Favicons are the little icons before the URL in your browser bar. Here’s the one for Thesis Theme Tools:
A favicon of your own is a great way to make your site appear more professional and credible. They are easy to make and use — especially if you already have a good image to work from.
The basic steps for creating and using a favicon are:
Go to an online favicon creation site.
Draw the favicon or upload an image to be made into a favicon.
Download the resulting favicon.ico file.
Place the favicon.ico file in your root directory.
This article will show you how to take each one of these steps, and discuss the relative merits of two of my favorite sites for creating favicons.
Online sites for creating favicons
The two favicon sites that I use most frequently are favicon.cc and Dynamic Drive. There are several others, but these two offer the most options and best results of any sites that I have tried.
Drawing a favicon from scratch
The favicon.cc site lets you draw a favicon from scratch and has several tools to help you do so. The following is what their palette and drawing tools look like:
Though it may seem appealing to draw your own, in practice getting that little 16×16 pixel image right is quite a task.
Creating a favicon from an existing image
It’s far easier to start with an image you already have, and if necessary, tweak it. It can be a photo, a drawing you created in a graphics program, or any other suitable image.
Both favicon.cc and Dynamic Drive have facilities for creating a favicon from an image. The procedure is simplicity itself and is the same for both sites: upload your image and hit the “Go” button, then download the constructed favicon.
The difference between the sites lies in the file types and sizes accepted, manipulation of the image while uploading, and most important of all, in the results.
Your image file size and type is an important consideration when deciding which service to use. Favicon.cc supports the jpg, jpeg, gif, png, bmp, and ico file types with the largest file supported being 5 MB. Dynamic Drive accepts gif, jpg, png, and bmp file types with a 150MB maximum file size.
Choosing and preparing your image for uploading to a favicon
Favicons are square and only 16×16 pixels in size. They necessarily leave out a lot of detail, and may take some experimentation before you get a favicon that looks right to you. Here are a few tips for preparing your image for uploading to a favicon:
Choose an image that has the important features “framed” by light or dark areas.
Choose an image that does not depend on detail to be effective.
Choose an image that will get the idea across with a small size and little detail.
Choose an image that will fill the favicon square as much as possible.
Crop your image to close to square. That will make sure that the details you want are present and the image will not be distorted.
Optimize the size of your image if it is too large.
Large dark or light areas will come through as light- or dark-colored blobs, so plan accordingly.
Creating a favicon on favicon.cc and Dynamic Drive
Favicon.cc’s import screen has only a couple of options, but they are important ones: keep the image dimensions or shrink to a square. Keeping the image dimensions will keep the image’s size ratio intact, but may result in a lot of white space. Shrinking the image to a square will fill the favicon square but may distort your image.
Dynamic Drive’s FavIcon Generator only offers a straight conversion of your image to a favicon, which implies that it will keep the image dimensions. It offers a couple of options for icons, which for favicons are useless. However, it does offer a preview of what your uploaded image will look like as a favicon.
One feature that Favicon.cc has that Dynamic Drive doesn’t is the ability to edit the image after you have uploaded it. This can be a very useful capability, according to what you are trying to do with the favicon.
After you upload your image and are pleased with the results, hit the download button and the favicon.ico file will be downloaded onto your computer.
For this article I have chosen a logo that is a sort of torture test: It is particularly difficult to translate to a favicon because it has large white areas, and depends on details for its characteristics. Which service will do the better job? Here is the original:
The favicons generated by the two sites are shown below. It’s easy to see that Dynamic Drive’s retains more of the subtleties of the logo and left out far less than did favicon.cc. This has been my experience in creating many favicons for clients.
The bottom line: use favicon.cc for making a favicon from scratch or tweaking an existing one; use Dynamic Drive for creating a favicon from an image.
How to use a favicon
Using a favicon is easy. You simply put the favicon.ico file into the root directory of your domain, as illustrated in Figure 8:
Most modern browsers will pick up the favicon immediately and display it in your browser bar. Firefox tends to take a little longer than other browsers to catch on to the favicon’s presence.
I hope you have enjoyed this short article and that it is useful to you. Remember that your comments are always welcome, and that you can email me directly by clicking on the “Contact” button in the menu.
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