elements have contrast which is too {strong|obvious} to {escape|hide from} the human {eye|sight}.

{Here|Now} we can {come to|see} the first {conclusion|rule}. The most "{correct|appropriate}" {angles|slopes} {must|have to} make as {simple|plain} {basic|primary} elements as {possible|they can}. {Thus|therefore}, the {ideal|perfect} {angles|slopes} are 0 and 90 degrees. In {them|those}, 1-pixel {basic|primary} elements are {joined|combined} without {downshift|any shift} and {form|produce} {even|smooth} lines. Less {ideal|perfect} are {angles|slopes} which form {basic|primary} elements of 1, 2, 3 pixel with 1-pixel downshift. {Of course|Surely}, the lines {will|can} not be {even|smooth}, but the human {brain|sight} will process the {image|picture} and {present|provide} to the {user|viewer} what you {intended|meant} to show to him. Also, the {following|mentioned} {angles|slopes} can be considered {correct|acceptable} (but at a stretch): {angles|slopes} with {basic|primary} elements {consisting|made} of {unequal|different} lines shifted by more than 1 pixel.

For example:

{It is the time to|Now we can} {touch|move to|discuss} another {issue|problem}. In the {previous|last} paragraph, I {intentionally|purposely} defined {angles|slopes} with {basic|primary} elements of 1, 2 and 3 pixels as {correct|acceptable}. Such {small|tiny} lines, especially when a {large|great} {number|amount} of them is {joined|combined}, {look like|appear as} {a single whole|solid}. But what {happens|do we see} if we {increase|change} the {basic|primary} elements to 10 or 20 pixels?

Here is an example:
Low quality line

It can be {clearly|obviously} {seen|noticed} that the line {loses its|doesn't have} {integrity|solidness}. It is not a {single|continuous} line {anymore|now}; it is a {combination|set} of {several|different} lines, {located|situated} near {each other|one another}. {Hardly|Rarely} any {designer|artist} wants its {composition|creation} to look {inconsistent|that way}. {Thus|So}, we {come to|have} {the second|another} {conclusion|rule}: if you use {small|minimal} {angles|slopes}, which {make|produse} long {basic|primary} elements, it {must|has to} be {justified|reasoned} and {employed|used} with {maximum|great} {caution|attention}.

And, finally, the {last|third} {thing|aspect} I {wanted|have} to {mention|tell} about lines. I {already wrote|did write} that the {basic|primary} element {should|has to} be as {simple|plain} as {possible|it can}.

For {example|instance}, a 25-degree {angle|slope} can be {drawn|produced} in the two ({of course|sure} more of them {exists|are possible}) following ways:
25-degree angles

In the first {case|picture} the {basic|primary} element is a 2-pixel line. In the {second|other} {case|picture}, it {consists|is made} of three {lines|elements}: 3-pixel, 2-pixel and 1-pixel. The same {angle|slope} but the {image|look} is different. The {complex|complicated} {basic|primary} element {made|produced} the line {untidy|messy}.

{Such|This} examples can be {made|produced} for {almost|about} any {angle|slope}, so in your {works|projects}, {make sure|try} to simplify {as much as possible|everything}.

2. Color

It can be {said|stated} without an {exaggeration|overstatement} that the color is the {main|leading} {element|aspect} of your work; {improper|not suiting} or {badly|poorly} {balanced|matched} colors can {kill|ruin} even the {most creative|best} idea. What can we {say|write} about the color in {miniature|icon} graphics?

First, there is a {clear|certain} rule: if the {picture|image} looks {bad|poor} when {reduced|converted} to {grayscale|monochrome}, {it means|then} the colors that were {selected|chosen|used} are {wrong|incorrect}. This rule is {valid|true} not {only|exclusively} for icons but for the {entire|whole} graphic design.

Second, you will {probably|be} unable to {use|apply} {safe|common} RGB. {Of course|Sure}, you {may|can} {use|select} {internet|GIF} colors only, but this {ties you hand and foot|limits you greatly}. Gradients, shadows, {dithering|blending} and many other {tricks|effects} will not be {available|accessible} to you.

Third, try to {increase|enlarge} the {portion|areas} of "{flat|plain}" color. The more {evenly|consistently} colored {parts|areas} without {diffusion|blurring} and jumps your {composition|project|picture} has, the more {clear|neat} it {looks|appears}. {Icons|Pictograms} are too {small|tiny} and the {excess|over} usage of {special|complex} {effects|filters} makes the {picture|image} look {dirty|messy}.

Fourth, gradients. This is a {great|wonderful} {tool|instrument} which can {change|improve} the {appearance|look} of any {composition|project|picture}. {Besides|Other than} {esthetics|visuals}, gradients are {an ideal|a perfect} {way|solution} to {get rid of|abolish} the "broken line" {effect|look} (lines with too long {basic|primary} elements). But be {careful|attentive} when {using|applying} them {since|because} too {many|much} gradients can {kill|ruin} the {flat|plain} color, and be {unable to fit into|not suitable for} the gif palette.

Fifth, shadows and {flares|highlights}. All {rules for|aspects of} {applying|using} {shadows|shades} and {flares|highlights} in icon {design|creation|making} are {completely|totally} {identical|the same} to the {rules|aspects} of the {general|overall} graphic design. The only {thing|ine} I {would like|have} to {note|mention}: {draw|create} everything {by hand|yourself}. Don't {use|apply} {filters|effects}, make all {shadows|shades} and {flares|highlights} in a {separate|different} layer and {then|after that} edit {its transparency|the opacity}. {When|If} {using|applying} {filters|effects}, you {almost never|rarely} {know|can predict} what {the result will be|will it look like}. It is {bad|unfavorable} when you {don't|can't} control the {process of creating|making} of a {composition|project}. It is {worse|awful} if you {don't|can't} control it {when|if} {drawing|creating} {miniatures|icons}.

And, {finally|lastly}, sixth. {Nuancing|Tinting} is the {key|main} {aspect|detail} of {icon|pictogram} {design|creation}, which {greatly|largely} {affects|results} the {visual|esthetic} {appearance|look} of the {composition|project|image}. {When|If} the {blue|green} human eye in the {picture|icon|image} {has the size of|is sized} 1 pixel, increase the color {saturation|intensiveness}. For {example|instance}, instead of 0, 131, 159 {make|choose} 71, 195, 242. It {doesn't matter|is indifferent} that the human eye {can't have|never has} {this|such} color; in the first {case|example} it will {look|appear} like a gray dot, {but|and} in the second {case|example|one} it will {really|definitely} be a {blue|green} eye.

{Thoroughly|completely} control the {picture|image}, do not {allow|let} the {optical|visual} {illusions|tricks} to {spoil|ruin} your {work|design}. It is {OK|acceptable} if {something|objects} is not {consistent|perfect} {from the technical point of view|technically}, but the {entire|whole} {composition|image|picture} must be {perfect|flawless}.

As an example, I {pictured|drew} the {packet|pack} of juice {standing|located} {in front of|before} me. The {picture|image} has {flat|plain} color, gradients with broken lines, {shadows|shades} and {flares|highlights} and {nuances|tints}.

3. {Font|Text}

If I {wrote|talked} about something {other|bigger} than {icon|pictogram|miniature} {design|creation}, this {chapter|part} wouldn't fit into {an entire|a whole} book, but the {size|resolution} of {compositions|pictures|images} {restricts|;limits} fonts too.

The {size|resolution} of {letters|symbols} {becomes|is} the {main|leading} {issue|aspect} as opposed to their {beauty|look|fineness}. {Almost|Nearly} in {any case|all cases}, {unless|only if not} the letters are the {primary|main} part of the {composition|project|image}, the {font|text} size {must|has to} be {decreased|reduced} to the {largest|greatest} extent possible.

In {principle|general}, {almost|virtually} any {design|graphic} {studio|company} has its {own|unique|exclusive} font with {little|small|tiny} {characters|letters}. {Such a|This} font can be {created|crafted|made} in {several|a few|a couple of} hours. You can {browse|search} the {internet|web} and {collect|make} your own {collection|library} of very {interesting|nice} fonts. {First of all|Primarily}, I {would recommend|advice} you to {download|get} the DS Pixel and Seventen 7Vedi {website|webpage} {as well as|and} the {entire|whole|complete} {series|set} of fonts from the Lakmus Lab website.

If you don't {need|want} a new font, {small|little|tiny} {typesizes|sizes} of Arial and Verdana {may|will} {do|work}. As a last {resort|option}, you can {draw|create} the {necessary|needed} {letters|characters} {yourself|by hand}.

There are {not many|quite a few} rules there. First, {letters|characters} cannot be less than 5 pixels high or less than 3 pixels wide.



Second, letters {cannot|should not} use anti-aliasing. It {transforms|turns} the {text|font} into an {incomprehensible|unrecognizable} {mixture|set} of pixels.

{Though|However}, there are no rules without exceptions and the 5-point Arial {looks|appears} {rather|perfectly} {readable|understandable}.

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