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The most typical faults in icon creation?


#1 Too little differentiation between icons
Sometimes within one set of icons, we have icons that look similar and it is very hard to tell what is what. If you don“t see the legends, you can very easily get the icons mixed up.

#2 Unnecessary elements in one icon
The simpler and more laconic the image is, the better. It is preferable to set the number of elements in one icon to a minimum. Nevertheless, Microsoft“s graphic designers, excited by the new icon format introduced in Windows Vista, tried to go big and created over packed icons to proof worthy their over packed budget.

#3 Unnecessary elements
An icon is an image that should be easy to understand. The fewer elements it has, the better. It is better if the whole picture is relevant and not just a part of it. That means, you have to pay attention to the context of using icons.
Take the database icons, for example. The pack may look fine at a first glance, but if this application (or a specific toolbar) deals only with databases, we can (and we must) delete the unnecessary part.

#4 Non-unified style in a set of icons
It is a similar style that unites several icons into a pack. The uniting property can be any of the these: color scheme, perspective, size, artistic style or several of those properties combined. If there are only a few icons in the set, the designer can remember the rules easily. If there are many icons in the set and there is more the one designer working on them (for example, icons for a new OS), then special guidelines should be created. Such guidelines carefully describe how to draw an icon so that it fits straight into the rest of the pack.

#5 Spare details in small sized images
Progress does not stand still: GUIs have gotten the potential to use semi-transparent items, lost the limitation on the number of colors and there is now a trend towards 3D icons. But is it really all that useful? Not necessarily! Especially if we are looking at icons sized 16?16 or smaller.

#6 Overly original metaphors
Choosing what is to be shown in an icon is always a compromise between reconcilability and originality. Prior to a symbol (image) is developed for an icon it is smart to consider how it is done in other projects. Maybe the most suitable solution lies not in inventing something unique but rather in adopting the common solution.

#7 Ethnical or cultural differences not being taken into account
It is always necessary to consider the background in which your icon will be used. An important aspect here is ethnical characteristics. Social customs, surroundings and gestures can differ radically from country to country.
For instance, a mail box appears to be a great image for a ”Mail‘ icon. However, you will find all the different kinds of mailboxes in different countries. In that case, you should either make your icon represent the mailbox that is typical for the user“s country or state, or pick a more universal symbol like a post stamp.

#8 Images of real interface elements in icons
The tutorial on designing icons for Mac OS X tells us: ”Avoid using Aqua interface elements in your icons; they could be confused with the actual interface.‘ But all in vain! There still are lost of icons that can be read as a couple of separate ones.

#9 Text embedded into icons
This fault is typically seen in application icons. Clearly the first thing that comes to mind when working on an application icon is to use the application“s logo. What is so bad about the text inside the icon? First of all, it is strictly language-related and so impedes localization. Secondly, if the icon is small, it is impossible to read the text. Also, in the case of application icons, this text is duplicated in the caption of the application.

#10 Outside the pixel framework
This problem usually occurs if you use a vector editor for drawing icons. In large size the images looks stylish and crisp; but in real life the icons are small, and under rasterization anti-aliasing blurs the objects“ edges.


Icon editor ArtIcons Pro can find, extract, edit and create Windows icons in color depths up to 16 million colors. Import and export icon images, create and handle icon libraries. It supports the new icon format introduced in Windows XP (8-bit transparency). Download it

XP Icon editor IconXP can edit and create Windows icons in color depths up to 32-bit True Color. It supports the new icon format introduced in Windows XP (8-bit transparency). You can customize desktop and folder icons. Download it

Icon converter Any to Icon allows you to convert multiple BMP, JPEG, GIF, PNG, WBMP and WMF images to Windows icons in one action. It also breaks down entire icon libraries into individual icons. You can change color resolution and size to create customized icons. Download it

Icon editor and builder IconUtils is a complete icon and cursor solution. IconUtils package can edit icons and cursors, manage icon and cursor libraries, convert icons into images (in various graphic formats) and vice versa, customize Windows desktop and folder icons. Download it

Icon converter Icon to Any allows you to convert Windows icons and cursors into BMP, JPG, PNG, GIF, ICO, CUR, WBMP and RC formats. It has a wizard interface. It's simple to process multiple files at once. You can find icons and make images for use on Web pages. Download it

Cursor editor ArtCursors allows you to edit Windows cursors in color depths up to 16 million colors. You also can search files and folders for cursors, import and export cursor images and create cursor libraries for better and more efficient storage. Download it

Viewer AhaView supports all popular graphic formats, including JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, ICO, CUR, ANI, WBMP. You can browse images in thumbnail mode, view pictures full screen with zooming features, convert images to JPEG, PNG, BMP formats and manage files. Download it

Customize desktop icons CustomIcons is an ultimate tool for customizing the icons on you desktop, in Windows Start menu and many other locations. Using CustomIcons you can easily replace default Windows icons with the ones to your choice. Download it

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