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General principles of icon design

1. Approach Icon Design Holistically
Icons fit inside the graphic interfaces. If they are designed for desktop applications or Web sites, an icon is one of many visual elements that have to work in unity harmoniously. Remember this logic when you work icon packs as well. Icons can be appreciated for their original visual appearance, but they don't work alone. Judge your icon designs in relation to the graphic system you're using them in. Be sure that each icon is different from surrounding images, while still acting together as a whole.

2. Remember About the Users
You will need to make various considerations if you're designing an intranet for a small company, rather then fora product that may be distributed internationally. When creating icons, social considerations are important. Symbols may vary for common elements you may use in your designs.

3. Draw for the Size the Icon will be Used At
If you pick a vector format and create your graphics in Illustrator, there is strong temptation to resize the design, and try to use it at any size. This can't be done with icons. An image that looks good at 512px becomes a blurry smear at 16px. Icons should carry a general idea that is used as a guideline, but each produced size needs to have its own optimized design.

4. Keep Icons Simple and Iconic
With all the new OS now introducing icons that can be resized 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 interest to your image, it should not supersede its ability to work clearly and effectively.

5. Use Consistent [Lighting, Reflections, and Shadows]
It's vital that the photographism you add to your images all function coherently. If you apply a light source coming from one direction you should stick with it. Or you will loose the consistent design of your icons. Also consider the light source of the interface your icons will be used in. If the lighting of the icons is at odds with the Web page or application design you're using them in, then the design will be amateurish.

6. Use a Limited Perspective
The range of perspective within your icon pack should work in union. If you picture objects being looked at from directly above then stick with that. If you place one at a specific angle, then make sure all the icons will look good at that angle also. Imagine a photo camera being placed at a constant vantage point and looking at all the items with 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 to consider as well. If you're intending to fit your icon into a grunge-style Web site design, you'll likely 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

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