A guide to pixel-perfect icons

3 min readApr 18, 2024

Learn to select appropriate scales, stroke widths, and detail levels for universally compatible icon designs.

Crafting an aesthetically appealing icon involves more than visual appeal. It demands scalability, responsiveness, and device compatibility, which are crucial for the widespread adoption of your icons. With considerable experience in icon design, we’re here to guide you in creating flawless icons.

Opt for our tutorial or follow the detailed steps outlined below.

Our tool of choice is Adobe Illustrator.

First, go to Preferences → Guides & Grid, then adjust the Gridline every setting to 1 px.

adobe illustrator preferences screenshot

Next, access the View menu, select Snap to Grid & Show Grid, and you’re set to start designing your pristine icons.

Key factors for pixel-perfect icons

A pixel-perfect icon meets six critical criteria:

  1. Stroke width
  2. Inner elements
  3. Bézier curves
  4. Detail amount
  5. Perspective
  6. Scaling

We’ll explore each factor to ensure precision in your icon designs.

Stroke width. The clarity of an outline icon can diminish if its stroke width doesn’t align with the pixel grid.

Business icon

Go for even-numbered stroke widths (2 px, 4 px, 6 px, etc.). Odd numbers can work, too, provided they align with the grid.

When fractional stroke widths are necessary, extra steps are needed to maintain edge clarity. Post-rasterization, adjust any semi-transparent pixels inward to ensure sharp outer edges and maintain icon readability.

Video Call icons

Inner elements. For icons with inner elements, alignment with the icon’s overall size is crucial to avoid distortion. For example, a circle with a 20 px radius should have elements with an even stroke thickness, like 2 px.

High Importance icon

Bézier curves. Adjust vector paths meticulously to keep your icon’s edges crisp.

Female User icon

Detail amount. Icons with excessively small details can appear blurry upon resizing.

Electric Scooter icon

To counteract this, design with a specific size in mind. For our Office-style icons, we created four versions to accommodate various displays: 16×16 px and 30×30 px for standard screens, and 40×40 px and 80×80 px for retina displays.

Shop icon

Perspective. For smaller icons, minimize the use of perspective; flat styles are more effective and less likely to blur.

Bridge icon

Scaling. Take caution with fractional scaling numbers. Designing multiple icon sizes may require adjustments to avoid excess pixels.

Black Cat icon

By adhering to these guidelines, your icons will not only look sharp but also function seamlessly across different platforms and devices.

Learn how to design an icon set

This article was previously published on Icons8’s blog




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