Textual content and pictures Copyright (C) 2002 Jakub Steiner and is probably not used with out permission of the creator.

Virtually each desktop enviroment I’ve seen has a particular software for creating icons, often a really restricted drawing software. On this brief tutorial, we’ll present you the way GIMP (GNU Picture Manipulation Program) might help you create icons to your desktop.

Earlier than You Start

As with all new job, it can assist to have just a little background data:

Filenames and Construction

GIMP lets you save compressed information and work with them transparently, utilizing the .xcf format. Nonetheless, since we’re working with very small information, compression merely doesn’t save sufficient house to justify the hassle. Particularly since filemanagers like Nautilus have issues with creating thumbnails for compressed photos, it’s greatest to accompany any .xcf information you produce with a .png model. (See Picture above)

Nautilus (gnome-vfs) can’t but deal with compressed GIMP native information

Selecting a Shade Palette


Chances are you’ll suppose palettes are solely crucial in particular instances like indexing colours of internet photos. Nonetheless, for those who’re going to create a couple of icon, having a pre-selected palette may give your icons a extra constant look and really feel.

Chances are you’ll wish to think about using a palette that already exists. Many working techniques like MS Home windows or MacOS have a system-wide coloration palette that’s used on low coloration depth screens. You would additionally use one of many palettes that Tuomas Kuosmanen has included in his public palettes record.

Should you choose to create your individual palette, it’s greatest to only outline essentially the most fundamental colours. That’s, focus totally on defining a set of hues you’ll be utilizing. In a while, you’ll be able to tweak the worth or saturation to create highlights or shadows of that specific coloration. Having a posh palette with many variations will make it complicated and arduous to navigate.

Getting Began

Whenever you’re prepared to start out, run GIMP by choosing Purposes -> Graphics -> GIMP Picture Editor out of your menu panel, or typing gimp on the command line. Should you haven’t used GIMP earlier than, the default window structure could also be just a little complicated. It’s so much like Photoshop and different related purposes, in that it makes use of a lot of dialogs. Choose objects from the File -> Dialogs menu to decide on which dialog home windows you’d prefer to have open and which of them you’d prefer to have closed. For icon work, you might discover it most handy to make use of the primary window, plus the palette and layers dialogs, and naturally the precise picture you’re working on.

To create a brand new picture file, press Ctrl+N. Choose a 48×48 pixel picture, the usual Gnome icon measurement. As a result of engaged on such a tiny pixmap requires quite a lot of element, zoom in to work on a pixel-by-pixel stage. Attempt 8:1 magnification ().

At that magnification, nevertheless, you’ll start to lose perspective. It’s greatest to maintain a further window open with an unmagnified view, so you’ll be able to see what your icon will appear like. To try this, select from the picture context menu (the little arrow within the higher left aspect of the window). Use a 1:1 zoom on this view, so to paint at an 8:1 zoom and see the outcomes instantly.

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Make sure that to show off the choice decorations on the 1:1 window. To try this, focus the window and press Ctrl+T or select .

A Few Tips

It appears at first that creating an icon is extremely restrictive. In spite of everything, you’ve gotten only a tiny grid the place you’ll quickly run out of pixels. Nonetheless, there are a number of tips you need to use to idiot the human eye and make your icons look higher. Principally, you’ll be simulating or implying form with coloration worth and opacity.


One of many fundamental facets of bitmap photos is the unfavorable impact of Aliasing.
Though many instruments like the comb instrument work effectively in massive photos, they aren’t efficient on the icon measurement. Specifically, drawing with a 1×1 pixel brush doesn’t behave in addition to could possibly be hoped.

The answer is to anti-alias manually. Some individuals choose to work at the next decision, with full anti-aliasing, after which scale down, however the icon loses smoothness and a lot of the advantage of the bigger measurement. Ultimately, it’s crucial to the touch up the picture manually. Normally, you’re higher off beginning with simply your 48×48 sq. and never scaling.

As a lot because it sounds arduous, guide anti-aliasing is simple, and even enjoyable. All you want for that is the opacity setting of the pencil instrument. Say we now have a top level view that’s aliased (Just like the picture to the left). Choose a 1×1 brush and set the opacity to one thing like 40%. Whenever you begin drawing with this black brush by clicking on the white floor, it can change into mild grey. Yet another click on and it will get darker. That method you’ll be able to simply create fluent transitions between the 2 border colours. You can too change the lively coloration utilizing Ctrl-leftMB or simply by swapping forground and background colours (X).

Should you’re utilizing layers to have extra freedom experimenting, you’ll discover the erase instrument as helpful for anti-aliasing because the pencil (Proper picture). Ensure you activate the arduous edges possibility, for max precision.

Shading with Gradients

You need to use gradients to reinforce the form of an object. For spherical objects, select a radial gradient, and for curves, use a linear gradient. For filling surfaces, you’ll wish to use linear gradients nearly each time. Even when the floor is meant to be flat, a slight gradient provides realism. Make sure that to maintain the gradient refined, although: an excessive amount of of a distinction between the 2 extremes and also you’ll destroy the impact.

Highlights and Shadows

For any given object, be sure to experiment just a little with highlights and shadows, and never simply the common drop shadow used on most Gnome icons. Attempt giving your icon actual materials properties with some mild reflections. Whether or not it’s just a bit gleam or shine from a nook or a suggestion of depth by decreasing the saturation or worth of a nook within the again, you’ll be able to enhance the look of an icon with just a bit work.

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For easy shading, choose the world you wish to work with after which apply the airbrush instrument. You’ll solely have an effect on the choice, so that you don’t have to fret about overspray. To do arduous highlights, use the one pixel pencil instrument and, as earlier than, a lowered opacity for the coloration.

Work Instance

On this small tutorial, Ximian artist Jakub Steiner will reveal a lot of the methods described within the part known as “A Few Tricks” as he attracts a TV icon.

Fundamental Form


Usually, you’d use the bezier instrument for form enhancing, however a TV silhouette is easy sufficient that we’ll simply begin with the rectangle choice instrument.

Create a separate foreground layer for the form, and select a lightweight, however not fully white, coloration for the background layer. After you’re performed with the icon, you’ll be able to drag colours from the palette to the background layer to be sure that the icon appears to be like proper on any background.

Drag the black preview rectangle from the toolbox, or press Ctrl-+ to fill the silhouette. You need to have a black sq. on a lightweight background. Then, use the eraser instrument to easy the perimeters of the sq. in order that the form is healthier. This will even add a slight white shine to the corners of the picture.

Making it Plastic


Subsequent, we’re going to make use of alpha mixing of a range to present a extra three dimensional look to the silhouette.

Choose the TV silhouette by right-clicking on the layer within the layer window and selecting Alpha to Choice. Shrink the choice by 1 pixel and fill it with a linear gradient much like the picture above. Now you’ve gotten a darkish gray form with a black define, and barely shiny corners.


Now it’s time so as to add a bit extra depth, utilizing the spotlight trick from the part known as “Highlights And Shadows”. Use a white 1×1 pencil to create highlights, and a black one to create shadows. By setting opacity of the comb to one thing like 20% you will get outcomes much like the picture above.

Modelling the Display screen


After all, a tv isn’t only a single sq. with a top level view. You may create the display precisely the identical method you probably did the TV silhouette. Create a brand new layer, and add a smaller rectangular choice, positioned inside the tv one. Fill it with black, shrink the choice by 1 pixel and at last fill it with linear gradient to type a display just like the one proven in picture above.


An essential side of glass surfaces is the reflection. To make the tv display look shiny and reflective, shrink the choice by one other pixel and create a brand new layer. Now, choose the airbrush instrument and a mid-sized fuzzy brush. Paint a white reflection just like the one in picture above.

If you wish to create horizontal monitor traces on the display, you need to use the interlace impact. To take action, create a brand new layer above the present one. Render white horizontal traces with . Ensure you set the layer mode to Overlay.

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After that, you’ll wish to create buttons. That is comparatively easy: simply create a round choice with the elipse instrument and fill it with radial gradient (picture above). Selecting a gradient as a substitute of a stable fill supplies a little bit of shine to the button, so even when it’s just some pixels throughout, it appears to be like distinct and three dimensional.

Modelling the Distant Management


This time we’ll use the bezier choice instrument to create the define of an object. With a small form, it may generally be tough to make use of the bezier instrument, it’s arduous to create a small form, as a result of the nodes snap to the pixel grid, but it surely’s definitely worth the effort as a result of it makes the form look sharp, just like the one above. You may look within the GIMP guide for extra details about enhancing bezier paths and dealing with the bezier instrument.


To create a shadow for the distant, copy the trail window and shifting only one node. The shadow on this picture is completed precisely this method.


You may make nearly any picture, particularly a small one, simpler to grasp by including black object outlines to reinforce distinction. To do that, you’ll use the other of approach you used to create the tv silhouette with its define. First, right-click on the distant management layer and choose Layers -> Alpha to choice. Create a brand new empty layer under the distant management layer. Improve the dimensions of the choice by 1 pixel, and fill the choice with black.


GIMP could not develop that choice completely, and you’ll most likely have to change the end result manually. On this case, we’ll use the erase instrument with a 1×1 pixel brush, and opacity between 60 and 70 %. Select the “draw straight lines” possibility, and easy the define by drawing near the border of the object.


Now, to make the article just a little extra lifelike, we’ll use our spotlight trick. Use the pencil instrument with a 1×1 pixel brush and opacity set fairly low, close to 20%. The end result makes the article very actual.


To create buttons on the distant management, use the identical approach as you probably did to create the button on the TV: Select with the bezeier instrument, then fill it with a gradient, and apply highlights and shadows with the pencil instrument as wanted.

Including Glow


For additional realism you’ll be able to add a TV glow. Create a layer above the display, however under the distant. Create an oblong number of the display, then improve its measurement by 6 pixels and fill it with blue. Now, shrink that choice by 3 pixels and fill with white. Deselect the are with Ctrl-Shift-A and apply by about 5 pixels. Now set the layer mode to overlay, creating the transparency impact.

The Remaining Product


Now, you’ve acquired a ultimate product: a tv, with distant.

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