Several icon-creation utilities are available on the Web as freeware, as shareware, and for purchase. These software packages enable you to draw an icon and then save it in the appropriate file format. Most icon-creation software also lets you create Windows mouse pointers (discussed later in this chapter).
Icon makers are useful because they provide a single tool that allows you to draw your icon and then save it as an icon file. Most icon makers also let you easily save a set of icons (different sizes or different icons) in a single file. Using an icon maker makes icon creation simple, particularly if you take a look at all the steps we went through creating icons as Microsoft suggests (refer to the section "The Basics of Icon Creation the Microsoft Way").
Many icon editors are available on the Web, and you can use your favorite search engine to locate icon editor downloads. A good place to start is http://www.simtel.net, which is a large repository of software downloads. It provides links for the download of both freeware and shareware Windows utilities.
Examples of icon editors include IconCool Editor (http://www.icon-creator.net/index.html), IconForge (http://www.cursorarts.com/ca_if.html), IconEdit (http://www.iconedit2.com/), and Icon Developer (Icon Developer is part of the Stardock Object Desktop, which is covered Chapter 6). These icon creators vary in the features they provide, such as the number of drawing tools and the ability to save files in different file formats.
For example, IconEdit provides a simple interface where you can create icons of varying sizes and then save them as .ico files (see Figure 10.9). Icons are created by filling in the grid that is provided using the drawing tools.
Figure 10.9. IconEdit provides a simple interface for icon creation.
Another icon editor is IconCool Editor. This editor provides a greater breadth of tools and lets you easily save multiple icons in a single .ico file (see Figure 10.10).
Figure 10.10. IconCool provides more tools and the ability to save multiple icons in a single file.
You can use these various editors to create icons by drawing them, or you can create icons from photos or other images. All the icon editors enable you to copy and paste from other software packages such as image editors (Photoshop, for example) and then size the copied image on the icon grid.
Stardock's IconDeveloper is designed to import drawings and images from other programs, as shown by the software's opening screen (see Figure 10.11). It doesn't provide any drawing tools of its own, but it enables you to quickly edit the current icon by opening your drawing or image editing software and loading the icon file.
Figure 10.11. IconDeveloper is designed to create icons from existing images.
IconDeveloper is a great way to import an existing image and then quickly create different icon sizes using the image (see Figure 10.12). These different icons can then be saved in a single .ico file.
Figure 10.12. Quickly create icons from existing images.
Because most icon editors provide their own drawing tools and let you easily import existing images, these utilities might be a more straightforward and inexpensive way to create your own custom icons when compared with the approach discussed in the previous section, "The Basics of Icon Creation the Microsoft Way."
Most of these icon editors also provide a number of sample icons, which is another way to increase your collection of icons. You can then apply these icons to your themes and skins as needed.