Logo Symbol Icons HomeDownloadsBuyContact  
Icon Design

Graphics for Windows Vienna. Design and construction.

The most significant design detail of icons appearing in operating system Windows Vienna, construction distinctions of Vienna, Vista and XP icons, guidance to creation Vienna type icons.


Icons, that appear in a recently created Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista graphics. They are designed using identical construction and guidelines.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Significant changes in icons' design can be seen in Windows Vista and Vienna interface even at first sight. A distinctive detail of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, designed in a more strict rigorous and more fine way. Glass highlights and defined colours make icons appealing for eyes, not annoying in constant work and repeated viewing.

Key points of icons design. Details of style.
  • Objects used as metaphors are drawn in hi- tech style and appear more advanced.
  • Degree of rotation and volume make image alive.
  • Objects' angles and edges are neat and rounded.
  • All items face a spotlight now (with additional diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow brings contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are better distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and gives stylish appearance.
What is new in Vienna style icons?
  • Style is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Because icons are intuitive images and not images of certain items, in interface they fit even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what program the object is assigned to.
  • Buttons icons contain fewer details and look more flat for optimizing under smaller size.
  • Icons have biggest size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high resolution screens. To display icons on those screens in scaled size, saving the quality, big images are required.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Typical icons in Windows Vienna contain five sizes - 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 24 x 24, and 16 x 16 px. If icons are applied for menu, toolbar or small symbols only, largest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to make interface icons for applications running only under Windows Vienna in the following sizes:
  • 256 x 256 px
  • 32 x 32 px
  • 16 x 16 px
Microsoft affirm that intermediate sizes between 256 x 256 and 32 x 32 are not necessary for Windows Vienna and Windows Vista, because PNG files used in these icons is scaled with no distortion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, program's alterations of resolution makes the picture of poor quality, so a separate 16 x 16 picture is needed. Programs of size changes however are not flawless and its recommended to include 48x48 size into your icons to avoid perversion.

If you need the icon to be completely compliant with not only Windows Vienna but other Windows releases also, you will have to create the icon including corresponding images (all - with three types of colour depth).

Completely compliant (with Windows XP and former releases) icon should contain following resolutions: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

We do not recommend to put 24 x 24 size into your icons (except toolbar), as this resolution is not required. Moreover, the icon including this size, is difficult to be compliant with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you need icons for your toolbar, their size is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour options of Vienna icons.

Windows Vienna support 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are occupied by image and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This lets icons to have semitransparent elements and sleek edges, no matter of the background they are on.

Typical Windows Vienna icons contain three types of color depth for increased compliance :
  • 32- bit colour (24- bit colour ) plus 8-bit transparency channel
  • 8- bit colour (256 colours ) plus 1-bit transparency channel
  • 4- bit colour (16 colors) plus 1-bit transparency channel
Your icons need 32-bit colour depth.

If you want your icons to be good all the time, in case of video driver failure for example, you will require 8-bit and 4-bit depths (with 256 or even 16 colours only).
An icon in various colour depth

If there are 16 colours shown by your screen (this may occur in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit depth is not included in the icon, the colour pallet will be automatically reduced down to 16 colours, here you can get the way it will look like:
A 32-bit icon displayed in 16 colours
This is a 32-bit icon displayed in 16 colours.

Vienna icons colour pallet.

Colours in Vienna graphics show material of an object or a signal (if used in symbols)

  • White - paper (documents )
  • Light grey - silvery plastic (computers and peripherals)
  • Dark blue - switched-on screen (displays and other screens)
  • Light ochre - carton (folders)
  • Blue - glass (basket, lens)
  • Emerald- green - transparent plastic (special folders)
Colours showing the material

  • Red - warning
  • Yellow - attention
  • Green - permission
  • Dark blue - information
Signal colours

Turn angle and objects combination.

Not like older releases, items in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated graphics are suggested for an application icon or to show the volume items.

Following objects look better if displayed flat (like they are laying on a desk and you look on them)
  • Files icons
  • Flat objects
  • 16 x 16 size icons
Icons for rotated and non -rotated objects

Front or rotated placement of additional image in the icon depends on what both the image and the graphic represent. Its hard to give more detailed suggestion in this case, you just have to be guided by the trial and analyze the way the icon is comprehended, also when it is in a combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna icons.

Falling shadow in Vienna icons is applied to improve recognition and to intensify the 3D effect. In volume and plain icons the shadow is different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-style icons often have an outline. Its not so clearly visible as in XP-style and is not always used. Outline is nesessery to ensure understanding of an icon, no matter the background it is located at. Outline may be used only a part of an image constantly matching the design of an image securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

Review of Vienna-icon structure
Main distinctions of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons have two main distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have a grand picture 256x256
  • In typicall icons this large image has PNG extension
Use of PNG compression is a key moment as it makes 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and earlier releases (only smaller size pictures will be displayed).
PNG-algorithm is applied in icons for images 256x256 px only. The compression does not change the quality and file size is smaller in about 4 times when transparency channel is included and image is perfectly scale.

Compliance of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon fully compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon must be saved uncompressed. You can always include or cancel the compression, this will not change the quality. Size of the icon with non-compressed images including all standard formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Quality Vienna type icons have the following benefits:
  • visual recognition of application's interface is appealing
  • program's abilities are more clearly displayed
  • usage is more intuitive , simple search and identification of programs, items and tasks
  • your program's GUI is advanced , stylish and unique

To get a professional appearance of a software, Microsoft recommends you to modify the design of your mostly displayed icons, with aero style. It is also recommended to make a new design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (including icons showing type of a file). It is recommended not to use any icons in Windows 9x and earlier version style, in programs operating under Windows Vienna.

Creation of individual Vienna-icons.

Imaging your software with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna appearance, with individual icons that clearly present program's functions and tools due to proper metaphors, they get you to use the program just because it's a joy to look at it. Icons made in a style that will certainly be a new world classic.
You may ask: "Where can I order these perfect graphics, at a competitive price and not just like ones but absolute Vienna icons?"

You can do it at: aha-soft.com, perfecticon.com, 777icons.com.

Microsoft, Windows, Windows XP and/or other Microsoft products mentioned above, are either trade marks or registered trade marks of Microsoft.

Popular Icon editors
Icon Perfect Toolbar Icons is a collection of ready-made icons for use in business and private programs and websites. All icons have a bright color palette, sleek and well-rounded borders. A variety of formats and resolutions is available.

Icon Enhance your accounting or business-oriented application with readily accessible professional Business Toolbar Icons. More than two hundred of professionally designed and neatly crafted icons representing various financial objects and symbols are included.

Icon IconLover is our pick. It enables you to create and edit any kind of graphics needed in the application development cycle, including icons, static and moving cursors and interface parts - all these types of graphics can now be designed in a single program.

Icon Icon Processor is an icon converter. It makes icons from your images. It's possible to convert 256-color icons into True Color icons and Vista icons.

Icon ICL-Icon Extractor will search your files, archives, folders and all local drives for icons. It can download icons from the Internet and edit Windows icons.

Icon Perfect Icon makes icon from any image file (PNG, JPEG, BMP, TIFF, WMF and more) in just seconds. Make stylish icons for Windows Vista. Easily replace, alter and save icons that Windows selects to show standard objects, directories, files.