The term “Icon” has many definitions but for the sake of this article, an icon is a small graphic used on web pages and documents. Sometimes they are used to make a point or clarify a sentence, such as smiley’s/emoticons, and sometimes they are used as logos. Sometimes they are used to hold commonly understood links, such as to a shopping cart. Sometimes they are logos that lead to something such as a social media site. More often than not, they are used to hold widgets or links of a certain nature.
What to look for when you are icon searching
The truth is that you can create your own icons for free. Designing an icon is not very difficult, so even if you search through all ten of these resources and find nothing you like, you should consider making your own before you go spending money.
You need to look at the iconographic aesthetic to be sure it is consistent. You need to look at its proportions, line weight, composition and positive space vs. negative space. These factors will dictate the competence of the design. You icon need to communicate its message very clearly. It also needs to relate to the other icons that you use, and relate to your site and/or other design elements.
Your icon needs to be scalable
You may find some very good and very detailed icons, but unless you are sure that you are always going to use the icon in its original size, you are going to have to test how scalable it is. You need to test it to see if it will reduce or increase in size very well. Does it still appear legible when it is reduced, and is it blurry when its size is increased?
You need to know what your needs are before you run off and go looking for new icons. You need to know how much space each icon is going to fill, and make sure that the background is not too complex or muddy, so that the icon does not look out of place.
The icons file type makes a difference.
If you are looking to increase or decrease the size of your icon then AI, SVG, and EPS can easily be scaled up or down and still maintain their quality. Whereas PNG, PSD, JPG will look blurry and appear as very low quality if they are enlarged in size.
1 - Modern Pictograms
This resource has a large number of free icons that you can download. They have an OpenType font, and were created by the designer to be simple and easy to use. If you mix the icons with Helvetica fonts then it looks rather good.
2 - Socialico
This has just 74 icons, but they are free so you cannot complain. They are designed for social media use. They have a number of uses if you are looking to place them on a social based site. There are the usual popular ones such as Twitter and Facebook, and a few of the lesser-known social media icons too.
3 - IconToucan
This is a very convenient icon-tool resource because it allows you to view transparent icons and search through them easily. You can view a transparent PNG icon, drag it and drop it into the drawer on the far right hand side of the page. Once you have compiled your list of icons you want to use, you are given options with what to do with them. For example, you can bundle them together and download them as a zip file.
4 - The Noun Project
Here you will find free icons that are part of the Noun Project. It consists of a “free icon set” that the web designers have compiled. They have also made the search area very good, very active and very beautiful. The UI is also very good looking and plays host to some very good icon designs.
5 - Jigsoar Icons
This resource has free icons that were made for the internet. The icons featured for choices are also used on the website itself, which is a novel idea that other such websites should follow. When you download your icon you are given size choices, but they also include the vector file so that you can scale the image/icon yourself.
6 - Fontello
You can create your own web fonts for free with this resource and use them as icons. You can select a few 'glyphs' of icons. You can change the file names and pixel sizes before downloading them for your personal use.
7 - Iconza
Here are a collection of free icons that you are able to customize in size and color before using. You can change the background of the icon in order to suit your needs, and change the icon via preset options. You can alter the size up to 32px or down to 16px, which is a favicon size.
8 - Iconic
This is an open source resource that has 171 icon sets. They are free and were created by “Some Random Dude.” They or he/she have used a grid system so as to be mindful of scaling. You can scale them up to a high degree or shrink them down, and they will lose very little of their image quality.
9 - Iconfinder
This is similar to a Google search engine, except that it is programmed to search for free icons. All you need to do is to type in your search word, and it will produce a few icons of you to choose from. The website also has tools that allow you to change the background (etc) of the icons that you use. You can change the color, licensing option and the pixel size. Many of the icons are available to download as PNG.
10 - Minicons
This is a great little icon resource for the fact that it is loaded for lot of free mini icons for you to choose from. It has over vector-based free icons that you can download and use with just a click. They allow you to use the 210 icons for personal or for commercial use. Or you can purchase a wallet, where you are the able to choose from 1,500 vector icons.