I am new to design and I am creating a document in InDesign.

I am using 16X16 icons for headings, but when I export this document to PDF format, the icons look blurred (see image).

I've tried to sharpen the icon in Photoshop but I'm not sure how to do that. How can I make a sharp icon?


  • @Scott thanks a lot for guidance, I tried to sharpen using smart sharpen in which amount was 180 and radius was 3.9 Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 21:14
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    To make this question answerable, edit it to include the size of your document, whether the PDF is intended to be printable and some indication of how you are creating the icons (Photoshop, Fireworks, other). It's not possible to answer the way it's currently written. Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 21:26

2 Answers 2


I think when you mean "sharpen" icons you really mean having them be crisp and clean.

Sharpening your icons will not make it more sharp; or at least not in the way that you're thinking.

There is nothing you can do to this icon to make it clean other than recreating it or finding a proper source for it. This icon is essentially dead.

The main issue with the icon (and what is giving it this weird look) are the uneven widths and distorted edges.

Other than that you need to remember you're working with a 16 x 16 icon. There isn't much "sharp" awesome quality you can punch into it. It is also not advisable to start with a big (raster) icon and scale it down. This will not produce clean results.

Icons should either be created at their desired dimension or be created as a vector so that they can be scaled to fit any size.


InDesign is not the proper way to create icons, use Illustrator instead.

It is based on vectors, not on pixels, so if you copy the vector into for example Photoshop or InDesign it will be much cleaner.

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    Illustrator is better than InDesign for icons, but I'm just commenting here to point out that it's not necessarily "the best" or "the only" way to make in icon. Some people really dislike how Illustrator handles raster conversions and prefer to do that in Photoshop.
    – Brendan
    Commented Jun 29, 2013 at 12:11
  • thats right, if your really want to have a perfect icon you need to refine it afterwards in adobe fireworks.
    – Alp Ár
    Commented Jun 29, 2013 at 12:45

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