The icon designer need not be weighed down by the contents of his or her toolkit. A combination of three or four good-quality tools is sufficient for producing sleek, polished and professional icons that will help users navigate their way around computers and the web. For icon designers, and pretty much everyone else in the design related industries, Adobe CS4, or at least Photoshop, is a vital tool. Without it, your competitiveness in the job market will be severely limited. Beyond CS4 you can take your pick from a wealth of additional tools that will make your life a lot easier. We explore the best of the bunch below.
1. Adobe CS4
Adobe CS4 is an absolute must for icon designers. It might seem prohibitively expensive, but it includes a lot for your $1,799. For icon designers, CS4’s most useful tools include Photoshop, the market leading piece of image editing, manipulation and compression software; Illustrator, an artwork program used throughout the creative industries; and Fireworks, which lets you optimize images for the web. When deliberating over whether or not you have enough money to shell out for CS4, bear in mind that Photoshop costs $699 by itself, and the combined value of all the tools included in the CS4 package is well over $4,000.
Available for both Mac ($79) and Windows ($49), IconBuilder works together with Adobe Photoshop and Fireworks to make creating icons easy. It gives users the ability to create icons of any size (up to 1024 x 1024); create icons of any shape; save all icon resources as one Photoshop layer; use keyboard shortcuts; import existing icons; save icons in numerous different formats in one click; view items against numerous backgrounds and colours; and create, save and share grids to use as templates. In other words: it does a lot!
3. Icon Machine
Icon Machine is a $25 shareware program for Mac users only (Mac OS X 10.2 or later). It contains various tools that make it possible for you to produce rich, attractive icons in a range of colours and sizes. If you prefer, you can import icons that youâ€™ve created in Photoshop, and edit them using the Machine. Drag and drop functionality, as well as the Edit Icon plugin, which lets you open files in Icon Machine from the Finder, make this tool a pleasure to use.
Mscape Software is no longer supporting Iconographer, but you can still download this piece of software and use it for free, ideal for those of us not so willing to splash the cash! With Iconographer, available for Mac only, you can create and customize your own folder icons. As well as, change the icons of items, edit the icon resources used by programs, and convert icons between platforms.
Icon Workshop, priced at $49.95, is a highly versatile piece of icon creation, editing and conversion software available for Mac, Windows and Unix. Besides the standard features you would expect, IconWorkshop is the only icon editor which lets you create and edit Image Strips for toolbars. With Image Strips, you can edit, add and remove individual icons without any of the problems traditionally associated with wide bitmaps. IconWorkshop also simplifies the icon creation process by providing you with a vast array of basic image objects, which you can drag and drop on top of one another for professional looking results.
Microangelo, for Windows only, is a family of icon software comprising On Display ($24.95), Toolset ($49.95) and Creation ($59.95). You can buy the whole package for $79.95, saving $55. On Display lets you right click on and change any icon, wherever it is on your computer. Toolset includes an icon editor, icon manager, icon explorer and animated cursor editor. And last, but not least, Creation lets you make icons and cursors that look stunning in Windows XP, using a similar set of tools to Photoshop, with layers, gradients and a fully customizable colour palette.
With IconPackager, for Windows, you can change all of the icons on a computerâ€™s desktop at the touch of a button. Rather than changing the Windows theme, which leaves many of your icons unaffected, use IconPackager to transform hundreds of icons at once. There are tons of icon packages available for you to use, so youâ€™re bound to find one thatâ€™s perfect for the project at hand. You can trial the software for free, or buy it for just $9.95.
IcoFX is a completely free icon creation, extraction, and editing tool. Windows users should feel instantly at home with its image editing interface, which looks like a superior version of Microsoft Paint. As well as creating your own icons using the 40 or so tools available, you can convert any image to an icon, or an icon to an image, at the touch of a button. You can also convert Mac to Windows icons and vice versa.
Favicon Generator is a browser based tool, meaning that it’s accessible from any computer in the world, provided that it’s connected to the internet. It really couldn’t be easier to use. Simply select an image from your computer and click Create Icon to generate a 16 x 16 favicon for use on a website or blog. You can even merge your image with a 32 x 32 desktop icon or a larger, 48 x 48 XP icon. Favicon Generatorâ€™s completely free to use.