Various approaches are available for creating your own icons. The path you choose for icon creation will probably depend on how serious you are in terms of creating your own icons. For example, if you just want to quickly create a couple of custom icons for your own use, you can create a new icon with a software package as simple as Microsoft Paint.
Windows icons exist in different sizesmeasured in pixelssuch as 48¥48 and 32¥32. You can create each of the icon sizes, or you can create your icons in a particular size and let Windows render that size as needed.
Think about how icons are used in the Windows environment. A specific icon can appear on the Windows desktop, and it can also appear on the Windows Start menu, in the taskbar's Quick Launch bar, or in other locations. So, an icon can appear in different sizes depending on where it is located. Windows can size an icon to the appropriate size as needed, but this can cause distortion of the icon itself. Microsoft advises that you create icons in all the required sizes, such as 64¥64, 32¥32, and so on. However, Microsoft is mainly concerned with the creation of professional icons for use by developers. For your own use, you can create an icon in one size (32¥32 is recommended) and then use it as needed, letting Windows render it in the appropriate size.
Many of the icons you download from the Web are 32¥32. This middle-of-the-road size can then be expanded or shrunk as necessary by Windows without grossly distorting the icon.
If you wanted to quickly create a desktop icon in Microsoft Paint, all you'd need to do is set the canvas size to 32¥32 using the Attributes command on the Image menu. You also might want to zoom way in so you can work within the canvas. You do this via the View menu: Zoom to 800% and turn on the grid.
You can create your icon using the drawing tools as necessary. Using the grid system makes drawing the icon easier (see Figure 10.4).
Figure 10.4. You can draw your own simple icons using Microsoft Paint.
After you have completed your drawing, save the file as a 24-bit .bmp file to an appropriate folder. You can then use the bitmap file as an alternative for any of the desktop icons, making your selection via the desktop Item dialog box. See Chapter 4 for more information.
Because you saved your icon as a bitmap, be sure that, when you are browsing for the icon to use it as a desktop alternative that you change the File of Type to All Files in the Change Icon dialog box.
Even if you are an accomplished artist, you will probably find that creating icons using Microsoft Paint is rather limiting. However, you can cut and paste photographs into Paint to create your own custom photo icons.
The alternatives to using Paint, which is a raster graphics program (see more about raster images in the next section), require additional software. Let's take a look at some of the techniques Microsoft recommends related to icon creation.