Best Online Courses To Teach Yourself Icon Design
It’s easier than ever to teach yourself web design using the litany of resources online. Premium courses offer the highest quality and the most in-depth lessons so if you can swing it they’re worth the price.
But which courses are the best of the bunch?
In this guide I’ll share my top picks for courses on icon design. With these courses you can easily teach yourself how to craft impeccable icons from scratch for websites, mobile apps, or graphic design projects.
You’ll find icons everywhere from social networking sites to small business pages and blogs. Icons are useful to convey ideas visually and if there’s any reason to learn icon design it should be to simplify the user experience.
With Designing Icons you’ll get a crash course into the world of icon design. This includes almost 3 hours of video recordings teaching you how icons are made from start to finish.
You’ll learn how to plan icons and how to use them so they fit properly into a website. You’ll also learn best practices for exporting icons into SVGs and other bitmap formats for the web.
A big part of icon design is brainstorming and coming up with relevant ideas that match your project. This takes up a good portion of the course so you’ll learn how to organize your thoughts visually before opening Photoshop or Illustrator.
The instructor also expects a certain familiarity with the pen tool so it helps if you’ve already practiced a bit on your own.
Still if you just follow the videos step-by-step you’ll walk away with a solid understanding of designing for the web.
Creating Icon Fonts for the Web
Glyph icons are phenomenal for beginners since they’re flat and relatively simple to create. Most glyphs are just shapes paired together to create larger shapes.
But these glyph icons can go so much further than static PNGs. These can be used as icon fonts on the web to dramatically cut down HTTP requests and simplify the coding process.
In the course Creating Icon Fonts for the Web you’ll learn how to craft and export shapes into full icon fonts that you can reuse on any project. Icon fonts are fully supported by modern web browsers so they’re 100% safe.
And this course starts at the very beginning with the absolute basics of icon design, how it works, and what sort of skills you’ll need to develop. The teacher uses Adobe software to create the icons but also teaches design with Glyphs Mini, a Mac-only program for exporting icon fonts.
If you’re a Windows user then this course may not prove very useful. It’s a solid intro to icon design but unless you have an OS X machine you won’t be able to export the icons into fonts.
Creating Icons with Photoshop
Many designers prefer Illustrator for vector graphics but Photoshop is often used in web design. This can make it tough moving vectors from one program to another.
If you’re a big Photoshop designer then it’s worth learning icon design in the PS environment. Creating Icons with Photoshop is a lengthy course in the advanced level of Photoshop design. It’s hosted by instructor Justin Seeley, an expert in PS workflows who knows how to reach an audience.
You certainly don’t need to be an expert in Photoshop to work through this course. But you should have some prior experience using the pen tool and a bit of comfort designing icons.
Generally speaking, this course is much more geared towards people who already design icons but want to take their skills to the next level. Especially if you’ve already used Illustrator and want to bring that skillset over to Photoshop.
Many the tools panels and keyboard shortcuts are quite different so there is a bit of a learning curve. But Justin walks your through the whole process so you’ll learn pretty much everything you need to know about PS icon design.
Creating Icons with Illustrator
On the flip side if you’re a complete novice to icon design I recommend Creating Icons with Illustrator also taught by Justin Seeley.
You’ll learn about the icon design process and how you should approach new projects from start to finish. Illustrator is a very complex tool but if you focus on one subject it’s a lot easier to learn. That’s why this course works so well for complete beginners.
Each video lesson covers a new topic ranging from icon ideas to grid systems, the pen tools, and saving vector symbols into your own symbol library. He also explains the export process and how you can port these vectors over to Photoshop.
Whether you’re designing for websites, mobile apps, or desktop software, this course will set you on the right track to master icon design.
But you also need to put in the effort on your end to really grasp these ideas. So don’t expect to just watch these videos and walk away with profound icon design knowledge.
Drawing Vector Graphics: Iconography
Some designers also practice sketching and imaginative art to improve their design skills.
That’s why Drawing Vector Graphics: Iconography is perfect for the trained or practicing artist. You’ll learn how to combine drawing skills with digital design work to create icons that really pop.
Over a total of four hours you’ll learn the differences between shapes and fully realized icons. Once you can look at icons as many different shapes you’ll finally see how icon design really works.
This is an ever-growing process so there’s always more to learn.
But by starting with this course you’ll have a much easier time working through drawings and approaching icon design from an artistic viewpoint.
Note: it is good to have some pre-existing artistic skills but they’re not required. However you will need to be willing to sketch ideas and work in pencil so if you only want to do digital work you should skip this course.
Creating Web Icons with SVG
The newest trend in web design is SVG work and it’s growing fast. These vector graphics are supported by all modern browsers and they’re easier to export for the web using icon design tools.
Hence this incredible Lynda course Creating Web Icons with SVG. It is the de-facto resource for anyone interested in the SVG filetype and how to make it work online.
SVGs are really just coordinates that can be resized without quality loss. On the web they can be exported as XML data which can then be embedded into your HTML page. This seemed like a pipe dream a few years ago but now it’s just common knowledge in the design space.
This course delves into HTML/CSS code along with PS/AI design techniques offering a good mix of both sides. As a web designer you should be comfortable coding and designing so this course will push you outside your comfort zone either way.
Early chapters talk about SVG filetypes and how they work on the web. Later lessons get into command line tools to simplify the exporting and combining of SVG sprites. So there’s a whole buffet of knowledge in this course just waiting to be consumed by curious web designers.
Creating Infographics with Illustrator
One good reason to learn icon design is to jump onto the infographics trend. This has been slowly rising since the late 2000s and nowadays it’s easy to find infographics on every topic imaginable.
Mordy Golding teaches this lengthy 4+ hour course titled Creating Infographics with Illustrator. This is truly a complete start-to-finish guide on infographic design and how to craft the perfect resource on any topic.
Many lessons delve into icon design because they’re a staple of quality infographics. But you’ll also learn about color selection, composition, and information design. Remember that real human beings want to consume your infographic as easily as possible.
This course focuses on Adobe Illustrator so you should already be comfortable using the basic tools. Following many practice projects you’ll learn how to create bar charts, graphs, and line icons that fit with various themes.
As much as you’ll learn icon design you’ll also learn about information design and digital graphic design. It’s an all-encompassing course and it should be mandatory viewing for any aspiring infographic artist.
Master the Pen Tool
If there’s any tool you absolutely must learn it’s the pen tool. You can pick up all the basics of Illustrator and still have a lot to learn with the pen tool.
This is because it’s not just one tool, but rather a series of tools that help you manipulate vector elements.
In the Udemy course Master the Pen Tool you’ll learn how this works in Photoshop and Illustrator, plus how you can use this to your advantage while designing icons. This course is great for beginners who have no prior experience and just want to dive into the workload.
Various lessons cover anchor point manipulation, combining shapes, and working with bezier handles which is generally the toughest skill to master.
But if you follow through with these lessons you’ll come out the other side well prepared to dive into professional icon design. Plus the pen tool is something you’ll use a lot in your design career so it’s a topic you’ll eventually have to study.
Master App Icon Design for iPhone & Android
Mobile app icons are just as necessary now as they were in 2008 when the app store launched. Every great mobile application needs a solid mobile app icon.
And with this mobile app course you’ll learn all the fundamentals of crafting pixel-perfect app icons for Android & iOS devices. These cover the majority market share of smartphone users and they support the largest app stores in the world.
However both app stores have their own specifications for icon design that you need to follow to the letter. Apps can be rejected for submitting icons that don’t fit specific dimensions or that don’t use proper filenames.
Thankfully this small intro course is here to help. You’ll use Illustrator and Photoshop to create impressive app icons from scratch that look sleek and fully comply with modern standards. And you’ll learn about common pitfalls in the mobile icon workflow to help you avoid what most beginners don’t know about.
For the price this is an excellent resource and if you’re working in the mobile app space it’ll prove invaluable to your learning process.
Create Flat Icons in Illustrator
New designers need something easy to start with and that’s usually a flat design workflow. By focusing more on colors and shapes you won’t need to worry about 3D effects or layer styles.
Flat design is notorious on the web but it’s also a great style to use for icon design. In this Udemy icon course you’ll learn how to design custom flat icons from scratch using Adobe Illustrator.
This forces you to work with vector shapes that are easy to scale and easy to rework. However these don’t always play nice with layer effects which makes them perfect for the flat style.
You can merge some basic shapes, restyle the colors, and presto! A brilliant flat iconset ready for publishing.
In total the course spans 4+ hours of video with a dozen supplemental resources like cheatsheets and tests. Along the way you’ll learn about the Illustrator design process and how you can use shortcuts to speed up the workflow.
If you’re a complete newbie this is a great course to start with. And if you have some experience but want to master the flat icon style this is also a fantastic course to pick up.
Icon & Logo Symbol Design
For something a little broader consider grabbing a copy of Icon & Logo Symbol Design by logo designer Daniel Evans.
This course focuses more on the fundamentals of icon design looking towards philosophy and decision making. You’ll need to come up with ideas for icons before you can follow through with them.
These lessons will teach you how to think and how to follow directions to create masterful pieces of artwork. You’ll start by sketching icon designs on paper and scanning your final drafts into Illustrator.
After that you’ll learn how to replicate your sketches using the shape tools and various pen tools. This way you can manipulate shapes to fit your goals and ultimately plan the final product well in advance.
If you have no artistic skillset that’s still okay. You don’t need finished sketches but rather outlines and basic ideas down on paper. If you’re willing to put in the time you will get a lot from this course in just a few short videos.
The Art of Icon Design
Last but certainly not least is The Art of Icon Design. This is one of the pricier courses and it is surprisingly short at just under 2 hours.
But this is also one of the few courses that takes you from a complete beginner up to a skilled practitioner. You’ll want to have a lot of interest in drawing and sketching if you decide to follow this course.
It’s heavy on the art portion but I also believe this is insanely valuable to any serious icon designer. If you can’t sketch your ideas you’ll always be limited compared to the designer who can.
Thankfully this is a course you can rewatch many times over and still glean knowledge. I recommend this for complete beginners who don’t know where to start, but who recognize the importance of sketching for icon design work.
And with that said, that’s my list! These are my top picks for icon design courses and they span a wide gamut from basic sketching to detailed vector designs and infographics.
No matter what your skill level or your goals I guarantee these courses will help. It’s just about matching your current skillset with the appropriate courses to make sure you’re moving in the right direction.