Create your own icon font and how to use it on websites (pros/cons)

I. Basics

There has been many techniques to use vector icons on web sites. From importing bitmap image files (usually transparent PNG’s), to vectorized SVG’s or even using web fonts containing symbols instead of typical characters. All of those have advantages and disadvantages, so the choice is not always easy.

Even though, using non-standard fonts (in general) has became a standard of web development in the recent years. Displaying icons through fonts is the same as using non-standard fonts for titles and paragraphs. Times, where web designers could choose only from 5-10 different fonts, are – luckily – over.

Picons Font

Using icons as web fonts has many advantages:

  • fonts are scalable (no quality loss with different sizes);
  • no need to care about support for Retina displays;
  • easy to apply CSS properties (color, gradient, shadows, etc.) without editing the icon itself;
  • you can use the same icon (shape) in different sizes, colors (saves time and performance);

Nonetheless, icon fonts have also disadvantages. The biggest I see is the unreliable rendering across browsers. The problem can be demonstrated with the following screenshot:

Icon font vs. SVG comparison

The other disadvantage, which is also related to inconsistent rendering, is positioning. It can be tricky to position a tiny icon into center of a circle, so it looks the same in every browser.

If you want to get more deep into this, you can find many articles with pros and cons of using icons as web fonts (Ian Feather’s Article, CSS tricks, SitePoint, etc.).

OK, enough of this. Let’s create an icon font and show how to use it on a website.

II. Creating an icon font

The first thing you need to do is to make your own personal selection of icons. It’s prefered you do that for every project individually, because including all of the icons, even if not used on a project, makes the font file larger. Carrying about loading times is still crucial for the mobile experience.

All Picons icon collections come with included SVG’s of each icon. But, we also have an own icon font with 130 selected icons, if you want to jump the step of creating your own.

There is variety of free and paid tools for creating own fonts. Specialized tools such as icomoon, Fontello, etc. are free and very easy to use. We will show the steps based on comoon’s app.

Step 1: Drag & drop selected SVG’s and create a new set

step1

Step 2: Select all the icons you wish to include in an icon font (you can select them from various sets)

step2

Step 3: Generate the Font

step3

Step 4: Rename all the symbols as you wish and define a unicode character for each (optional)

step4

Step 5: Download the generated file

step5

III. Using the icon font on a website

Your generated icon font consists of various font formats (for cross-browser compatibility) and demo files including HTML and CSS.

Step 1: Copy the CSS code in the included “style.css” to your own CSS file

The included CSS file has a predefined class for each icon, telling your browser which character in the font to use for a specific symbol. You can also apply your own CSS styles to each icon (color, shading, etc…).

Step 2: Copy the folder “fonts” to your website folder

The folder “fonts” includes your generated icon font in different formats (woff, tff, svg, eot). Be sure that the uploaded fonts are linked from the imported CSS. If placed somewhere else than “fonts/”, then correct the link direction accordingly.

@font-face {
 font-family: ‘thin_custom’;
 src:    url('fonts/thin_custom.eot?hpwvww’);
 src:    url('fonts/thin_custom.eot?hpwvww#iefix’) format('embedded-opentype’),
 url('fonts/thin_custom.ttf?hpwvww’) format('truetype’),
 url('fonts/thin_custom.woff?hpwvww’) format('woff’),
 url('fonts/thin_custom.svg?hpwvww#thin_custom’) format('svg’);
 font-weight: normal;
 font-style: normal;
 }

Step 3: Insert the icons

An icon can be inserted with the following HTML code:

<span class=“icon-notebook”></span>

Where the class name “icon-notebook” is generated from the title you gave each icon when creating the icon font. The classes are referred to styling definitions in the included CSS file:

.icon-notebook:before {
 content: “61”;
}

The styling (size, color, hover, etc) can be applied inline (inside the HTML) or to your style.css.

Your feedback (including questions) is always welcome…

How to easily use Picons.me icons in Photoshop as vector shapes?

Have all the icons at your fingertips

For those unfamiliar with the custom shape toolbar in Adobe Photoshop, it allows you to insert a vectorized shape with just a click. And it’s not just fast, it’s also a convenient way to have an overview of your icons.

All our Picons.me iconsets already come with the necessary Custom Shape files (.csh). Personally, I couldn’t live without them.

How to import the Picons into Photoshop’s toolbar?

It’s super easy.

  • In Adobe Photoshop open “Edit” > “Presets” > “Preset Manager…” from the top menu
Photoshop preset manager
  • When the Preset manager pops up, choose “Custom Shapes” from the dropdown on the top
  • Click on “Load” and browse for the .CSH file, which came with your Picons.me iconset, select it and then click “OK”.
  • You can import multiple CSH files. We suggest you import all your Picons.me iconsets.

That’s it.

Now, to insert an icon, use the “Custom Shape tool” (see screenshot).

custom_shape_tool

Choose your desired icon (dropdown at the top bar) and draw it as an ordinary shape.

Toolbar

You can color it, resize, transform, apply a stroke, … whatever you like. The icon will be a vector shape object, so you won’t see any quality loss when resizing.

Have a productive time!

Free Picons Social Updated v3

In almost 5 years, our iconset Picons Social has been downloaded over 300.000 times. Yes, this is amazing and we’re very proud that it’s one of the most popular iconsets out there. And it’s free for everyone, of course.

We’ve been adding and updating the set all the time and it is growing and growing. We’re also very happy to get suggestions for including new icons. If you think we should add an icon – don’t hesitate to mail us: info at picons.me.

Picons Social v.3

Picons Social is a bundle of 110 vector icons of your most favorite social services and applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, Pinterest, Dribbble and many others. You are free to use them on your personal or business websites, interfaces or even other application, but you have to respect their owners rights and guidelines of use. Therefor the Picons.me license agreement doesn’t accour on them.

Download Picons Social for Free

Big news! A huge update of Picons This is out!

Picons Thin - 1050 vector icons

We are very proud to announce this release. Hours and hours have been spent to redesign the complete iconset from ground up and made it as twice as big. Each of the 1000+ icons has been built on a pixel-perfect grid, precisely hand-crafted and is sharing a consistent visual language.

This is a brand new, super slick, elegant & modern iconset. All icons are iOS 8 & Android ready, pixel perfect on both 24- and 30-px grids, making it a must-have iconset for every developer and designer. We also added vector files with strokes, so you can change the stroke width, style and color in just seconds. Refresh your website, application or print with these new icons.

All the icons are grouped into categories (see the full preview).

Picons Thin - icons

iOS ready icons

We keep our promises. All our existing Thin and Complete buyers are eligible to get a FREE upgrade. Please email us, if you did not receive an automatized upgrade email.

The regular price for the iconset is $89,-. Until 31th of December we reduced the price for 20%. This means you can get the new Picons Thin icon set, containing 1050 royalty-free vector icons, for only $69,- (EUR 52,-).

Get Picons Thin here.