Icon Maker Review

Icon Maker logoAs a Mac / iOS developer, I have a lousy time trying to make good icons. This is incredibly important, as that’s what helps to sell apps. If a customer sees a poor icon, they might lose interest in the software. That’s why I decided to buy a copy of Icon Maker. My objective was to acquire software that would allow me to quickly and easily improve the quality of my app icons. And in theory — better icons would improve my sales. I haven’t actually done that yet with Icon Maker, but I think this software could eventually be helpful.

Right away, I was quickly creating beautiful looking icons with Icon Maker. The software is fairly simple. There’s an “Editor Mode” for vector drawing and there’s a “Maker Mode” for adjusting the icon settings. It’s really easy to make attractive borders and glossy effects. That’s exactly what I was looking for. A typical iOS icon has that shiny look… bright… colorful… crisp. Icon Maker is great for creating icons that look like they belong in Apple’s App Stores. All I had to do was press the “Next” button to create a new style for my Icon’s background… and “Suggest” to generate random color schemes. I liked the “Size” slider in the Preview Settings. This allowed me to quicky gauge the scalability of my icon.

I’m also a web developer, so I enjoyed the ability to quickly create buttons for the web. I liked that I could create rows of icons, for quick comparison. This feature is great for creating buttons with mouse-over effects or simply looking at multiple versions of the same logo. These images could also be used in games.

Yet, there are some serious limitations here. This appeared to be a purely vector-based workflow. I didn’t see a way to import rasterized images… like .png files. That’s probably not such a terrible thing, as icons should be scalable. By restricting the design to vector-only, it forces the design to be minimalistic. That appears to be the goal of the software — quick and clean icons/logos. That simplistic approach is what ultimately lead to my disappointment with the software. While the software can be great for those that can draw with vectors, it can be limiting for those that can’t draw.

Icon Maker is one of the easiest vector programs I’ve seen, but I was surprised with the inability to use type. By using the Special Characters option, you can see lots of vector based images in a particular typeset. Yet, I didn’t see a way to enter type into Icon Maker. That’s a big problem. The 100+ general purpose icons, that are included with Icon Maker, appear to be primarily of A-Z letters. (There are two sets… serif and san-serif… which was not very useful for me.) I would have access to far more artwork if I could use my own fonts.

Icon Maker Screenshot
I had fun playing with the different options in Icon Maker, but I think that the software could benefit from more features.

I thought that there would be a simple workaround. I tried using another vector-based graphics program to get my artwork into the program. But unfortunately, I couldn’t import or even cut-and-paste my artwork into Icon Maker. It’s like the software is in a bubble, which limits the usefulness of the software. I can draw my own logos, but that takes much longer. If I have to do everything from scratch, it defeats the purpose of the software. Without the ability to use Fonts, imported .svg files or .png images… the software is of limited use.

Exporting wasn’t really a problem for me. I was able to cut-and-paste the image into a graphics editor. There was also the option to export to PNG and PDF. Icon Maker can also create CSS image sprites. That’s pretty neat. The icons can also be exported as .iml files – not really useful for me. Apparently, Icon Maker doesn’t play well with other vector-based graphics programs. The inability to export or import from such programs does limit the usefulness of the software.

Here are ways that I think the developer can improve the software…

  • More friendly — Import and Export from other vector based programs
  • Add Text — The software could be more useful with fonts/special characters
  • Raster Images — Vector isn’t always appropriate
  • iOS Export Mode — All icon sizes for app store… 57px, 72px, 114px, 512px.
  • Less random — Add sliders for more control over particular effects
    (Drop shadow control, border thickness, background patterns)

I like this software. It’s only $10. I think it’s off to a great start. That’s why I rated it four-stars on the Mac App Store. I know that if I rate the software lower, it might discourage the developer to keep working on the software. I don’t want to be that guy… as this software is really close to excellent. It’s quite apparent that a lot of work went into the creation of this software. The application felt solid to me… no crashes and it ran fast… I liked that.

…but would I recommend it? :?

If you’re handy with vector drawing, this software can be a great way to quickly create app icons and buttons. If you’re an App Developer or web developer, this can be incredibly useful software. If you’re not familiar with vector-drawing programs, this might be a good way to learn. I found the software to be very easy to use.

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