Logo Symbol Icons HomeDownloadsBuyContact  
Icon Design

Icons for Windows Vienna. Appearance and structure.

The most significant design features of icons used in operating system Windows Vienna, construction distinctions of Vienna, Vista and XP graphics, recommendations to creation Vienna style icons.


Graphics, that are used in a newly created Windows Vienna are mostly like Windows Vista icons. They are designed using the same construction and guidelines.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Significant alterations in icons' appearance can be seen in Windows Vista and Vienna interface at a glance. A distinctive feature of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, created in a more rigorous rigorous and more beautiful way. Glass glares and defined colours bring icons pleasant for eyes, not annoying in constant work and repeated viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Items used for metaphors are made in hi- tech style and appear more advanced.
  • Degree of rotation and volume bring life into images.
  • Items' angles and edges are soft and rounded.
  • All items face a spotlight now (with extra diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow brings contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and provide stylish appearance.
What is new in Vienna graphics?
  • Style is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Since icons are symbolic images and not pictures of specific items, in interface they look even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what program the file is assigned to.
  • Buttons icons contain fewer details and appear more plain for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them useable for high dimension screens. To display icons on such screens in proportional size, saving the quality, big images are needed.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Standard icons in Windows Vienna consist of five sizes - 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 24 x 24, and 16 x 16 px. If icons are used for menu, toolbar or compact pictograms only, largest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to create GUI icons for software operating exclusively in 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 needed for Windows Vienna or Windows Vista, because PNG format used in these icons can be scaled with no distortion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With smaller sizes, program's alterations of resolution deliver the picture of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is required. Algorithms of resolution changes unfortunately are not perfect and its better to include 48x48 image into your icons to have less perversion.

If you want the pictogram to be completely compatible with not only Windows 7 but older Windows versions also, you will need to create the icon including corresponding images (each - with three types of colour depth).

Fully compatible (with Windows XP and former releases) icon should have 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 graphics (except toolbar), as this resolution is not required. Moreover, the icon including this size, is difficult to be compatible 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 understands 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are reserved for picture and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This allows icons to present semitransparent elements and smooth edges, regardless the background they are at.

Standard Windows Vienna graphics consist of three types of color options for backward compatibility :
  • 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 images require 32-bit colour depth.

If you need your icons to be good all the time, in situation of video driver failure for instance, 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 displayed by your monitor (this may happen in Windows XP and lower) but 4-bit depth is not provided in the pictogram, the colour scheme will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, here you can get the way it may 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 icons display material of a subject 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

Rotation angle and objects combination.

Not like former versions, objects in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise images are recommended for an application icon or to show the 3D items.

Some items are nicer 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 angled placement of additional item in the icon is determined on what both the item and the graphic represent. Its difficult to give more detailed recommendation in this case, you just have to be lead by the experience and study the way the icon is understood, also when it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna icons.

Falling shadow in Vienna icons is applied to increase recognition and to intensify the volume. In 3D and flat icons the shade is different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons usually have an outline. Its not so clearly visible as in XP-type and is not always used. Outline is nesessery to make possible recognition of an image, no matter the background it is placed at. Border may take only a part of an icon always matching the design of an icon securing its reality.

Various kinds of outline

Overview of Vienna-icon structure
Main differences of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons contain two main differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have a grand image 256x256
  • In original icons this grand picture has PNG compression
Use of PNG file is a critical point as it makes 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and previous releases (only compact resolution pictures will be displayed).
PNG-algorithm is used in icons for images 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not affect the quality and file size is smaller in about 4 times when transparency channel is enabled and picture is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon fully compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon should be saved uncompressed. You can always add or cancel the compression, this will not affect the quality. Resolution of the icon with non-compressed images containing all standard formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Professionally made Vienna type icons have the whole list of benefits:
  • visual comprehension of program's interface is appealing
  • program's features are more clearly displayed
  • usage is more intuitive , easy search and identification of programs, objects and actions
  • your aoolication's GUI is advanced , engaging and individual

To get a quality appearance of a program, Microsoft recommends you to edit the design of your commonly displayed icons, with aero style. It is also suggested to make a modern design of all icons presented in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons showing file types). It is recommended not to use any icons in Windows 9x and older release style, in applications operating under Windows Vienna.

Making of single Vienna-icons.

Imaging your software with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna style, with individual icons that completely present program's features and tasks due to proper metaphors, they get you to work with the application just because it's a pleasure to look at it. Icons created in a style that will definitely be a new world standard.
You could ask: "Where can I purchase these perfect graphics, at a competitive price and not just similar ones but real 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 set of stock icons for use in business and private applications and websites. All icons have a bright color scheme, sleek and well-rounded borders. A variety of formats and sizes is provided.

Icon Beautify your financial or market-oriented program with instantly available professional Business Toolbar Icons. More than two hundred of professionally designed and carefully created icons representing various financial objects and symbols are provided.

Icon IconLover is our choice. It enables you to design and alter any kind of images required in the software development cycle, including icons, static and moving cursors and interface elements - all these kinds of images can now be created in a single program.

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

Icon ICL-Icon Extractor will search your images, archives, directories and all local disks for icons. It can download icons from the Internet and customize Windows icons.

Icon Perfect Icon creates icon from any graphic file (PNG, JPEG, BMP, TIFF, WMF and more) in just seconds. Make great icons for Windows XP. Easily change, alter and save icons that Windows uses to show typical objects, directories, files.