I'm in the process of creating some icons for an application, and find myself coming up with the same question over and over again. Are there any guidelines for how thick the lines should be in an icon. I need to use lines with strokes that vary in thickness, but I don't know if there is any standard for it. Let's say the outline of my icon is 16pt, should the lines inside be ideally half of that? Is it better to use odd or even numbers? Any other tips or suggestions?

  • 2
    I'd say the standard for any graphic design is, if it looks good, go for it. It doesn't really get much more definite than that. Unless you're going for the opposite of course..
    – Joonas
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 1:09
  • Maybe one of the best pieces of advice I've seen. Thanks
    – EGHDK
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 1:13

1 Answer 1


It will depend on the platform you're targeting and what the native icons look like. It also depends on the use. Are you creating icons for use inside an application, or the icon of the application itself?

Also, it's likely that you'll need to tweak each size of the icon. This is especially true for application icons and platforms like iOS, where many varying icon sizes are needed.

Here's some more info on techniques for scaling icons:

Best workflow for icon design: Start big, or start small?

Even if the icons are for use within an application, scaling still may be a concern, because high DPI displays are about to become far more common.

And finally, I'd highly recommend against using Illustrator for icon design, if the final output is a bitmap (a PNG file etc). When it comes to generating bitmap artwork Illustrator is the wrong tool for the job. For the final output, anyway.

  • Hmm... so you don't recommend doing work in AI and then moving to PS? I don't seem to get the same accuracy when creating in PS as I do in AI.
    – EGHDK
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 5:19
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    That's just his opinion. I find Illustrator excellent, especially if you have align to pixel grid turned on.
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 8:10
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    "AI and then moving to PS" — Yep, that's a good way to go. AI has a lot to offer. It's just the output that's no good. "I find Illustrator excellent" — Sorry Scott, but there's some massive deficiencies in AI's exporting. I'd never recommend it for final bitmap art. It's horrible in so many ways. Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 14:20
  • I completely disagree with Marc's take on AI. Like any tool, you just have to figure out how to use it. Turn on pixel preview, snap to pixel, and don't be afraid to draw rectangles as if they were pixels. I usually draw my icon then build an artboard around it. Using jsx, you can set-up auto export based on the artboard name. It's a very efficient workflow for me and it allows me to do a lot more of my work in an easily scaleable environment. Sometimes I jump over to PS but, I do that less and less these days. Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 18:30
  • "Like any tool, you just have to figure out how to use it." — No. AI has technical issues that can't be overcome, like: stray antialiasing pixels, non-dithered gradients and other problems. It's sub-par at bitmap from vector creation and should not be recommended (please note the emphasis). You can't argue with what I'm saying — these are demonstrable facts. Your only option is to say that gradient dithering etc isn't needed. That's a bad position to have though. Would you recommend someone use MS Paint to retouch a photo? Commented Jul 20, 2012 at 1:30

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