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Software for designing icons

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by Omen88, Jul 21, 2005.

  1. macrumors regular


    Hello people.

    I am developing some cocoa apps with a friend. We're looking at doing everything right to the finest details. Since we're both programmers, we don't have any (visual) artistic talent whatsoever. Although the good news is, my girlfriend can do great handdrawings. So I would let her design the icons and other graphics of our software.

    Now for my question. Many of you here seem to be very creative, what software do you recommend for icon design? I've taken a look at www.mikematas.com and that is the kind of thing I am looking for. He mentions photoshop and cinema 4D. I know some photoshop, but I can't really find out how you make a decent sketch of an icon in there.

    This brings me to my second question. Are there any good tutorials on this? Websites, or books which cover icon design.

    Thanks for your help already!
  2. macrumors 65816


    There have been a few threads on this already, do a search, and I know a a few good ones will turn up, as I was searching for this yesterday.

    I ended up with Icon Builder Pro due to one of the threads, however you have to pay for it.

  3. macrumors regular


    Well I did a search first on "designing icons" and "icon design" and I found nothing related. Check out for yourself. Some better search keywords are also welcome :)

    But thanks for the tip.
  4. macrumors 65816


    Heres one idea for desinging icons, by taking a .gif image with a transparent background to turn into an icon.

    I also found this thread here.

    Hope this helps.

  5. macrumors Core

    Jaffa Cake

    I'd recommend IconBuilder too – however, it is a Photoshop plugin and not a stand alone app so you'll need a copy of Photoshop to run it (I think it'll also work on Photoshop Elements but don't hold me to that).

    You can draw the Icon in any app that'll import into Photoshop (or you can just draw it in Photoshop itself, of course) – personally I prefer to use a vector-based app such as Illustrator, then import the finished file into Photoshop for a bit of tweaking and then save the final icon through IconBuilder.

    There is a tutorial PDF with IconBuilder that'll help you get started. As 20rogersc correctly says it isn't freeware, however you can use it on trial to see if you like how it works before you lay down your hard-earned cash.

    Have fun! :)
  6. macrumors 68030


    I recommend Iconographer. A clean interface with all the features anyone would need for creating icons.

  7. macrumors 68020

    Physically creating the icons is the easy part. IconBuilder Pro can handle that very nicely. The problem is designing it. I believe that Mike (Matas) sketches the icon by hand, scans, and begins his work in Cinema. It's not a purely digital process, IIRC.
  8. macrumors Core

    Jaffa Cake

    That's right – he details his process on his icon page (you have to scroll down to the bottom ;) ). Creating good Aqua-style icons can be a very labour-intensive process.

    Funnily enough, Mike is reporting on his blog today that he's moving to Cupertino to work at Apple. Hopefully he can help sort out some of the inconsistencies that have been creeping into the OS X GUI...
  9. macrumors regular


    Yeah I read the part on how he does it. But I was asking you guys if you used any other techniques and/or had some good pointers. Or maybe some online tutorials or recommended books.

    Great to read he joined Apple. It's a loss for delicious monster, but I hope they can still get him to do some work for them. But I can't wait to see what he designs for Apple.
  10. macrumors Core

    Jaffa Cake

    There are a couple of tutorials here that might be worth a look – one about working with vector apps, the other about working with raster images that you can download here.

    Personally, no matter what I'm designing I always find it easiest to sketch my ideas out on paper first (like you suggest in your opening post), and for producing illustration work (be it for an icon or otherwise) I prefer to use Illustrator – as it's a vector app the artwork will be easy to modify in the future and you can scale it up as large as you like without any loss of quality.

    It might also be worth your while to take a look at the icon section of Apple's Human Interface Guidelines – there are guidelines on, amongst other things, angles, perspective and lighting to help make sure your new icons match the GUI and don't stick out like a sore thumb.

    Hope that's of some help! :)
  11. macrumors regular


    Thanks a bunch! That was the kind of thing I was looking for.
  12. macrumors Core

    Jaffa Cake

    You're welcome! :)
  13. macrumors regular

    I second the Illustrator idea as well. I'm only on Illustrator CS, but I believe that CS2 provides some excellent tools for creating vector images from bitmaps called "Live Trace." I think there's a short video on Adobe's website about it. You can bring in a hand sketch, then use it as a vector for scalable applications. I think that would work best for you, then you'll have some excellent software to grow with that should be quite versatile. Here's a link to a PDF about the feature:


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