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General guidelines of icon design

1. Look at Icon Design Holistically
Icons are used inside the graphic interfaces. If they are crafted for desktop applications or Web pages, an icon is one of a variety of 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 alone. Judge your icons in relation to the graphic interface you're applying them to. Be sure that each icon differs from it's neighboring icons, while still acting together as a whole.

2. Consider Your Audience
You will need to make different considerations if you're developing an intranet for a small company, rather then fora product that may be distributed internationally. When developing icons, social considerations are important. Images may differ for common objects you way want to use in your designs.

3. Design for the Size the Icon will be Used At
If you pick a vector format and create your images in Illustrator, there is an inherent temptation to resize the design, and try to use it at any size. This doesn't work with icons. An image that 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 produced size needs to contain its own optimized design.

4. The Icons Should Remain Simple and Iconic
With operating systems now having icons that scale to large sizes (512px by 512px is extra large for an icon), the temptation grows to get creative with your icon designs. While a certain level of realism can add character to your image, it should not supersede its ability to function simply and effectively.

5. Use Consistent [Lighting, Reflections, and Shadows]
It's obvious that the realism you put into your designs all function in the same way. If you set a light source coming from one direction then 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 placed in. If the light source of the icons is contradictory with the Web site or software design you're using them in, then the whole picture will be unrealistic.

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 straight ahead then stick with that. If you rotate one at a specific angle, then be sure all the icons function that way. Imagine a camera being placed from a constant viewing point and looking at all the items with the same perspective. This helps to maintain consistency in your icon set.

7. Draw Consistent Icon Set Styles
Lighting and Perspective certainly contribute to the style of an icon, but there are many other factors to consider as well. If you're aiming to fit your icon into a grunge-style Web site design, you'll likely 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