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Basic principles of icon design

1. Look at Icon Design Holistically
Icons fit inside the graphic interfaces. If they are created for desktop software or Web sites, an icon is one of many graphic elements that need to work in unity harmoniously. Remember this logic across icon sets as well. Icons can contribute to the project by their aesthetic solutions individually, but they can not work on their own. Evaluate your icon designs relative to the graphic interface you're using them in. Be sure that every icon differs from it's neighboring images, while still working together as a whole.

2. Consider Your Users
You will have various considerations if you're creating an intranet for a private company, rather then fora product that is distributed worldwide. When developing icons, cultural considerations are vital. Symbols may differ for common objects you may use for your designs.

3. Draw for the Size the Icon will be Used At
If you go vector and create your images in Illustrator, there is strong temptation to shrink the image, and try to use it at all the sizes. This can't be done with icons. An image that looks good at 512px will be a blurry smear at 16px. Icons should carry a general 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 operating systems now introducing icons that scale to large sizes (512px by 512px is extra large for an icon), the temptation grows to get illustrative with your designs. While a certain degree of realism can add character to your image, it should not restrict its ability to function simply and efficiently.

5. Use Consistent [Lighting, Reflections, and Shadows]
It's important that the photographism you add to your icons all function in the same way. If you set a spot light coming from one direction then stick with it. Or you will loose the consistent design of your icons. Also consider the light source of the design your icons will be used in. If the light source of your icons is at odds with the Web site or software design you're placing them in, then the whole picture will appear unrealistic.

6. Use a Limited Perspective
The range of perspective inside your icon set should work together. If you have icons being looked at from directly above then keep this concept. If you locate one at a certain angle, then make sure all the icons function that way. Imagine a photo camera being placed at a specific viewing spot and looking at all the items from the same perspective. This helps to maintain consistency in your icon pack.

7. Draw Similar Icon Set Styles
Lighting and Perspective certainly take part in styling of an icon, but there are lots other factors that can contribute to the style also. If you're intending to fit your icon into a grunge-style Web page design, you'll probably be adding 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

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

Icon editors