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General guidelines of icon design

1. Approach Icon Design Holistically
Icons act within graphic interfaces. Whether they are created for desktop applications or Web sites, an icon is one of a variety of visual elements that have to work together harmoniously. Carry this logic across icon sets as well. Icons can contribute to the project by their aesthetic solutions individually, but they can not function alone. Judge your icons relative to the graphic system you're using them in. Make sure that each icon is different from surrounding images, while still acting in union as a whole.

2. Consider Your Users
You will need to make various considerations if you're designing an intranet for a private company, rather then fora product that may be distributed internationally. When developing icons, social considerations are vital. Symbols may vary for common elements you may use in your designs.

3. Design for the Size the Icon will be Used At
If you go vector and create your images in Illustrator, there is strong temptation to scale the image, and try to use it at all the sizes. This can't be done with icons. What looks good at 512px will be a messy smear at toolbar sizes. Icons should carry a base design that is used as a starting point, but each produced size needs to have its own modified design.

4. The Icons Should Remain Simple and Iconic
With all the new OS now promoting icons that can be resized to large sizes (512px by 512px is gigantic for an icon), the temptation grows to get illustrative with your designs. While a level of photographism can add interest to an icon design, it should not supersede its ability to function clearly and efficiently.

5. Cast Consistent [Lighting, Reflections, and Shadows]
It's vital that the realism you add to your images all function in the same way. If you apply a spot light coming from one direction then stick with it. Or you will loose the consistent appearance of your icons. Also consider the light source of the design your icons will be placed in. If the lighting of the icons is contradictory with the Web site or application design you're using them in, then the whole picture will appear unrealistic.

6. Utilize a Limited Perspective
The range of perspective inside your icon set should work in union. If you have icons being looked at from directly above then stick with that. If you locate one at a specific angle, then be sure all the other icons will look good at that angle also. Imagine a photo camera being placed at a constant vantage spot and looking at all the objects with the same perspective. This helps to maintain consistency in your icon set.

7. Create Similar Icon Set Styles
Lighting and Perspective definitely contribute to the style of an icon, but there are lots other things that can contribute to the style also. If you're trying to fit your icon into a grunge-style Web site design, you'll probably be applying texture to the style of the icon's design.

 Standard Toolbar Icons

Standard Toolbar Icons

 Science Toolbar Icons

Science Toolbar Icons

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

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 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

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

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 and Windows Bitmap formats. Download it

Icon editors