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I'm a programmer and find myself needing to draw icons frequently. Does anyone have any good resources for both the tools and how to design icons?

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    Paint (j/k)! for favicons you can play with favicon.cc. – zzzzBov Jan 5 '11 at 2:05
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The best icon set I've used has to be the Fugue Icon set by Yusuke Kamiyamane. The set is licensed under the Creative Common Attribution License and royalty-free for a reasonable fee. It's a great deal considering there are 3300+ detailed icons. You also get the PSD files too. I find these icons are especially good for web apps. The down side is they're 16x16.

If you want to create your own, I suggest reading tutorials on http://tutsplus.com, especially http://vector.tutsplus.com since icons should be created in vector for scaling..

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    vector for scaling is true for any other images. But if you want a good icon set, you should do it in vector (lazy way :D) and then refactor it almost pixel per pixel for every size and moreover for small resolution icons and their readability. – Shikiryu Jan 5 '11 at 11:32
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IconWorkshop is nice. You can open a PNG file here and save it as an icon file. I use this.

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Visual Studio (especially 2010) includes a large set of icons, in C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 10.0\Common7\VS2010ImageLibrary\1033\VS2010ImageLibrary.zip

  • Yes, well - this is a good resource for picking from a set of standard windows toolbar buttons, but not really a good resource for designing icons. I use it a lot when I don't have time to create any of my own. – Aᵂᴱ Oct 10 '11 at 6:36
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If you're using OS X, I tend to like Pixen, myself.

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I'm using Greenfish Icon Editor Pro. It is totally free of charge! It is by far the best free icon editor I have ever tried. I specially like the feature to replace a color component with transparency. This is great to remove a background color and preserving smooth edges on the image.

From the description of the product on the download site:

GFIE Pro is a powerful icon, cursor, animation and icon library editor. Layer support with advanced selection handling makes it a really professional and unique freeware tool for designing small pixelgraphic images. GFIE offers high-quality filters like Bevel, Drop Shadow and Glow; supports editing animated cursors and managing icon libraries. It's lightweight (< 1.8 MB unzipped) and also has a portable version - just unpack it to your USB drive and use it anywhere. A clean, customizable, multilanguage user interface makes it really easy to learn and use.

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I am a great fan of Icomoon. Loads and loads of free icons. You can upload your own svg-images (made in, for example illustrator) and then have a complete set scalable, easily accessible icons: http://icomoon.io/

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A good place to find inspiration for icons as well as downloadable icons themselves is:

  • The Noun Project, which aims to have a vector icons for every noun. Icons here are high contrast black and white ones.

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