Icons are usually small, detailed works or art that are useful for a heckuvalotta things. I’ve seen them used a lot on the web as navigation or used to accent a button, as well as in interfaces/program design, and on desktops for us compulsive customizers.
Here I’ve collected a list of sites which provide free icon sets. Although you don’t need to pay for these, since they are free, it does not mean you can do whatever you want with them. Make sure to read the respective terms and conditions for each website!
Icons provided by FamFamFam (the brainchild of Mark James) are frequently spotted all over the web. Offering a massive collection of over a thousand different carefully crafted icons, this should be one of the first places you stop by on your hunt. His Silk Set is immensely popular, and he’s designed a Mini Set purposely for the web, as well as a collection of minilicious Country Flags.
2pt3 – Twotone Icons
Design by Paul Jarvis, this pixel-perfect 75 icon set comes in – you guessed it – two tones. Bold, forward, simple, and straight to the point! He’s also provided the PSD files as well, should you wish to change the colours.
MouseRunner is run by Ken Saunders, a legally-blind graphic artist. That hasn’t hindered his ability in the least – he has designed quite a handful of different icon sets, all of which sport a very Web 2.0 glossy style. His icons are well-crafted and come in a variety of colours. Being spherical, they probably will find their use as buttons or badges of honour (He’s a big Firefox fan, and it shows!).
The Drunkey Love iconset is another large collection (100+!) of tiny, hand-pixelled icons. Similar to the FamFamFam Silk set, but with a more rugged look, these icons will surely find it’s calling on the web. Either that, or they can be left to ferment in a folder, available for whenever you need a quick pick-me-up.
Everaldo Coelho has painstakingly made and collected over 200 large, slick, crystal icons, and has passed them on to you to use freely. The link above leads you to a page where you can view all the icons available. Make sure to visit Coelho’s Development Website to download the (huge!) icon files.
Gorgeous and practical, N. Design Studios has really outdone themselves with this icon set. Designed by Nick La, these are all extremely well-made, and dead useful. The set includes alternate icons for file types, shopping carts, credit cards, navigation buttons, print icons – you name it! Most icons also come in complementary colours as well. However do take a look at the license – at the time of writing you’re free to use up to ten icons without credit, but after that it’s either link back or pay a small fee.
Enter Matt Ball, and his delightful, colourful Mac-looking icon sets. His Developer Icon pack is particularly useful for toolbars and application design, and he’s also got a small set of icons featuring mobile phones to download freely as well.
Mini means mini! These eyeball-straining icons are a mere 10×10px, and look clear and great. It takes skill to design something so small and yet still recognizable! Not to mention, this is quite a large collection, with 113 icons to date. He’s also created slightly larger (16×16px) Doctype Icons, with 42 of those making up the set.
I’ve saved my favourite for last! IconBuffet offers a tasty platter of icons in bite-sized morsels. They work differently from the other free icon sites – click on ‘Free Delivery’ at the top – you will need to sign up to receive your first (random) icon set. Following that, you will receive a free ‘delivery’ each month – and you can even trade and give deliveries to friends! But keep at it and soon you’ll be sporting a large collection of slick, scrumptious, and whimsical icons.
Hope that was enough to get you started with your collection. If you’ve found other great icon resources leave a comment and I’ll check it out!