Tools by no means define the level of quality you’re able to achieve. The items listed below depict the tools I’m comfortable with using for icon design but your tools may look very different. The goal of sharing is to show what I use and give those interested in icon design a glimpse inside my toolbox.
Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop
If you’re planning to invest time into learning either for icon design, I would recommend making Illustrator the number one priority.
Compression is an important step in optimizing images. Image Optim removes unnecessary information from images and dramatically reduces the file size. I would recommend running images through it before using them.
Composing icons and ensuring each size looks correct is important. Icon Slate allows you to do this quickly and in multiple ways. I use this to preview icons before packaging them.
The ability to see app icons in use is fantastic. There’s no better way to see the final concept in action.
When drawing icon concepts, I rely on two technical pencils: the Staedtler Mars 780, and another silver model purchased locally. Unfortunately do not know it’s origin but will update this page if I find a link to the appropriate product.
Moleskine Voyageur Notebook
For notes and quick small sketches I like to use the Moleskine Voyageur. It has three sections with blank, line, and dot-grid paper which allows me to use it flexibly when I’m on the go.
I’m a fan of Moleskine notebooks in general, but the Voyager is my go to for most situations.
I’m often asked what I use to draw vectors for icons. My go to is the Apple Magic Mouse.
Sure, it isn’t glamorous but (for icon design) it gets the job done much better than expensive drawing tablets.
Baron Fig Notebooks
For drawing concepts I enjoy using the Baron Fig Confidant. Their notebooks have a sturdy structure and pleasing form factor.
Black Pearl Eraser
The smooth edges and oval shape of the Paper Mate Black Pearl makes erasing easy for me. The ability to erase both large and small areas easily is great for working quickly through sketches.
I suppose there isn’t much to say about a lead sharpener. However, I do want to point out the improved sharpening abilities of this lead sharpener over one that comes standard with the technical pencils above. You’re able to sharpen easier and even remove lead dust from the sharpened tip when you’re done.
This is the main reason I own two technical pencils. The blue lead provides me with the ability to do rough sketches before tightening everything up with gray lead. It’s great for something fast and light.
When I need to figure out shading, this set of grayscale Copic Markers comes in handy. I would recommend getting this set over the color versions if your goal is to define shading. Because icon design is so focused on the digital aspect, the sketching phase doesn’t have to be polished.
Heil PL2T Boom Arm
My desk setup would not be complete without this boom arm. It pivots and extends, allowing me to keep my microphone out of the way but close when I need it.
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