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IconBuilder FAQ

General Questions
What is IconBuilder?
How much does it cost?
System Requirements?
Support for 32 bit icons?
Support for Mac OS X?
Does it do Windows™?
What happened to v. 1.0?

Using IconBuilder
Making your first icon
The QuickBuild feature
Dither & Center buttons
Working the "Grid"
Swapping backgrounds
Apply to Photoshop Layer
Saving your work
Tips and Tricks
Start with 256 color versions
Adding custom list view icons
Timesaving techniques
The joys of Photoshop layers
Use Photoshop to your advantage
Don't add resources you don't need
See icon file sizes as you build

Common / Known Problems
IconBuilder won't launch
I have to wait every time I use it
Memory errors
Delays when saving
Changes are not applied
Possible Kaleidoscope conflict
Reporting bugs

PDF of the IconBuilder FAQ
Click here to download (59 kb)

General Questions | Top

Q) What is IconBuilder?

A) IconBuilder is the first true 32 bit icon editor available for the Macintosh. By combining custom icon data (that you create or import) as well as 1 bit or 8 bit transparent masks from Adobe Photoshop layers, IconBuilder can create icons on your desktop in a matter of seconds. No more fumbling around with clumsy icon editors, IconBuilder does it all.

Q) How much does IconBuilder cost?

A) IconBuilder is available for the Macintosh for $49.00. When you register IconBuilder you'll eliminate the startup delay function as well as be signed up to receive copies of the Iconfactory newsletter to keep up on the latest developments. In addition, registered users will be able to upgrade to IconBuilder "Pro" (available in the second quarter of '99) for a minimal fee.

Q) What are the system requirements to run IconBuilder?

A) In order to run IconBuilder, you MUST have the following: a PPC Macintosh computer running at least Mac OS 8.5, and a copy of Adobe Photoshop (PPC) 3.0 or later. In addition, we RECOMMEND that you have: a monitor capable of displaying at least thousands or millions of colors, and screen resolutions greater than 640x480 pixels.

Q) Does IconBuilder support the creation of 32-bit icons?

A) Yes it does. In fact, this feature was the very reason we created the filter in the first place. Although Apple has raised the bar considerably with the introduction of millions of color icons, they released no tool to make them. We created IconBuilder to take advantage of the already powerful features of Adobe Photoshop in order to make creating 32-bit icons as easy as possible.

Q) Does IconBuilder support 48x48 icons in Mac OS X?

A) IconBuilder 2.0 (the current version) does not currently support creation of 48x48 or "Huge" icons as they've become known. We are working to include this feature into the upgraded or "Pro" version of IconBuilder at a future date.

Q) Can the filter create icons for the Windows platform?

A) Although all the workers at the Iconfactory are Mac users through and through, there are occasions when we need to create Windows icons. The Chief Typist is working on bringing this cross platform creation capability to the "Pro" version of IconBuilder later on.

Q) If the current version is 2.0, what happened to version 1.0?

A) The factory workers have been using version 1.0 internally for some time. When it came time to prepare the filter for public release, we thought it best to update the version number since most of its interface and features were totally reworked from the internal 1.0 version.

Using IconBuilder | Top

Q) How do I make my first icon with IconBuilder?

A) Here is a very simple, step by step guide to making your first icon: 1) In Adobe Photoshop, create a new 32x32 pixel document. 2) Within that document create a new, blank layer on which to work. 3) Create (draw or paste in) your icon. Get it shaded and cropped correctly. Make sure to fully erase any stray pixels outside of the icon's outline. An easy way to do this is to turn off the Background layer so you can see your transparent "checkerboard" pattern under your layer. 4) Select all. 5) Run IconBuilder from the "Filters" menu. 6) Once inside IconBuilder click the "QuickBuild" button and watch the various cells of the icon grid fill up. You'll note that it created the small or 16x16 pixel icons for you as well. No doubt that the view of these sizes that were created isn't where you expected. 7) Click to select the 32-bit, small icon cell. 8) Use the keyboard's arrow keys to move the icon around until you get the cropping you want 9) Press and hold the "Shift" key and with the mouse, click the "QuickBuild" button again. IconBuilder rebuilds the entire column for you using this newly aligned small icon. 10) Click on the "Save" button, name your file and save it to your Mac's desktop. 11) Click the "Done" button to exit IconBuilder and go back out to Photoshop. You're done!.

Q) How do I use the QuickBuild™ feature?

A) Think of the Quickbuild feature as the "Autopilot" of the filter. Clicking this button will automatically create all available sizes and bit depths for an icon. If you want to create only a certain kind of resources (say just the 256 color versions for instance) then select any cell in the 256 (or 8-bit) row and click Control-QuickBuild. If you want to only auto-create a particular sized icon (say the 32x32 or large icons) then select any cell in that column and click Shift-QuickBuild. Remember: Control-clicking only affects rows, and Shift-clicking only affects columns.

Q) What do the "Dither Icon" and "Center View" buttons do?

A) The Dither Icon button lets you toggle between dithered drawing mode and non-dithered mode. This lets you easily select which method you prefer to translate a smooth 32-bit icon into a not-so-smooth 256 color icon. The Center View button simply re-centers the current view of the Photoshop layer file you're working with. Helpful if you've gone and nudged the file around and you want to quickly return it to a centered location.

Q) What does the multi-celled grid in the center represent?

A) This grid represents all of the individual icon resources that can be compiled together to make a single icon. Columns represent icon sizes (small, large & huge), Rows represent color depths (black & white, 16 colors, 256 colors or millions of colors). Every grid square you complete will mean that the icon you save at the end will have those resources built into it. Cells in the grid can be filled automatically using QuickBuild, or added one by one using the "Add Data", "Add Mask" or "Add Both" buttons to the left of the grid.

Q) Can I see how my icons will look against various backgrounds?

A) Yes. The small controls directly under the icon grid let you cycle through a variety of different grayscale, color, textured and checkerboard patterns (respectively from left to right). In this way, you can see your work against all kinds of backdrops and see if cropping as well as masks look right on both dark and light desktops.

Q) What does the "Apply to Photoshop™ Layer" button do?

A) This button lets you take what ever you are looking at in the Target Icon File window (the large window on the extreme right) and apply it to the currently selected layer back out in Photoshop. Why is this important? Say you've found a really cool 32-bit folder icon, and you just love the way the transparent shadow was created. Using the "Import" button, in conjunction with a blank layer that you used to launch IconBuilder with, you can then apply that cool folder's mask back out into your layer. There it waits for you to edit and use. This will also work for an icon's visual data or both the mask and data.

Q) How do I save the icons I create with IconBur?

A) Once you have the desired size and color depth resources completed in the icon grid, all you need to do is click the "Save" button. A save window will appear asking you to name and place the file. The icon is actually saved as a ResEdit document in the folder/directory you specified.

IconBuilder Tips & Tricks | Top

Q) What color depth should I start with when making icons?

A) We've found through experience that its best to start with the 32x32 sized, 256 color icon when you begin to make an individual icon. Its always easier to start with a lower "base" model and add onto it than to start with the best possible looking icon and "dumb it down". What does this mean? Start your creation process by getting the 256 version to look right and THEN add the flashy gradients and smooth edges of 32-bit icons. Remember, the vast majority of users will only see the 256 versions.

Q) What is the best way to add 16x16 (small) icons?

A) If you're an icon perfectionist, like the factory workers are, then you'll want your small, list view icons to look as good as your 32x32 sized icons. This means not simply cropping the larger versions to fit (as that sometimes is the case) but instead to design the smaller icon versions by hand. When working with IconBuilder, its best to always use a 48x48 sized canvas and build each of your different icon sizes and bit depths on their own layers. In this way, you can do a QuickBuild to get all the basic shapes and masks into the icon grid, but then you can go back and add each custom size and depth manually until its perfect.

Q) Any tips on how to save time and effort with IconBuilder?

A) Important things to remember: 1) QuickBuild is powerful, but it won't do everything for you. You'll need to sometimes add custom resources one by one. 2) Know your modifier keys as discussed above. These can save you a great deal of time in the long run. 3) Always keep a copy of your layers file saved in a safe place. If you have to recreate an icon, the individual layers will be a blessing. 4) Don't forget to view your work against both dark and light background textures. This helps you pinpoint mask errors and stray pixels.

Q) Why is it important to save my Photoshop layers file?

A) Making a custom icon from individual layers is one of the best ways to manipulate an icon. Whether your making icons for corporate clients, or just for fun, having portions of your icons on different layers really helps to be able to quickly and easily move things around, recolor or resize. Keeping your layers safe means that you can always rebuild your icon with just a few keystrokes instead of having to redraw or modify the entire image.

Q) Any tips on using Photoshop when making IconBuilder icons?

A) Some good advice when making icons from layers in Photoshop: 1) Always remember to name individual layers. It can get easy to loose track of what is what if you don't label each layer accordingly. 2) If you don't already have the checkerboard pattern turned on in layers, turn it on. It is much easier to spot semitransparent pixels against the checkerboard pattern than against the white of the background layer. 3) Experiment with the opacity settings of a layer to help achieve the proper settings for masking. 4) Always use a 48x48 sized canvas or larger. Not only will this help in positioning the "large" view icons if you need to nudge them, but later on when Mac OS X comes out, you'll already be used to the larger 48x48 icon size. 5) When editing icons in Photoshop, its handy to zoom in on your open window to say 400-800%. Once you've done this, use the View --> New View command to open a separate window that stays at 100% to see how the icon looks at actual size as you edit it.

Q) Any general tips on building and saving icons?

A) Not all icons need every resource. Consider your audience and add resources appropriately. Not all icons need 32-bit versions. If you're making an icon for Mac OS 8.1 or lower, delete (or just don't add) the 32-bit resources to the icon grid. Doing so will add unnecessary file size to the icon. Remember that Shift/Control modifier keys will also work with deleting.

Q) Is there a way to see how large an icon will be as I build it?

A) Yes. Simply click on the small Iconfactory logo next to the BuilderTips at the bottom of the interface to turn off the roll over help messages. In its place, will be displayed a constant message about the current file size of the icon you're currently working on. Watch the numbers increase the more resources you add to the icon grid.

Common / Known Problems | Top

Q) Why won't IconBuilder launch when I try to run it?

A) Check to make sure you're running IconBuilder on a PPC Mac with Mac OS 8.5 installed. If you are and IconBuilder still is not launching, then check to make sure you're using a PowerPC version of Photoshop. To do this, from within Photoshop, get info on the program and look for the little "PPC" letters after the version number. If you don't see this, you're currently running a 68K version of Photoshop and the filter will not function.

Q) Why do I have to wait so long when I run the filter?

A) IconBuilder costs $49.00 to register the filter. The delay process is the filter's way of encouraging you to pay the registration fee. A great deal of time and effort went into making the filter as good as it can be. By registering to eliminate the startup delay, you are telling us you support our efforts to bring you quality software products. If you use the filter, please register it.

Q) I'm getting memory errors when I use IconBuilder. What gives?

A) You may have Photoshop's memory partition too low. Try increasing the overall amount of RAM allotted to the program and see if this helps eliminate these error messages.

Q) When I click the save button, it seems to take a few seconds to save the file. Is there something wrong?

A) This can be due to a number of factors: slow processor speeds, disk fragmentation, or other software running in your Mac's background. Try running only Photoshop or optimizing your HD and see if this helps eliminate delays in saving files.

Q) I've built several icons and then gone back to edit them, but they are not showing up correctly. What is going on?

A) If you're used to editing icons with a resource editor like ResEdit or Zonkers, you need to teach yourself NOT to edit the icons once they are constructed with IconBuilder. Even though the filter saves the icons as ResEdit files (necessary due to the way the Finder is structured) resist the urge to open them in ResEdit to tweak them. Doing so will wipe out 32-bit icon data, masks, and possibly damage the file. If you need to tweak the icon once its built, do it in Photoshop via IconBuilder.

NOTE: Don't forget that if an icon contains both 256 color and millions of color data, and you do a simple copy and paste on the desktop, you will loose all data below the millions (256, 16, B&W) version. This is Apple's way of trying to reduce icon file sizes. The best way to eliminate this problem is to create IconDropper packs of the icons you've made and apply custom icons with IconDropper, not by coping and pasting on the desktop.

Q) The filter freezes when I try to import an icon into a blank layer.

A) Several users have reported this and we're looking into it. In the meantime, if this happens to you there are two things you can try: 1) Trash your current IconBuilder Settings file in your Preferences folder. A new one will be built and it may help to squash this bug. 2) If you're running Kaleidoscope, we suggest turning it off. Its possible there may be a conflict with this utility.

Q) How do I report a bug or submit a suggestion?

A) Please send bug reports to us at as well as any suggestions for features you'd like to see in future versions of IconBuilder.

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