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Basic guidelines of icon design

1. Approach Icon Design Holistically
Icons are used within graphic systems. Whether they are designed for desktop applications or Web sites, an icon is one of a variety of graphic elements that have to work in unity harmoniously. Remember this logic when you work icon sets as well. Icons can be appreciated for their original visual appearance, but they don't function alone. Judge your icon designs relative to the graphic system you're using them in. Be certain that every icon differs from surrounding icons, while still working together as a whole.

2. Remember About the Audience
You will have various considerations if you're designing an intranet for a private company, rather then fora product that is distributed worldwide. When developing icons, social considerations are important. Images may vary for common objects you may use for your designs.

3. Draw for the Size the Icon will be Used At
If you pick a vector format and make your images in Illustrator, there is strong temptation to resize the design, and try to use it at all the sizes. This can't be done with icons. What looks good at 512px looks like a messy smear at 16px. Icons should carry a base idea that is used as a starting point, but each produced size needs to have its own optimized design.

4. Keep Icons Simple and Iconic
With operating systems now having icons that can be resized to large sizes (512px by 512px is gigantic for an icon), the temptation grows to get creative with your icon designs. While a certain degree of realism can add character to your icon, it should not supersede its ability to work simply and efficiently.

5. Use Consistent [Lighting, Reflections, and Shadows]
It's obvious that the realism you put into your images all function coherently. If you set a light source coming from one corner then stick with it. Or you will loose the integrated appearance of your icons. Also consider the light arrangements of the design your icons will be used in. If the light source of the icons is at odds with the Web page or software design you're using them in, then the design will appear unrealistic.

6. Use a Limited Perspective
The range of perspective within your icon design pack should work in union. If you have images being looked at from directly above then stick with that. If you place one at a certain angle, then be sure all the icons function that way. Imagine a camera being placed from a specific vantage point and looking at all the objects from the same perspective. This helps to create unity in your icon set.

7. Design Similar Icon Set Styles
Lighting and Perspective definitely contribute to the style of an icon, but there are many other things to consider as well. If you're intending to fit your icon into a grunge-style Web page design, you'll likely be applying texture to the style of the icon's design.

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Standard Toolbar Icons

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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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