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General 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 visual elements that need to work in unity harmoniously. Carry this logic across icon sets as well. Icons can contribute to the project by their original visual appearance, but they can not work on their own. Evaluate your icon designs in relation to the graphic system you're applying them to. Be certain that every icon is different from it's neighboring icons, while still acting in union as a whole.

2. Consider Your Users
You will have various considerations if you're designing an intranet for a small company, rather then fora product that may be distributed worldwide. When developing icons, social considerations are vital. Images may differ for common objects you way want to use in your designs.

3. Draw for the Size the Icon will be Used At
If you pick a vector format and make your graphics in Illustrator, there is an inherent temptation to scale the image, and try to use it at any size. This can't be done with icons. What looks good at 512px becomes a blurry smear at toolbar sizes. Icons should carry a general design that is used as a guideline, but each output size needs to contain its own optimized design.

4. The Icons Should Remain Simple and Iconic
With all the new OS 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 level of realism can add character to an icon design, it should not supersede its ability to function simply and effectively.

5. Cast Consistent [Lighting, Reflections, and Shadows]
It's obvious that the photographism you put into your images all function coherently. If you apply a light source coming from one corner you should stick with it. Or you will loose the consistent design of your icons. Also consider the light arrangements of the interface your icons will be used in. If the lighting of the icons is contradictory with the Web site or application design you're using them in, then the design will appear amateurish.

6. Utilize a Limited Perspective
The range of perspective within your icon pack should work together. If you have icons being looked at from straight ahead then stick with that. If you place one at a specific angle, then make sure all the icons function that way. Imagine a camera being placed from a constant viewing point and looking at all the objects from the same perspective. This helps to maintain consistency in your icon pack.

7. Design Similar Icon Set Styles
Lighting and Perspective definitely take part in styling of an icon, but there are many other factors to consider also. If you're aiming 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

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