Explore some of the best tools and workflows for creating icons in Illustrator.
Five simple white vector logos on brightly colored circular backgrounds

Icons are simplified graphic elements or symbols that convey meaning at a quick glance. Think of the Facebook “Like” icon or a shopping cart icon. These days, icons are used in mobile apps, infographics, websites—seemingly everywhere.

Using icons in your branding can enhance impact in essential ways, including by:

  • Making your brand immediately recognizable
  • Instantly capturing user attention
  • Communicating meaning efficiently

Create precise artwork easily with a grid

Icons are made to fit within a small, square space. As a result, icon artwork tends to be precise. In the Properties panel, you can turn the grid on to view it and also enable Snap To Grid, which aligns your artwork to the grid for precision and consistency.

Tip: If you are creating icons to be exported in a raster format like .PNG, you can turn on Pixel Preview in the Properties panel to preview the artwork as rasterized or pixels.

Use simple shapes as design building blocks

Using the Shape Builder tool, you can combine or delete parts of the shapes by simply clicking and dragging across parts of the shapes. Pathfinder operations also provide more options for combining, adding, subtracting, and merging shapes.

Use artboards that adapt to your workflow

You can give each icon its own artboard by using the Artboard tool. Or, add them all to one, larger artboard, and easily export the icons separately using the Asset Export panel.

Ensure uniform color for icons, with ease

To maintain consistent color appearance, use global color swatches that you save in the Swatches panel. When a global color is changed, all objects with this color update instantly—making swatches ideal for the creative design process. 

If your icons share the same fill and stroke properties, select one icon, and, to edit similar icons, use Start Global Edit in the Quick Actions section of the Properties panel. With your icons selected, you can alter the appearance of the entire set by changing the fill, stroke, or other appearance properties.

Quickly customize each export

Use the Asset Export panel to export one, or multiple versions of each icon easily. Simply drag and drop your selected icons onto the panel that you wish to export. You can name each icon, select the file format and size, and then export—it’s that easy!

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