Great Places to Find Beautiful Usable Icons
Icons are our forgotten friends. Every app needs them, but often times they are thrown in at the very end. Of course when building an app single handedly, you should not focus on such things when code needs to be written. But when it comes time to build a user interface, they are typically an after thought. Today, however, I will show you some pretty useful sites to find what you need quick.
Google is, of course, an excellent resource to find anything you should ever need. Typically when I go on an Icon hunt on Google, the first thing I do is add “icon” on the end of whatever it is I need. So something like “expand icon” or “up icon” might be an example. You should also set the image size to small. This will give you icon sized images. Recently I even found out you can add “16×16” to your search and you will get 16 x 16 image. This works with just about any size as well. With those three filters, you would be amazed how better the results get.
As you can see, your results are almost perfect. The filtering helps a lot. You will notice that within the first couple of pages you will probably find something to use, at least temporarily. Google’s power is shown yet again.
Find that Icon
One of the most professional, and simple, sites I have found for icons is (no joke) called icon finder. This is a site you can use for your basic app and business icons. Things such as forward, back, save, load, expand, collapse, and that sort of thing. All the icons are open GNU as far as I know, and they are always very professional looking. This is quite possibly the quickest way to find a good, quality icon for application.
Icon finder has a tagging system for all of its icons. This helps it search, along with allowing anyone to add a tag for use later. It is simple, yet powerful, and of course really useful. It has a limited base, and doesn’t technically search the whole web, but chances are you will find what you need, as long as it is not anything crazy.
The results are presented as a grid, which you can change the number or items in the grid. You can also filter by size and even view other sizes of an icon, if available. Again, simple, yet equal parts powerful and useful.
Maybe you need something a little more crazy, or maybe you even what to re-stylize your OS. One site I have come to know really well is Icon Archive. It is exactly what it sounds like, an archive of icons. There are literally 100s of categories, and 1000s upon 1000s of icons. The search feature is a little rusty, but with the categories, you can find what you need pretty quick. They have a lot to offer, there are new icons about every week. I have used Icon Archive a lot over the years, and I would suggest you check it out as well.
The thing about Icon Archive is that they have a lot of icons to offer, of all kinds. With the categories to the left, you can find what you need pretty quick. The main page also lists recently added icons. They are organized in sets, but you can always download the one you want.
Icon Archive probably has the easiest icon downloading system ever. It lists all the icons in the set, and then offers an ICO or PNG of varying sizes for each icon. So you can get just one or the whole set. Typically sets are organized by type, then by size when you download the entire set. This makes Icon archive possibly my favorite site for getting icons. Sure, its search feature sucks, and it may not have all the little icons you may need, but you can get some pretty neat icons here.
Another neat site I happened across a while back was iconspedia. The amount of icons is pretty sparse, but the ones that are there are awesome. They are all excellent quality and are easily downloaded, which gives it points in my book. The search feature also makes it a nice site. Most of the time it will find what you need, if it is there. I usually browse these when I am trying to find something that is “just right” or something that is a little “fancier”.
The last place, slightly above just googling it, is Win Customize. It can sometimes come up with something useful, but it is a hard site to navigate. This is mainly because it is actually a site for Stardock products. There are single icons that you can download, but most of the time there is a fair amount of digging to be done. If you don’t mind a clunky navigation system, then you might find what you want. To get started you might want to try the ObjectDock or Misc Icons categories.
As you can see, there are a lot of categories, separated by program. I actually own a copy of ObjectDock, which makes things easier, but you can find just PNG icons. The search feature on this site is pretty nice, as long as you take the 5 minutes to get the learning curve down. Typically, using the search, you can find something close to what you want.
As you can see, once you do find something, downloading is pretty dang easy. Just click the big flippin’ button. You know, the one labeled “Download”. Most of the time the icons are PNGs, zipped together in a folder. Easy enough once you find something.
Between these three sites, there are a lot of repeated icon sets. Not enough to make any one obsolete, but you will come across the same thing every now and again. Usually if they are really nice of course. But together, the three archive sites have enough icons to get you where you need to go. There are more sites to be sure, but these offer the best free solutions in my opinion.