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Get Ready Icons
Which graphic format to use for icons?


A bitmap icon (like GIF, PNG, TIFF, etc.) consists of pixel-based graphic information. Pixels (abbreviation for "picture element") are those smallest squares of color that make up your computer screen. A 24x24 pixel icon representing a red square would be comprised of 576 separate pixels, each described by little bits of numeric data in an image file. A bigger icon requires even more pixels, causing more numeric information, and thus a larger file size.
A vector image file (such as EPS, SVG, etc.) consists of geometric information. A vector file containing a red square sized to 24x24 pixels would simply contain numeric datd regarding the mathematical position of the fout corners of the square, information about the color the square is filled with, and information stationg the size of the square as 24x24 pixels on the monitor. That means our red square vector file only needs about six tiny bits of information as opposed to our 576 bits of information taken up by our red square created in bitmap.
In reality, the explanation is a bit more complex than it's described, but you see the basics: Changing the size of a vector graphic file from 24x24 to 48x48 only requires the editing of one bit of information (the size). The math does the rest. But modifying the size of a bitmap image file from 24x24 takes the addition of 1728 more pixels, resulting in a larger file size.
Thus one single vector file can represent it's image at multiple sizes, whereas a bitmap image may only accurately represent its only pre-defined pixel dimensions.
So if a vector file can scale and shrink to represent any size it needs, why do the graphic desigers use bitmap format for their creations?
If you look at the same icon, created in both bitmap and vector formats, you will notice that the bitmap one is clear and sleek, with even the thinnest lines sharply defined. While all the images that had been scaled from the vector image look blurry.
This happens because, although vector images can be resized, there is a flaw in them This flaw is more apparent at small sizes. Especially resolutions under 48x48 pixels. The flaw is that computer monitors still consist of pixels, which means they ae bitmap-based.
When you have a vector image, originally sized at 24x24 and shrink it down to 16x16, the relative proportions do not match. There's no chance you can evenly distribute 24 pixels of data into 16 pixels of space because, there's no such thing as half a pixel. So the image blurs.
There's also no chance you can evenly scale 24 pixels of information upwards into 32 pixels area. The image blures once again.
Even more, if you take that same vector image, initially sized at 24x24 and size it up to 48x48, you're now doubling the proportions. You no longer have sharp 1-pixel details. You have chunky 2-pixel lines. Size it up bigger (to 96x96, for instance) and those lines end up even thicker.
There are a few caveats: First, if you're working with larger icon sizes (say, bigger then 48x48) you're not going to notice the difference as dramatically, and you may find the results acceptable. Second, your mileage will change as you create different types of artwork. The less-detailed your linework is, the less you have to worry about this.




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Standard Toolbar Icons

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