How good are free icon maker tools?

These programs let you select the format, size or even add some simple effects. How cool, is that?

App icon generators are really helpful. They work like some kind of magic. Import an image, let the software scale it to the sizes you need & export the correct file formats. Job Done! But this magic is capricious one. The results you’ll get critically depend on the artwork you upload and a little bit of luck too.

Honestly, I don’t believe in miracles and didn’t expect too much from these automatic icon makers. I decided to compare several popular free icon maker/converters for you and was genuinely surprised with the results!

Here are the 5 converters I used and a comparison of how they rendered a set of popular icon sizes for Android apps, from a simple pencil icon example. Please forgive me Apple users – your part has been skipped this time, but the results would be the same!

For a really useful comparison I’ve add manual resizes produced by a professional icon designer too, as a quality baseline.

Makeappicon

http://makeappicon.com/

My favorite and I think the most convenient. Move your graphic to the toaster and receive your hot icons! The simplest and most pleasant one, but you can’t change anything. You also need to give over your e-mail for downloading the icons. I wonder what else the email is used for?

Makeappicon - Icon maker review

Appiconsizes

http://www.appiconsizes.com/

Works well in general. Provides a lot of size types, but I couldn’t find xxhdpi size for Android icon, maybe you will. On this example I found some artefacts and erroneous grey pixels.

Appiconsizer - Icon maker review

Android Asset Studio

http://romannurik.github.io/AndroidAssetStudio/icons-launcher.html

Cool, but it only works with Android icon sizes. I think this is the most responsive converter for Android, it lets you select the shape of the final icon (e.g. circle, square) and allows you to add some popular effects like long shadow or dog ear.

  • Sets some padding around artwork by default.

Launcher icon generator - Icon maker review

Icon Slayer

http://www.gieson.com/Library/projects/utilities/icon_slayer/

This converter with the frightening name and old-fashioned design I like the least. It exports icons into a crazy number of folders and you may have trouble locating the sizes you immediately need. But it works.

  • A big plus – the possibility to generate any custom icon size
  • Also it is possible to add some styles and change the background colour of the icon.

Icon Slayer - Icon maker review

Ticons

http://ticons.fokkezb.nl/

Rather good and offers a lot of icon sizes and types but it does not let you preview the results before downloading, and you’ll get really tired of unzipping and re-uploading to check the results.

Ticon - Icon maker review

Professional Icon Designer

If you are not satisfied with the results of these free icon makers, the best option is to hire an icon designer, the smartest and most responsive ‘icon maker’ you will find. Of course you will need to pay for his/her time, perfection costs! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Icon Designer - Icon maker review

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Finding the right icon designer doesn't have to be difficult

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Small Sizes?

All of the icon converters produce acceptable results at large resizes (until you get down to 72x72px). At this size automated scaling issues start to become more visible but usually only when small details are present in your image. Look at the bar code, it becomes blurred, although the other parts of the pencil still look good. It is almost always easier to spot the blurring artefacts on straight lines, vertical, horizontal or angled. Curved lines and circles tend to stand up to automated scaling much better.

These kind of problems increase when we get down to the tiny icon sizes. Here is example of 18×18 icon, that is used for notifications. You can easily find nasty artefacts in the details of all the free icon makers.

For these smaller sizes you can’t really beat professional icon designers.

icon maker review - small icons

What about larger sizes?

Another problem appears if your initial image is quite small, or at least smaller than the largest size you need. Here is 512×512 pixel icon that was created from a 256×256 image. Oh,no! They are all blurred regardless of which icon maker we try because stretching pixels simply causes blurring.

icon maker review - large icons

Google Play icon (512x512px) created by an automated icon maker conversion

icon maker review - large icons

Google Play icon (512x512px) created by a professional icon designer

In conclusion

Icon makers and converters are useful, especially if you have large artwork with a relatively low level of detail and not too many straight lines. In these kind of conditions they work brilliantly. (Ok, almost brilliantly) Some of them donโ€™t like a semi-transparent elements, donโ€™t provide all the sizes you need, make blurry small icons. But hey, they are free! ๐Ÿ™‚

How to increase your chances of good results

  • Use the best quality and largest size artwork possible
  • Try several icon maker/converters to find the best results
  • Don’t have high expectations for your smallest icon sizes
  • Remember – you can always hire a professional to do all the hard work for you ๐Ÿ˜‰
Tanya

A fantastic 2D artist, enjoys flat and flat-3d icon styles and interface design.
Specialises in 2d icons, almost flat icons & user interface design

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