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General principles of icon design

1. Look at Icon Design Holistically
Icons are used within graphic systems. Whether they are designed for desktop software or Web pages, an icon is one of many visual elements that have to work together harmoniously. Remember this logic when you work icon sets as well. Icons can contribute to the project by their original visual appearance, but they can not function on their own. Evaluate your icon designs in the prospect of the graphic system you're using them in. Be sure that every icon differs from it's neighboring icons, while still acting in union as a whole.

2. Consider Your Audience
You will need to make various considerations if you're designing an intranet for a private company, rather then fora product that may be distributed worldwide. When creating icons, cultural details are important. Symbols may vary for typical elements you way want to use for your designs.

3. Design for the Size the Icon will be Used At
If you go vector and make your graphics in Illustrator, there is strong 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 will be a blurry smear at toolbar sizes. Icons should carry a general design that is used as a guideline, but each output size needs to have 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 illustrative with your icon designs. While a level of realism can add interest to your image, it should not restrict its ability to function simply and efficiently.

5. Cast Consistent [Lighting, Reflections, and Shadows]
It's important that the realism you add to your icons all function in the same way. If you apply a light source coming from one corner 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 placed in. If the lighting of the icons is contradictory with the Web page or application design you're using them in, then the design will be unrealistic.

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

7. Create Similar Icon Set Styles
Lighting and Perspective certainly take part in styling of an icon, but there are many other things to consider as well. If you're aiming to fit your icon into a grunge-style Web page 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

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