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IHaveNoName

Icon Creation Advice

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I have edited and created a lot of icons for an old games console using PDN but those have mostly been PNG/JPG 256x256 thumbnails. I have made also made quite a few 128x128 icons in a custom format for the same console. So I know what sort of subject matter works at those resolutions on a 480p displays. 

 

However when I've tried to translate that knowledge to the creation of PC icons, in particular for desktop shortcuts, I must be making a mistake somewhere.

 

I've made some icons which I am happy with but they've all been relatively simple. When I've tried with more sophisticated or detailed designs either my own or online sourced, no matter how good the original quality, when they're converted to .ico (saved using all the icon group size/bit options) the resulting file, when applied to a shortcut or folder, looks ............ rubbish. Even quite simple flat designs, basically b/w clipart with no shading, shadows or reflections, display badly.

 

Saving just as 128x128 32bit or just as 256x256 PNG both display equally unsatisfactorily.

 

I've used Resource Hacker to extract icons groups from programs to customise them using PDN. Even at 24x24 resolution the icons groups often used to display in File Explorer looks good with quite detailed subject matter crisply displayed. But when I open them, usually working on the 256x256 PNG, customise it and then save as .ico using PDN the resulting icon, when applied to a folder or shortcut, looks notably inferior to the original even when I've done nothing more than alter the hue.

 

The irony is that when you use the delete option the Y/N dialogue box displays the customised icon in its fully glory - sharp and detailed.

 

So what am I doing wrong? Any ideas?

 

 

Edited by IHaveNoName
typo

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Sounds like the .ico plugin is generating bad icons.

I suggest opening both the original icon and the modified icon in a dedicated icon program, and compare the two icon files side-by-side.

 

Here are some trial programs to use for troubleshooting/investigating:

https://www.axialis.com/iconworkshop/

https://icofx.ro/downloads.html

 

Let us know what you find out.

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5 hours ago, toe_head2001 said:

Sounds like the .ico plugin is generating bad icons.

 

I'd agree with T_H ... I made these icons entirely with PDN but used an online .ico generator and there's no problems

 

ico-screen.png

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I third that @IHaveNoName.  I've made many icon sets in the past decade and never use the .ico plugin.  It generates very sloppy icons.

 

Doing all my customizing in PDN, of course, but I use axialis workshop or icofx to generate the actual icon file. And they look great.

 

@toe_head2001 was right-on and @welshblue your snakeskin folders look super.  Ahhh....makes me want to create a new set of folder icons for myself...😊

 

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Thanks for the replies, very helpful ideas.

 

BTW it's not just PDN's .ico save option that produces these inferior quality results. I've tried with Irfanview which I've often used as a format converter in the past before gravitating to PDN - very similar results.

 

It seems to be the Medium sized icons, whatever resolution they use, which are applied to Tiles (folder view), default desktop Folder and Shortcuts too where the problem is.

 

The example below is typical: Extra Large and Large (Windows Explorer folder view) look great but when you use the default Medium or Tiling folder view the quality drops off a cliff. 

 

These are enlarged from the actual Medium folder view display size but you can clearly see the difference despite the custom one being saved as an icon group by PDN in exactly the same resolutions as the original's ico groups: 256, 128, 64, 48, 32 and 16 all 32bit of course.

 

665178769_IconComparisons.png.8950f5d02ce250bc890738ad1c6f98bf.png 

Edited by IHaveNoName

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Just want to thank the guys here for those icon creating tips.

 

I tested it out on a games controller I image I've made from scratch (based on the PS1/PS2) using PDN. I used a 512x512 canvas then saved it using PDN's .ICO save options. It was then saved again as a .PNG and converted to .ICO by IcoFX.

 

1850071715_IconComparison.png.520868c0a1e10fb3ca2f4d85c7af1d99.png

 

These are obviously massive enlargements but the difference in quality is obvious and that translates to when they're actually in situ as desktop shortcut icons. But the advantage I did not expect was that when the icon groups for each were saved the other program had offered 96x96 32bit as an additional size option along with 256, 128, 64, 32, 16 32bit so I added that just as an afterthought.

 

For whatever reason Windows chose to use the 96x96.ico for the desktop shortcut, Medium icon, Tile and Content display whilst the PDN one used the 64x64.ico instead.

 

I tried a PDN generated 128x128 only icon as a comparison and the 96x96 was still visibly superior on the monitor with the resolution I'm using. But what is, somewhat, interesting is that if you select the Large or Extra Large icon display options in Windows Explorer the differences virtually disappear. In Small, List, Detail icon sizes the icons look pretty grotty whatever you do. It is really only at the medium icon display size I use where the quality difference is significant.

 

The question to ask is what is the other program doing that PDN is not at this size and is there any plugin or settings that can be applied to PDN to improve the icon picture quality for these display sizes?     

 

Edited by IHaveNoName

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it is apparent that the IcoFX image has more anti-aliasing applied to the 64x64 32bit image than the PDN image. 

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That's what I thought too. The default PDN settings apply AA so I tried with/without for the creation of the master 512x512 image. I also tried using the AA Assistant plugin at various settings and neither made much difference as regards the display quality of the final .ICO.

 

What I have found is that if you save the master 512x512 .PNG as a 256x256 .ICO only using PDN (by default it saves as 32x32 and 16x16 8/32bit so remember to untick those), apply AA Assistant to that and save again only as a 256x256 .ICO it does marginally improve the PQ for Medium size icons display. But that is not to the extent that you can't see the 96x96 one created by the dedicated icon creation program displays better.

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Have you tried limiting you color depth to 8 bits with maximum (8) dithering in Paint.Net?

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Using 8 bit makes the files smaller but dos not seem to help with the display quality when used for medium sized icons. That's where the 'problem' is with PDN: just the medium size icon display.

 

For the games controller icon I'm using if you use the Large/Extra Large icon option the PDN ones display as well the dedicated icon program's icons. But even if you use a single 256x256 PDN icon image for a desktop shortcut icon or Medium icon size in WE the 96x96 one from IcoFX looks better.

 

And when you use an icon group file 256, 128, 64, 32, 16 WE will chose to use the 64x64 icon size for ^ those purposes which displays poorly in comparison to the other 64x64 one. As described, if you include 96x96 in the icon group it will use that by default. I've also just discovered that, a bit strangely, if you also include 72x72 in the icon group (another size not offered by PDN) it will use that by default instead. Even then that displays better than a 256x256 only PDN icon for medium sized icon use.

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