Small bit-map pictures, in Java, in
the form of *.png
and *.gif files, and in Windows, in the form
of *.ico files.
Java does not directly support animated gifs, though some people have
written animated *.gif viewer code. Java
stores its icons in C:\Program Files\java\jre7
\lib\resources.jar. For the best look, you need to get all your
icons from the same source, or the same
artist in the same style. This is considerably more expensive than
creating a patchwork as I have done scavenging
icons off the web. Windows *.ico files contain
several different resolutions.
You can create them from individual images with IconLover.
Java does not support them.
Apple’s equivalent to *.ico file are *.icns files.
Icons Used on Mindprod.com
User Configurable Icons
Programs should be designed with user-configurable icons the way Opera is. There should
be a central library of icons that artists can contribute to. There
needs to be a tool where you can specify the
icons you need and it finds some icon sets that cover them. Eventually
icons may become an international language
that could be used to communicate anything visually much the way Ameslan
can be used by deaf speakers to
communicate internationally. Icons need to be treated more like fonts,
where the user’s preference is
paramount. Home stereo equipment is easier to use because of icon
standardisation. The same needs to happen for
computer programs. However, computers also offer user configurability,
so that the user can decide what icon he
wants to use for what function in all applications.
This requires standard icon names.
With the advent of hover help (aka tooltips), it is much less
important that you can glean the secret meaning
of an icon just by looking at it. What is more important is that you
can tell it apart from the other icons with
just a glance. Icons should be bold and clear, not fussy little
portrait miniatures. People with less acute
eyesight need simpler icons. An example of poor icons is Funduc Search/Replace
where every icon looks like pair of binoculars unless you stare at it
closely. For examples of good icons look at
some of the award-winning Opera
The other problem with icons is aesthetic. If you design icons in
isolation, then lump them together on the
screen, they will look like the equivalent of a ransom note. They need
some unifying themes. Professional
artists know how to get the right balance.
Most icons are only 32 × 32
bits. You must use a considerable amount of
anti-aliasing in your designs to get clear looking images.
I am quite astonished that very few companies have created a
corporate icon to represent themselves compactly
in web references on other people’s sites. I suggest that every
company should create a corporate icon, in
16 × 16, 24
× 24, 32 × 32, 64 × 64 and 128
128 format, a corporate logo in 128
× 48, 256 × 48
and 384 × 48 format, and a
banner in 400 × 40 and 468
× 60 format,
and post them on their website for others to use in sending them
business. By providing icons in these standard
sizes, the logos of other companies will nicely line up when displayed
with the logos of other companies. There
is less need to standardize on formats or colour depth. It is easy
enough to convert the logos to the same colour
depth and recording format. Now where is that round TUIT in need to
create such logos for myself?
There also needs to be a scheme to automatically propagate new
versions of the logos.
There are three theories of icon design:
Now with PLAF it should be
possible to ship apps configurable to optimise for any
combination of the three design concerns.
- They are miniature realistic pictures from which you should be
able to distinguish completely the meaning
without any hoverhelp or documentation.
- They are buttons that can have totally abstract symbols on them.
Their main function is to provide
functionality in minimal screen real estate. You mainly want them
easily distinguishable without close study.
You should be able to hit them almost with peripheral vision.
Colour-coded blobs would do just fine.
- They are artistic decoration for the application.
You can test your icon designs for the visually challenged by seeing
if you can tell them apart reading them
from across the room. They can contain detail, but the detail must not
be significant. Such icons are more
efficient for people with normal vision too, though they may not look
quite as elegant.
I find grouping icons helps a lot rather than just placing them in
long rows or blocks.
*.ico files in Windows have a peculiar format
that allows you to pack several variants
of the icon in the same file. You need specialised editor programs to
edit them. One comes bundled with Microsoft
Visual C, but it comes without instructions. It keep changing colours on
you unexpectedly, with no easy way to
control transparency. They typically contain 16x16, 24x24, 32x32, 64 × 64
and 128 × 128 format all packed
into one *.ico
file. Sometimes one or more of the resolutions are left out.
Icon designers are overly fond of blue. This means the icons are hard
to tell apart in small sizes. You can
either modify the colours, or replace them entirely with icons you
find with Google
image search. Just right click properties on the shorcut to
replace the *.ico file.
XP is only
It can do anti-alias smoothing, smooth scaling, spline curves, alpha
channel. It works on *.ico, *.gif
*.jpg and *.png
images both square and rectangular. It has the usual paint functions.
Its main weakness is
converting high colour to 256 colours. It does not know how to do the
octree algorithm to select the optimal set
of colours. Once you place something it is fixed. It does not maintain
the entire image as a set of movable
vector objects. The undo tends to jump back a great many steps. You get
a great improvement in your icons just by
loading them, converting to 32-bit alpha
channel, and clicking smooth, and perhaps adding a drop shadow.
It is missing a useful simple feature, the ability resize to 50%. You
must calculate the image size width and
height yourself. To use the smoothing function, you must turn on
high-colour and alpha-channel. It does not seem
to have a way to reduce the colour depth and maintain alpha-channel
transparency. The more I used it, the more I
liked it. I own a copy.
Axialis makes an icon
. That is for the full corporate
version. The personal version for
may not be used by companies and has some features removed.
Axialis supports formats from 16 × 16
up to 256x256, allowing you to pack
multiple versions of the icon in the same file. Axialis also lets you
control transparency along with colour.
This lets you create transparent icon has blend nicely int backgrounds
of any colour. It lets you export icons as
transparent png files so you can use them in
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language).
The most magical thing it does is the way it resizes. The resized
images look very sharp because they are
anti-aliased. Axialis uses automatically computed blended colours to
give the illusion of finer resolution than
is really there. See my moose icon
in many resolutions done by taking a
*.gif and feeding it to Axialis without any
touch up. You can also get it to compute
drop shadows to give the icons that soft XP look. It is specialised
for icons. You can’t even edit images.
It will generate all the smaller layers automatically if you create
the big image. It does not have any of the
special effects of Photo Shop or Paint
Shop Pro. It has a library of image objects,
you can combine to create icons. It creates install bundles so you can
collections of your icons. It does not let you resize a document by
percentage, but at least it will optionally
maintain the aspect ratio. For such as expensive slick-looking
program, it is missing features you would expect
I has a huge number of control buttons, but when you get down to it, the
program does not do much.
- Ability to export all the composite png images of an icon in a
- Ability to edit general png images.
- Ability to add colourise to a black and white drawing, though you
can change the hue of a colour
- Magic Wand to find a region with similar colours.
- Ability to edit the palette map.
- Ability to replace one colour with another. I fooled around for 30
minutes unable to get the feature to
- Various transforms to create 3D effects like those in Paint Shop Pro.
- Automatically update the smaller images when you edit the big one.
I found I had to delete the small images
and recreate them to get it to notice the changes to the big
- The undo feature does not always work by hitting
Ctrl-Z the way it does in most other programs. You
have to click the undo icon.
- Preview test on various backgrounds.
- The icons directory is a special
reserved directory for Apache web servers used
for providing Windows-style icons for files it serves. So
don’t use that name for your own files.
- Don’t attach your icon to a program
until it is in its final form. I find it
quite difficult to replace the icon with another. Old versions
seem to get stuck in cache and it takes a reboot
- When you buy icons, make sure your license allows you to include
them in your distributed software and/or
on your website.
has large national flags in png and svg format. You can use at tool like IconLover to resize them to whatever you
Iconshock people have a clever promotion. They will send you a
sample of free icons every 15 days to do
with as you please in return for you
advertising them with a text or banner link on your website. You are
allowed to trade these icons with others.
You have to take quite difficult vision and typing and
ESP (Extra Sensory Perception)
test to be allowed to participate. Read up on
validation codes to
learn how to cheat.
(aka Aha-Soft) will create custom icons for
each. This is quite a time consuming process, to get the icon just
the way you want, so don’t leave it to
the last minute. Leave at least a month. I discovered they outsource
the work to the Ukraine. They make the
icons with Xara and correct
them in Adobe Photoshop. Each individual size has to be
manually corrected; that’s why it costs extra to get the extra
resolutions and why larger resolutions
cost more. There are more pixels to correct. 777icons works out of
Krasnoyarsk Russia. I found them agreeable,
friendly and flexible. I got them to create 5 custom icons, and I
also bought ready-made icons from them.
- The job of a large icon is to please the eye. The job of a small
icon is to rapidly guide you to press the
correct button. You should not have to look carefully at it to use
it. It should have minimal detail.
- You can’t draw at icon at one size and simply scale it to
another size. Some of the problem include:
- Lines shrink so thin you can no longer see them.
- Details blur so all you see a smudge. Smaller icons need to a
simpler design, more symbolic and less
- In large icons, large areas of white space looks fine. In
small icons it looks ridiculous. You
can’t afford to waste space on non-informational bits.
- Small icons may require a bolder colour scheme to make the
parts of it distinct, to make it
recognisable at a glance. Icons are not pictures, they are
labels for things. Think about the simple,
clean, symbols used on appliances. They have to be recognisable
with your peripheral vision, without being
so stylised they become cryptic. I have proposed a better set of icons.
Perhaps you might have more success than I at convinting the
author to upgrade them.
- When you are designing/proofing an icon, look at it in all the
resolutions. You might want a simpler
more stylised image for the small sizes.
- Think about the nearby icons. You simultaneously want them to
have a unified style, but should be easy
to tell apart even with a casual glance. Funduc
Search/Replace is a
classic example of violating this principle. Even after over
decade of using it I have to study each icon
carefully before clicking to tell them apart. To help confuse
you, nearly every icon contains the same
visual element, a pair of binoculars. The crucial differences
are in microscopic type.
Generating Button Images
- You can generate images to use for buttons several ways:
- With a general purpose drawing program much as Paint Shop Pro or the
- With a mathematic rendering utility such as Pov-Ray.
- With a button generating utility such as
- With an online button generating service such as
offers some of its button patterns free, but only for a limited
time. If you need more buttons of the same
style later, you will have to pay
- Keep notes of the parameters, sizes, colour numbers etc that you
used to create a button in case you need
to make others in the same family or change the wording.
- When you make buttons, make extra buttons with wordings you might
use in future. It is much easier to crank
out an extra button than to come back later and try to figure out
how to crank out a button that looks like an
- If the lettering on the button looks too cramped, try adding a
space between each letter like this:
CMP (Canadian Mind Products) Free Icons
I commissioned the Aha-Soft
artists to create the following 6 icons. They
come in sizes from 16 × 16 to 256
× 256 in both png and ico
format. You may download the entire suite of sizes and formats and use them as
|Icons You May Use Freely On Your Own Website and in Your Own
128 × 128
||JWS (Java Web Start)
Java Web Start
|a winged coffee bean being launched by a spring. It suggests whimsically
launching the Java app into the air, like launching a rocket. You might use the
icon for the .jnlp extension. I use this icon to
represent Java Web Start|
||JDK (Java Development Kit)
|Sun’s public domain Duke chararacter dressed as a full-figured
carpenter carrying a tool kit containing a saw. You might use the icon for the .java
extension. I use this icon to represent the JDK .|
||JRE (Java Runtime Environment)
|Sun’s public domain Duke chararacter as a runner, stripped down and
lean, to suggest the bare essentials needed to run Java applications. He is
wearing a yellow jersey, suggestive of the yellow jersey worn by the front
runner in la Tour de France bicycle race. You might use the icon for the .class
extension. I use this icon to represent the JRE .|
||Woodpecker. I am not sure what precise species this one is supposed to be.
It looks a bit like a golden fronted woodpecker. The image was only intended to
represent a generic woodpecker. Check out whatbird.com
search for excellent bird illustrations to help you identify species. I use this
icon to represent unmaintainable code.
If builders built buildings the way programmers write programs, then the
first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.
Second Law (born: 1933-10-27 age: 79)
||This is a blue whale, the largest animal that ever existed. I use this icon
to represent animal rights .|
||I use this icon to represent
Swing GUI Components.|
||I use this icon to represent
There are various programs that will extract icons from Windows exe
and dll files. Unfortunately, they don’t
usually let you modify or replace the icons. Further they
can only extract the ico format resources, not
gif, jpg, svg
and other icon formats.
100 free file extension icons
: free and pay stock photos, require you have an email account with a famous provider
: stock images, some free if sign agreement
: sell icons individually. SH suffix means version with shadow
: simple free png editor. Does not support ico
: ready, singleton and custom icons
Apple on human inferface and icon design
Ascending/Descending sort icons
Axialis icon sets
: advanced icon editor
: custom iOS and Mac icons
Blumenthal’s Button and Menu Utility
Boxed Art Icons
: airport style, high contrast, blocky
: some free
Buzzard KDE icons
: you can configure the colours
: free in GNU sense
Clker free icons
: free, huge collection of misc icons you won’t find elsewhere, birds, animals, tools, variable quality
Coffee Cup misc Icons
Creating Microsoft icons
credit card icons
: glossy, trendy
: cheap images and icons
: free with backlinks, spare, modern looking
: commericial stock photos and useful icons
free check mark and X icons
free Christmas icons
free Christmas icons
Free social icons
: appeal to girls
Glassy online Button Generator
: free, good quality
: pay stock photos
Halloween Social Networking Superheroes
: pay images in jpg, gif, png and vector formats
: free icon editor
: including extensive jars/coffee beans and other Java specific icons
: extracts, edits, converts, organises icons
: to extract icons from *.exe
IconArchive computer hardware icons
IconDrawer Free flag icons
: in four sizes
: large collection of good-quality free icons with excellent search engine to help you find images
: an icon drawing program hobbled until you pay
Icons-Land Map Markers
Icons-Land Vista Elements Icon Set
Icons-Land Vista Style Multimedia Icon Set
: high quality, $100
: *.ico, *.bmp, *.png, *.gif
: concrete objects
: free whimsical icons
: free icons, especially folder icons
: icon paint program
: free icons, some 3D, including fat arrows
: stock photos and vector icons at low cost
Java code to extract icon from Windows exe
: icons used on the mindprod.com
: free, mimics Mac Leopard
list of icon sites
manual anti-aliasing icons with Gimp
Mouserunner glossy icons
: free glossy icons, zodiac, DVDs, buttons
My Cool Button
: icon generator
off the shelf corporate logo
: sold only once to guarantee uniqueness
: SVG generated
Oracles’s BLAF icon collection
Paint Shop Pro
: some free some pay
Piscdong 3D icons
Rokey icons for various file types
: free, red
Semi-custom Corporate Logos
shrinkwrap product box design
: 3D style, free with backlink
: wave your mouse over the pearls logo
Sourceforge icon collection
: flat rounded corners
sxc.hu inexpensive icons and images
Tango Project icons
: free, crisp
Umut Pulat pastel set of 415 icons
Web Image Studio
Webring for free icon sites
: Paintpot icons, large collection of good quality free Vista style, png and svg format
Window 8 design elements
free PSD file
Windows ico format
WowWiki SVG icons
: large collection of public domain icons