Semi-Transparency Effect in XP and Vista Icons

Shortcuts to modern applications sure look different in Windows XP and Windows Vista. Why? The graphic designers of those products used a semi-transparency effect to smooth edges of the icons in order to better blend with the environment.

Can you produce the same effect with icons that you design? Anyone can! The big question is: what tools are you going to use?

While Adobe Photoshop and Corel Draw have been around for a while, buying and learning a heavyweight professional suite is overkill for an icon designer. Besides, these tools are really not meant to cope well with the needs of a small-arts designer. Let alone their inability to save more than a single format or resolution into an icon file, crafting Windows XP icons puts certain requirements that are simply not there with the big guys.

Making icon images requires close attention to every dot on the screen, as every pixel is extremely important considering that icons get as small as 16 by 16. On the other hand, you simply don’t need 99% of the features that bloat the Adobe and Corel products. What use are color profiles, red-eye reduction and the various artificial color models such as LAB and CMYK for a Windows icon image? Do you really need all the artistic filters found in Photoshop that work great for high-resolution photographs but leave nothing but some sort of soup of a small icon image with counted pixels? Finally, are ready for the substantial investment of your time and money to learn the product and pay the bill?

There’s really no need to pay hundreds of dollars for an image editor that you won’t fully use. Drawing small object requires specific approach and highly specialized tools. You need an icon editor.

Icon editors come in various flavors. There are small simple tools such as Paint included with Windows, and there are tools designed to manage collections of desktop icons and do simple manipulations with them. Obviously, if you want to draw icons from a scratch, you need an icon editor that allows just that.


IconXP fits the bill as a near-perfect icon editor. While not nearly as huge and expensive as Adobe Photoshop or Corel Draw, IconXP is no Microsoft Paint either. Aimed at professional and amateur icon artists and small-art designers, IconXP has everything that is necessary to create great-looking icons with that modern slick flair.

Giving you an ability to save icon images as ICO, ICPR, BMP, JPEG, CUR, PNG, GIF, RC, XPM, XBM, WBMP and Adobe Photoshop PSD files image formats, IconXP is well-suited for icon work. While not as complex as the big players, IconXP is still a very capable icon editing tool. Gradients, transparency and semi-transparency support with alpha-channel allow making slick XP icons that blend into desktop. Design icons from a scratch, or touch-up existing images equally easy. IconXP is a single fast, small, inexpensive icon editor that is easy to learn and to use by every professional and amateur icon designer. You can download it from

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