Logo Symbol Icons HomeDownloadsBuyContact  
Icon Design

Graphics for Windows Vienna. Design and structure.

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


Graphics, which are used in a newly released Windows Vienna are mostly like Windows Vista icons. They are created using identical structure and guidelines.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Major alterations in icons' design can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna interface at a glance. A typical detail of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, created in a more strict rigorous and more fine way. Glass glares and defined colours bring icons appealing for eyes, not irritating in constant work and repeated viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Objects used for metaphors are crafted in hi- tech style and appear more current.
  • Degree of turn and volume make image alive.
  • Objects' angles and borders are soft and smoothly round.
  • All items face a source of light now (with additional diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow brings contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and provide stylish appearance.
What is new in Vienna style icons?
  • Style is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Because icons are intuitive images and not pictures of specific items, in interface they fit even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what applications the file 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 dimension screens. To show icons on those screens in scaled size, keeping the quality, big images are needed.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Standard icons in Windows Vienna consist of five resolutions - 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 24 x 24, and 16 x 16 px. If icons are used for buttons, toolbar or small symbols only, biggest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to create interface icons for programs running exclusively under Windows Vienna in the listed sizes:
  • 256 x 256 px
  • 32 x 32 px
  • 16 x 16 px
Microsoft affirm that interim 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 perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, automatic alterations of resolution deliver the picture of bad quality, so another 16 x 16 image is needed. Programs of resolution changes however are not flawless and its better to put 48x48 image into your icons to avoid distortion.

If you need the pictogram to be fully compliant with not only Windows 7 but older Windows releases also, you will need to make the icon including respective images (all - with three types of colour depth).

Fully compliant (with Windows XP and former versions) icon must have following sizes: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

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

Colour options of Vienna icons.

Windows Vienna uses 32-bits icons where 24 bits are reserved for picture and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This allows icons to present semitransparent elements and smooth edges, no matter of the background they are at.

Typical Windows Vienna icons contain three levels of color options for backward 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 images require 32-bit colour depth.

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

If there are 16 colours displayed by your screen (this may happen in Windows XP and lower) but 4-bit depth is not provided in the pictogram, the colour pallet will be automatically reduced down to 16 colours, here you can get the way it may appear 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 icons display 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 grouping.

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

Some objects look better when displayed non- rotated (like they are down 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 a second image in the icon is determined on what both the image and the graphic mean. Its difficult to give more detailed suggestion in this situation, you just need to be lead by the experience and study the way the image is understood, also when it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna icons.

Falling shadow in Vienna icons is used to improve recognition and to potentiate the volume. 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 expressed as in XP-style and is not constantly used. Border is nesessery to make possible recognition of an icon, no matter the background it is located at. Border may be used only a part of an icon always following the design of a picture securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons have two main differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain a grand picture 256x256
  • In original icons this grand picture has PNG extension
Use of PNG file is a key point as it makes 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and previous versions (only smaller size pictures will be displayed).
PNG-compression is used in icons for size 256x256 px only. The compression does not change the quality and file is smaller in almost 4 times when transparency channel is included and image is perfectly scale.

Compliance of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon fully compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 image in the icon should be saved non-compressed. You may always include or cancel the compression, this will not affect the quality. Size of the icon with non-compressed images including all standard formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are better?

Professionally made Vienna type icons have the whole list of benefits:
  • visual recognition of application's interface is appealing
  • program's abilities are better displayed
  • usage is more convenient , simple search and identification of programs, objects and actions
  • your aoolication's interface is advanced , stylish and unique

To get a professional appearance of a software, Microsoft recommends you to edit the look of your commonly displayed icons, using aero style. It is also recommended to make a new design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (including icons showing file types). It is recommended not to use any icons in Windows 9x and older version style, in applications running under Windows Vienna.

Making of single Vienna-icons.

Imaging your software with the most intuitive interface, in Vienna style, with individual icons that clearly present application's functions and tasks thanks to proper metaphors, they get you to use the program just because it's a joy to look at it. Graphics created in a style that will definitely be a new world classic.
You may ask: "Where can I purchase these perfect 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 pre-made icons for use in commercial and private programs and web-pages. All icons have a bright color scheme, smooth and well-rounded edges. A variety of formats and sizes is provided.

Icon Beautify your accounting or market-oriented application with readily accessible professional Business Toolbar Icons. Over two hundred of professionally designed and carefully created icons picturing different financial objects and currencies are provided.

Icon IconLover is our pick. It enables you to create and alter all kinds of images needed in the program development cycle, including icons, simple and moving cursors and interface elements - all these kinds of graphics can now be created in a single application.

Icon Icon Processor is an icon converter. It makes icons from your images. It's easy to convert 256-color images into True Color icons and XP 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 graphic file (PNG, JPEG, BMP, TIFF, WMF and more) in just seconds. Create great icons for Windows XP. Easily change, alter and save icons that Windows uses to display typical objects, folders, files.