Coming from a background of IT, technology, and software installations as a Tier-II support, coupled with a background in graphic design, I have some familiarity with design software. Being tasked with setting up and configuring customer’s software, and laying out the desktop(s) with the icons that will be most used was a part of my day. Many times, I wanted to give my customers icons that were distinct and unique from the default ones. Up until recent times, I just tried to clumsily try to use Microsoft Paint or PAINT.net to make a .BMP into an .ICO file, with meddling results. Many times it would not have the correct transparency or background, the size would be off, and the aspect ratio would be skewed. Such poor results made me mothball this practice, and just use default the icons for software. I have good news for you, folks, those days are behind us, with the advent of IcoFX from IcoFX Software. This fine software allows you to create your custom icon(s) from an image, from image objects, make icon libraries, change an application’s icon, extract icons from files, and much more.
I know that having to make any art project from scratch is trying and daunting (not unlike trying to stare at a blank page to write article for a blog), so believe me when I say that having a tool-set that allows you to construct your icons from pre-made art assets is a great aid. As their stellar online tutorials show you, you can take circles, squares, gradients, and other shapes and layer them into a new, cohesive whole. This fine software has numerous built-in assets, (and more for purchase from their great partners) so the process is painless, intuitive, and excellent workflow. This program shares many tool-kits, seen in GIMP, Inkscape, and even in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, so using it in conjunction with these software titles is a no-brainer; not to mention that this program is an excellent pipeline for starting or finishing the process. You choose a basic shape, shadow, color fill, and so forth, and before you know it, you have an icon. Trust me, once you try it, you will be making icons all the time.
If you want to just make an icon from scratch, the process is straightforward and concise. Just set your icon size and background parameters, and then just draw your icon. If you have an image already drawn, just bring that into IcoFX, and use the Create from Windows/Macintosh Icon from Image, and set the size and compression settings, dependent on the O/S restrictions and color palette limitations. If the image has areas or things you want to add or exclude from any icon that you want to make, you can mask or select that information, and presto, professional icon. Any skill with art programs, you will wonder why it has taken so long to get such a quality icon production model software, until now.
Once you have made several icons, before long you will have a group that you might want to place them in an icon group. Just use the Icon Resource Editor, add each icon, and name them, to what want, and save them in a combined file, that is easy to distribute and share online. I know that I have seen numerous icon libraries on stock image websites, which people can use for their projects. Being able to do this, easily, is an excellent way to archive your art projects, in a concise manner. When I have modified or created icon sets for computer themes, I have always wanted a way to make an icon set for the theme file; now this dream has become a reality.
As alluded to earlier in this article, people have asked me to create a catchy icon for a program that they use regularly. With IcoFX, you can modify a program’s application (.exe) file or Dynamic Link Library (.dll) or shortcut to extract/modify within the Resource Editor. In the dialogue box, choose the file, and then you are presented with a browse window to choose a new logo for the program. This is as simple as it sounds, but be careful. As stated in their tutorial, changing an application file, directly, should be left to software-trained professionals or those with experience with the O/S environment, lest you cause non-operational bugs or glitches. These can have nasty side effects, and lead to stability errors. This should be stressed to a higher priority, if you try this with built-in applications or programs. However, doing this to a shortcut is much less dangerous, and an excellent training module to practice with, to get familiar with this process.
One, last feature I want to highlight is the ability to create a custom icon that will show in a browser window or tab, that reflects your website’s identity. This file type is known as a favicon, and can be created in the same fashion as any other icons in the software. As outlined in the tutorial, you will need to set specified icon sizes and parameters, as well as some skill in laying out code or web pages in the header, so one can embed the icon, so it shows up, when someone visits the site. I do not do any coding in web languages, personally, but in talking to others, who do code, making a nice, clean image/icon is the hard part, and this software will ensure you get professional results.
You may wonder what a professional icon creation suite will cost you. In terms of graphic design creation programs, the costs are very reasonable. A single-user license will cost you $29.99 USD. This tier of license will allow you to create, edit, and import/export icons. If you want these features, plus the ability to create icon toolbar strips, batch processing, mobile icon creation, and the ability to use your icons in a commercial/corporate setting, you will need to go up to the Business License, which runs $49.99 USD. Well worth the cost, and as someone who is using this version, it is the way to go. If you have multiple workstations, at one location or multiple work sites, they have license tiers to cover these needs, too. Considering that programs, such as Corel CorelDRAW, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and many others require a large, upfront license cost or subscription, IcoFX is a phenomenal value to behold. I know that if you need quality icon work done, you will be hard pressed to find a better, robust software on the market, today. Nevertheless, do not take my word for it, try it out today, and I know you will agree with me. Until next time, adios amigos!