Logo Symbol Icons HomeDownloadsBuyContact  
Icon Design

Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and structure.

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


Icons, that are used in a recently created Windows Vienna are very like Windows Vista graphics. They are created using the same structure and schemes.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Major changes in icons' appearance can be seen in Windows Vista and Vienna interface even at first sight. A typical detail of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, created in a more strict but still and more beautiful way. Glass highlights and defined colours make icons appealing for eyes, not annoying in continuous work and multiple viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Objects used for metaphors are crafted in hi- tech style and look more current.
  • Degree of rotation and volume make image alive.
  • Objects' angles and edges are neat and rounded.
  • All items face a source of light now (with additional diffused lightening all around)
  • Falling shadow brings contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and gives stylish look.
What is updated in Vienna style icons?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Since icons are symbolic images and not images of certain items, in interface they fit even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images illustrate what applications the object is related to.
  • Toolbar icons contain fewer details and appear more plain for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have biggest size 256 x 256 and it makes them useable for high resolution screens. To display icons on such screens in scaled size, saving the quality, large images are required.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Standard 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 buttons, toolbar or compact pictograms only, maximal size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to make interface icons for software running only under Windows Vienna in the following sizes:
  • 256 x 256 px
  • 32 x 32 px
  • 16 x 16 px
Microsoft states that intermediate sizes between 256 x 256 and 32 x 32 are unneeded 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 smaller sizes, program's change of resolution makes the image of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is needed. Programs of size changes unfortunately are not perfect and its better to put 48x48 image into your icons to have less perversion.

If you want the icon to be completely compliant with not only Windows 7 but older Windows releases as well, you will need to make the icon containing corresponding images (all - with three types of colour depth).

Completely compatible (with Windows XP and older releases) icon must have following sizes: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

We do not recommend to include 24 x 24 resolution into your icons (except toolbar), as this size is not necessary. Furthermore, the icon containing this size, is difficult to be compliant with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you want images for your toolbar, their size is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour options of Vienna graphics.

Windows Vienna understands 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are reserved for image and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This enables icons to present semitransparent elements and smooth edges, no matter of the background they are at.

Standard Windows Vienna icons contain three levels of color depth 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 icons need 32-bit colour depth.

If you want your icons to look good all the time, in situation of video driver failure for example, you will need 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 happen in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit option is not available in the icon, the colour pallet will be automatically reduced down to 16 colours, here you can see the way it will look like:
A 32-bit icon displayed in 16 colours
This is a 32-bit icon shown in 16 colours.

Vienna icons colour pallet.

Colours in Vienna graphics show material of a subject or a message (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 grouping.

Unlike former versions, items in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise images are recommended for an application icon or to display the volume items.

Following items are better when displayed non- rotated (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

Flat or angled placement of additional image in the icon is determined on what both the item and the graphic mean. Its hard to give more detailed suggestion in this case, you just have to be lead by the experience and study the way the image is understood, also if 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 potentiate the volume. In 3D and plain icons the shade is different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

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

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons contain two main distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain a grand picture 256x256
  • In original icons this grand image has PNG compression
Use of PNG file is a critical point as it makes 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and earlier versions (only compact resolution pictures will be shown).
PNG-compression is used in icons for size 256x256 px only. The compression does not affect the quality and file size is reduced in almost 4 times when transparency channel is supported and picture is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon completely compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon should be saved non-compressed. You can always add or discharge the compression, this will not change the quality. Size of the icon with non-compressed images including all common formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are better?

Quality Vienna type icons have the whole list of advantages:
  • visual recognition of program's interface is appealing
  • program's features are better presented
  • usage is more convenient , simple search and identification of software, objects and tasks
  • your aoolication's GUI is advanced , engaging and individual

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

Making of single Vienna-icons.

Picture your program with the most convenient GUI, in Vienna appearance, with unique icons that clearly present program's functions and tools thanks to proper metaphors, they get you to work with the software just because it's a pleasure to look at it. Graphics created in a style that will definitely be another world classic.
You may ask: "Where can I purchase these flawless icons, at a competitive price and not just similar 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 set of ready-made icons for use in business and personal applications and web-pages. All icons have a balanced color palette, sleek and well-rounded borders. A variety of formats and resolutions is available.

Icon Enhance your accounting or business-oriented software with instantly available professional Business Toolbar Icons. Over two hundred of wonderfully designed and carefully crafted icons picturing various financial objects and currencies are included.

Icon IconLover is our pick. It enables you to design and alter any kind of graphics needed in the program development cycle, containing icons, simple and animated cursors and interface parts - all these types of images 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 turn 256-color images into True Color icons and Vista icons.

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

Icon Perfect Icon creates icon from any image file (PNG, JPEG, BMP, TIFF, WMF and more) in few seconds. Create great icons for Windows Vista. Easily replace, colorize and save icons that Windows selects to display typical objects, directories, files.