To enhance the appearance of your Windows desktop, one good approach is to customize the desktop icons to your personal style, you can either find and download eye-catching icons from the Internet, or create your own ones with an icon creator.
To make an icon, you can create an image with general image editing software( e.g. Photoshop or its online alternative: Pixlr ), save the image as PNG format with transparent background, and convert PNG to ICO format subsequently with an icon converter, or use a full function icon editor in the whole process. I prefer the first routine because I’m familiar with Photoshop, and there’s no difference between the icons generated by them.
1. ConvertICO.org( Online )
ConvertICO.org is a free online app for creating high quality Windows icons from images in PNG, JPG, BMP or GIF format, it could create a multi-size .ICO file which contains the following sizes: 16×16, 24×24, 32×32, 48×48, 64×64, 96×96, 128×128, 192×192, 256×256.
It supports generating Windows Vista / 7 style icon with PNG compression, and has the ability to extract all images inside a multi-size icon and save them as separate files.
The supported conversion types include: PNG to ICO, JPG to ICO, BMP to ICO, GIF to ICO, ICO to PNG, ICO to JPG, ICO to BMP, ICO to GIF.
2. IcoFX 1.6.4( Windows )
IcoFX 1.6.4 is a powerful, professional, full-function, all-in-one icon editor, it’s able to create, edit and save Windows icons as well as Macintosh icons, it offers virtually any function you required.
The newer versions of IcoFX are no longer free, IcoFX 1.6.4 is the last free version.
Free alternatives to IcoFX:
2.1, GIMP, this open source image manipulation software can be used to replace Adobe Photoshop, it natively supports creating Windows icon from scratch.
2.2, IconDeveloper, it allows to import images made by other software such as Photoshop / GIMP and transform them into .ICO format.
2.3, Greenfish Icon Editor Pro, it could create and manipulate Vista compatible icons, or replace icons in executable files.
2.4, Free Icon Editor, this freeware could make and edit icons with transparency in standard or custom sizes, and sort pictures inside icons.
3. Multiple PNGs to One Icon( Online )
Multiple PNGs to One Icon will combine multiple PNG images into a single Windows icon without changing their quality and sizes, so long as their sizes do not exceed 256×256 px, this makes it possible to create a multi-size icon that includes arbitrary sizes: 64×128, 128×64, 256×128, 100×200, etc.
4. ToYcon( Windows )
ToYcon is the best standalone Windows software for batch icon conversion, to convert images to icons, just drag them from Windows explorer to ToYcon and release the mouse, then you’re done!
ToYcon supports the following image formats: PNG, JPG, BMP, TGA and GIF.
It also supports PNG compression as well as multiple color depth: 4 bits, 8 bits and 32 bits.
5. Convert Icon( Online )
Convert Icon allows to convert images to Windows icon format( .ICO ) or Macintosh icon format( .ICNS ) in different color depth: 1 bit( Monochrome ), 4 bit( 16 colors ), 8 bit( 256 colors ), 16 bit( 65536 colors ) and 24 bit( 16M colors ).
You can use it to make a Windows / Mac icon, convert a Windows icon to Mac format( ICO to ICNS ), or convert Mac icons to Windows format( ICNS to ICO ) depending on your requirement.
6. ICOFormat( Windows / Mac )
ICOFormat is a portable and open source plugin for Adobe Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro, it provides you the power to open and save a .ICO file with Photoshop directly.
ICOFormat supports Windows( 32-bit & 64-bit ) and Mac OS X.
7. Coolutils( Online )
This online image converter is capable of creating a multi-size, multi-color icon from the image you uploaded, each icon generated by it will consist of 15 elements: 16×16 4-bit 16 colors, 16×16 24-bit true colors, 16×16 32-bit with alpha channel, 32×32 4-bit 16 colors, 32×32 24-bit true colors, 32×32 32-bit with alpha channel, 48×48 4-bit 16 colors, 48×48 24-bit true colors, 48×48 32-bit with alpha channel, 64×64 4-bit 16 colors, 64×64 24-bit true colors, 64×64 32-bit with alpha channel, 256×256 4-bit 16 colors, 256×256 24-bit true colors, 256×256 32-bit with alpha channel.
8. X-Icon Editor( Online )
This icon maker lets you create high resolution icons online, first import an image from your hard drive, then edit it with various tools: brush tool, pencil tool, type tool, eyedropper tool, paint bucket tool, line tool, rectangle tool, circle tool and eraser tool, then export and download the final icon to your computer, it supports 4 sizes: 16×16, 24×24, 32×32, 64×64.
X-Icon Editor is based on HTML5 technique, so it does not support these outdated browsers such as Internet Explorer 8, etc.
9. Image To Icon Converter( Online )
With this program anybody could turn a certain image into a multi-size Windows icon in a few seconds, it allows to customize specific sizes, for instance, 16×16, 32×32, 72×72, 256×256.
10. ConvertIcon( Online )
ConvertIcon is a online tool based upon flash which will not transfer your files across the Internet, similar to ConvertICO.org, it’s able to create multi-resolution icons from PNG, GIF and JPEG pictures, or convert an icon to PNG format.
A drawback of this app is that all of the icons created with it are uncompressed.
11. Image to Icon Converter( Online )
This free utility enables to create a Windows icon from PNG, JPG, BMP or GIF format for free, the supported size and color formats include: 32-bits( 16×16, 24×24, 32×32, 48×48, 128×128, 256×256 ), 256-colors( 16×16 , 24×24, 32×32, 48×48 ).
12. Convert your image to ICO format( Online )
This online service could create a single-resolution Windows Vista / 7 icon from a variety of image formats including ANI, BMP, CUR, DDS, EPS, GIF, GIF87, ICO, JP2, JPEG, JPG, PNG8, PNG24, PNG32, PSD, RGB, RGBA, SVG, TGA, TIFF, etc.
It allows to change the image size during conversion, please notice that the output icon does not work on Windows XP or older versions.
13. AveIconifier( Windows )
AveIconifier is a lightweight freeware for Windows that allows to convert PNG files to ICO format or vice versa with drag and drop, it’s portable, no installation needed.
14. Online Pic To Icon Converter( Online )
With this online application you can create an animated favicon for website or desktop icon for Windows / iPad / iPhone / Android, it allows to squeeze or crop your image to square icon, and supports sharpening enhancement.
15. Online Icon Maker( Online )
This online icon generator allows to create a favicon icon for website from scratch, the dimension of the output file is 16×16 pixels, it’s not large enough to represent a Windows desktop icon.
16. ConvertIco( Online )
ConvertIco allows to create a multi-size icon for Windows from a single image, you can either upload an image from local computer, or select it from a URL.
17. Pic to Icon Converter( Online )
This picture to icon conversion program provides the same functions as http://iconj.com/pic_to_icon_converter.php.
18. PNG to ICO Converter( Online )
This is a simple online ico converter that lets you convert PNG image to ICO format and vice versa.
19. Pic2Icon( Online )
Pic2Icon is a free icon generator that lets you build an icon online, it supports 5 icon types: Windows XP icon, Windows 7 icon, Windows CE icon, website favicon icon, site icon for iPad and iPhone.
Pic2Icon enables to add 15 different special effects( Motion Blur, Oil Painting, Frosted Glass, High Saturation, Old Photo, Grayscale B&W, etc. ) to your picture, and rotate, resize, crop or sharpen your image before converting.
20. DeGraeve Favicon Generator( Online )
DeGraeve Favicon Generator is an online favicon editor which enables to import a picture from your computer, draw on it with brush and finally download it as 16×16 ICO file.