Graphic Resource Help

by Peter_vdL Motorola 02-17-2012 11:22 AM - edited 02-20-2012 07:22 AM

There’s pretty much universal consensus that the top requirement for mobile software is beautiful graphics.  People say that it’s not enough for apps to work flawlessly; they also have to look great, and drive users into a frenzy of delight.   As a developer, I can make the app work flawlessly.  I can tune the slow parts of the code, and make them sing as they speed along.  But what can you, or I, or any developer do to provide beautiful graphics?
Don’t let your app’s launcher icon be this default!

Few people are gifted in both the graphical arts, and programming skills.  Those talented folks can create their own icons and other android.graphic.drawable resources.  What can the rest of us do?  One approach is to look on the web for icons and artwork.

A web search for icons and artwork will turn up free sites like these:

Be alert when you are searching - some sites are aggregators of other people’s icons, and you don’t want to re-use someone else’s property inadvertently.   Follow the different guidelines for the different places icons are used (launcher, action bar, status bar, menu, etc). Menu icons are flat, pictured face on, and greyscale, for example, while launcher icons can be 3D and colorful.  Tab icons have two states (selected, unselected) and a transparent background.

You can go one step beyond quarrying the freebies, and commission original artwork from graphic artists.  There are a number of marketplace sites where artists and the artless can meet, specify, and exchange dollars for drawings.  Here are some such sites:

I’d like to present a third approach, beyond “download shareware” and “buy something new”.   If you have any graphics resources at all, perhaps originating in your photo album with pictures of everyday objects, look at this website:

Asset Studio is a website that lets you upload a simple image, and download a zipfile of icons at multiple resolutions.  What image? Try one.  Here’s a picture of a bronze statue that I took at the AppNation summit a few weeks ago in downtown San Francisco.  Upload the photo, select a few parameters, and press “download zip” to get:

You get back a zip file with 4 icon files at low, medium, high, and extra high density versions, ready for use in your app.   The icons are all approximately the same size when they are rendered on a screen of the matching resolution.  They appear as different sizes here because my Mac screen is rendering the icons intended for different dpis, at one fixed dpi.

You can get good results from iconifying a variety of details from pictures.  You can also see the icons produced from my photo of a street flower urn.   Asset studio is an open source project hosted at .  There are a couple of other UI utilities there, and it’s worth a look.

What approach do you take to rounding up graphics for your apps?

Peter van der Linden
Android Technology Evangelist

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