icons 101

An icon is a 100x100 pixel sized document of an object or person. Icons are very popular on forums and blogging sites. This guide will go over the main elements of an icon, simple icons, and graphic/"advanced" icons.


Composition is essential to any art. For icons it should and will be your main focus. Icons can look similar so when make a set you want to crop every photo differently.

This icon set is nice, but it is simple and flat. You want there to be differences and that is why you want your composition to be different every time.

In this set I changed up my composition so each icon is not exactly the same. Don't always have your focal point in the center, so I good rule of thumb is to try to have only one icon that is placed in the center. Also use photos that don't just focus on the face. If you're using photos from a photoshoot or editorial don't always crop the face, get creative.

Using the rule of thirds can be helpful, but since an icon is smaller than other graphics, it's better to divide the canvas into four quadrants. Using four quadrants as a guide instead of rule of thirds allows you to experiment more with sizing and composition.

In the first icon is the rule of thirds. Despite having more boxes it's harder to work with because icons are a perfect square and also small. Using the 4 quadrant guide in the second icons helps you find your focal point and can help you create more variety.


you can make icons two ways, making a 100x100 document and add your picture and resize it or use the cropping tool. The first method is pretty simple, you just make the document and then resize your photo using the transformation tool. For the second method, it's also pretty simple, when you click the cropping tool, a tool bar will appear. Make the width and height 100px (the image below has 100in for the width and height that's a mistake, don't use inches!). When you start to crop the image, you will be limited to what area you can crop. Once you made your cropping, go to image>image size and change the width/height to 100.

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Simple Icons

A simple icon is an icon that mostly has coloring. These icons are a bit more common and are used more. Some people just like the nice simple look of a simple icon.

In this I simply cropped the image and used simple coloring.

For these icons I added a fill layer to create a solid background color.

In the first icons I used multiple layers and the round brush to add depth. I would change the site depending on what I wanted highlighted and what I wanted to be in the shadows. In the second icon I used two simple light textures.

Advance Icons

These icons take more time and are more complex.
In this icon tutorial I made, after picking my images and cropping them I used a icon texture as a base layer.
I erased the icon texture with a small soft brush, but it is still my base.

For this icon I made a hard-cut of the model and then placed a icon texture beneath the model.
Next is to add some more icon textures. There are tons of the Shadowplay forum and DeviantArt (you can find some my favorites here).

Adding text to icons is easier because you can find a lot of text icon textures. All you have to do is set the layer mode to 'Screen' or 'Multiply' and place it how you want. For your own text, you don't want to use a large font size. If you do use a large font size it should only be for 1-3 letters, but other than that large text is not big deal.

I made my own text in the first icon, and in the second icon I used a text icon texture.