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How to Make an Icon

Level 8
Feb 25, 2004
How to Make an Icon

Begin with your template. If you are using Photoshop open the image, and then go to Image -> Image Size. Now that you are there, a window should have popped up. Under Pixel Dimensions (Width and Height) change the drop-downs to percent instead of pixels, and set the input boxes to 300% in both spaces. You should have something like this on the left. Now that you have done that, you are ready to start drawing your icon.

If you are using something besides Photoshop, change the image size to 192 x 192 pixels, if you find that easier to do.
Or you may use the template on the left as your icon if you want, instead of blowing it up.
First, before your start drawing create a new layer above the icon template. Now set your brush to 3 pixels and set the color to black. Make sure your document is set to RGB color mode. Now start drawing an outline of your icon, within the white area. If you go out of the white area that's what the new layer is for: select the area where you messed up and erase it or press the delete button.

Everyone is different in drawing techniques, try the best you can. Mine is an icon of the Dreameater murloc unit found in the Union Mod.
Now that you have the outline of your drawing on the icon, its time to color it in. First color in the base colors for each area of the icon, as like I did on the left. Next select the color using eye dropper, and go to a darker color of the selected color, and then draw an outline. If you are confused just look at the icon.

Make sure that you cover the black lines from the first layer, if not it will look bunchy and the wrong colors. After you have colored the bases, sharpen it up a bit and make sure your lines are straight and colors or right and etc.
This is the main part of your icon, this is where the icon comes alive. First take your base color and go darker, then draw with the darker color where the shadows would be with the icon. You can keep going darker and darker until you have your desired effect. Do the same with making it lighter, take the base color and choose a lighter color and draw were the sun would be hitting the icon. After you have done that, use the smudge and blur tools to sharpen the image up. After you have done use dodge and burn to shape your icon. Use burn to darken areas, mainly shadows... while using dodge to lighten areas, mainly were sun hits.

After you've done this, just add all the little touch-up and effects to the image as you need. For this icon, I put the rune symbols along his face and forehead.
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Icon Borders

Active Icons

This will teach you how to make an enabled icon: it's rather straightforward and isn't very hard to do.

First take your icon template, which I will provide for you as well. This is the basic 64x64 icon that all warcraft icons have. To start, simply draw within the center of the icon, mainly in the white area. Once you have finished your icon, you will have to make sure that it's 64x64 which is very simple: just reduce the size. You will have to create a inner black shadow, here's an example:


Icons shown from left to right:
  • Icon 1 - Blank Template
  • Icon 2 - Colored Icon
  • Icon 3 - Finished icon with inner shadow.

That inner black shadow makes it look more unique, not so squarish and finalizes the icon. You may do whatever you want to your icon but these are the basics as to how to create one.

Disabled Icons

Many people do not know how to make a good disabled icon, here's a basic introduction on how to accomplish the task.


  1. First, take your completed icon, and create a new layer.

  2. Within that new layer, set the layers opacity to 50% and then cover the whole icon in black. If you did it right you should still be able to see your icon but its darkened (Image in Middle).

  3. Next create a layer on top of the last created layer. Then draw a black 1 pixel line on the outside of the icon on all sides (on the new layer).

  4. Now on the layer with the pixel line, add these effects to it:
    • Outer Glow: Blend Mode- Normal, Opacity- 100%, Noise- 0%, Color- Black(#000000), Technique- Softer, Spread- 0, Size- 4, Range- 2%, Jitter- 0%
You should get a good looking icon like mine (far right).

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Passive Icons

Making a passive icon is exactly like making a disabled icon, so here we go.


  1. Create a new layer.

  2. Draw a black 1 pixel line on the outside of the icon on all sides (on the new layer).

  3. On the layer with the pixel line, add these effects to it:
    • Outer Glow: Blend Mode- Normal, Opacity- 100%, Noise- 0%, Color- Black(#000000), Technique- Softer, Spread- 0, Size- 4, Range- 2%, Jitter- 0%
Once again, you should get a good looking icon like mine!

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Icon Templates And Tools


Warcraft III Viewer
This program's purpose is to extract/convert BLP files in order to make them editable through normal image editors, as well to extract MDX models from the MPQ, and the most important, to preview these in a fast, trustworthy, complex OpenGL engine.
Warcraft 3 Image Renamer
A complete solution for W3 valid icon resource production. Your only concern should now on be the main design, then scale resample it down to 64x64 as W3IR shall take care of the other tasks, including adding borders and renaming files in a suitable manner.
Icon Layer for Photoshop
A "Photoshop ONLY" layer tool to create various icon types.
1- Open this .psd file with Photoshop.
2- Open the icon you want to edit.
3- Select the desired border layer.
4- Drag the celected border onto your icon and save.
Warcraft III Image Extractor
This program lets you view the textures used in Warcraft III. You can use it to convert textures and can view both the Roc and TFT mpq files.
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