I'm looking for a free offline icon file (.ico) editor that has the following features:

  • Creating icons with a transparent background
  • Importing image files that are not icon files
  • Basic shapes, such as rectangles, ellipses and lines
  • Ability to save icons in the .ico format

Earlier, I've used IcoFX (which was previously freeware), but now it's only free for 30 days. So, which free icon editor do you recommend for this purpose? I'm using Windows 7 (64-bit).

  • If you're looking to convert existing pictures, you can also use the handy tool at converticon.com Commented May 4, 2014 at 21:51

9 Answers 9


GIMP (on Mac and on Windows at least) can export to .ico. I have used it to modify favicon.icos with no issues. It have all features you wanted:

  • Creating icons with a transparent background: yes
  • Importing image files that are not icon files: yes, including bmp, gif, jpeg, mng, pcx, pdf, png, ps, psd, svg, tiff, tga, xpm, vector and others (from here)
  • Basic shapes, such as rectangles, ellipses and lines: yes.
  • Ability to save icons as .ico: yes, as well as other formats.

GIMP export dialog

I found this tutorial page useful for creating icons.


Paint.net has an .ico plugin. (Discussed in detail here).

It's also SIGNIFICANTLY easier to use and more lightweight than GIMP from personal experience.

Paint.net itself can

  • +1 because I didn't know that this plugin existed even though I use pdn regularly!
    – Doorknob
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 22:47
  • I almost answered that too but had no experience with it. Also, I seriously dislike downloading random dll from random website.
    – Olli
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 23:19
  • @Olli - it has a recommendation from a reputable blogger, which makes it less of a security risk. Also, I used it.
    – DVK
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 23:21
  • @DVK, I disagree on both counts. Especially on that someone used it already "with no problems"
    – Olli
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 23:24
  • 1
    This has been around for ages and its fairly robust. Personal hosting for PDN plugins seems to be a thing that folk who used PDN are kind of used to. Its a bit of a quirk of a software package that went from FOSS, to closed, free (cause people keep ripping it off and repackaging it) really Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 0:41

If you still like IcoFX, you can grab the old, freeware version from FileHippo. Or you could use the other great programs mentioned.

For those unfamiliar with IcoFX, it is a (formally) freeware, lightweight-but-powerful icon editor. It can handle multiple resolutions and has a set of basic image editing tools (shapes, text, brush, bucket fill, eraser, etc.) It also has handy tools like Preview that help with icon development.

A Screenshot of IcoFX from FileHippo


Simpler than GIMP: IrfanView

IrfanView is a very fast, small, compact and innovative FREEWARE (for non-commercial use) graphic viewer for Windows 9x, ME, NT, 2000, XP, 2003 , 2008, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8. (click here for IrfanView EULA)

It's i18n ready, it supports many image formats, transparency, ICO, PNG, GIF (possibly animated)...

The Paint Dialog (Edit > Show Paint Dialog F12) allows you to create "Basic shapes, such as rectangles, ellipses and lines".

Windows only.

Basic, really basic

Some IrfanView features:

Many supported file formats (click here the list of formats)
**Multi language support**
Thumbnail/preview option
Paint option - to draw lines, circles, arrows, straighten image etc.
Toolbar skins option
Slideshow (save slideshow as EXE/SCR or burn it to CD)
Show EXIF/IPTC/Comment text in Slideshow/Fullscreen etc.
Support for Adobe Photoshop Filters
Fast directory view (moving through directory)
Batch conversion (with advanced image processing)
Multipage TIF editing
File search
Email option
Multimedia player
Print option
Support for embedded color profiles in JPG/TIF
Change color depth
Scan (batch scan) support
Add overlay text/image (watermark)
IPTC editing
Effects (Sharpen, Blur, Adobe 8BF, Filter Factory, Filters Unlimited, etc.)
Screen Capturing
Extract icons from EXE/DLL/ICLs
Lossless JPG rotation
Unicode support
Many hotkeys
Many command line options
Many PlugIns
Only one EXE-File, no DLLs, no Shareware messages like "I Agree" or "Evaluation expired"
No registry changes without user action/permission!
and much much more

EULA verbatim at 2014/05/04:

IrfanView Software License Agreement.

This is a legal agreement between you and IrfanView Software (Irfan Skiljan) covering your use of IrfanView (the "Software").

1) IrfanView is provided as freeware, but only for private, non-commercial use (that means at home).

1a) IrfanView is free for educational use (schools, universities, museums and libraries) and for use in charity or humanitarian organisations.

1b) If you intend to use IrfanView at your place of business or for commercial purposes, please register and purchase it. Commercial users: please contact me by E-Mail for prices, discounts and payment methods.

2) IrfanView Software is owned by Irfan Skiljan and is protected by copyright laws and international treaty provisions. Therefore, you must treat the Software like any other copyrighted material.

3) You may not distribute, rent, sub-license or otherwise make available to others the Software or documentation or copies thereof, except as expressly permitted in this License without prior written consent from IrfanView (Irfan Skiljan). In the case of an authorized transfer, the transferee must agree to be bound by the terms and conditions of this License Agreement.

4) You may not remove any proprietary notices, labels, trademarks on the Software or documentation. You may not modify, de-compile, disassemble or reverse engineer the Software.

5) Limited warranty: IrfanView, IrfanView PlugIns and documentation are "as is" without any warranty as to their performance, merchantability or fitness for any particular purpose. The licensee assumes the entire risk as to the quality and performance of the software. In no event shall IrfanView or anyone else who has been involved in the creation, development, production, or delivery of this software be liable for any direct, incidental or consequential damages, such as, but not limited to, loss of anticipated profits, benefits, use, or data resulting from the use of this software, or arising out of any breach of warranty.

Copyright (C) 2012 by Irfan Skiljan, Wiener Neustadt, Austria.

Internet: http://www.irfanview.com, http://www.irfanview.net Email: [email protected]

All rights reserved.

  • 2
    Can you confirm that it has all the features required by the question? Also, what do you mean by “Its i18n”: that it has translations? Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 19:22
  • @Gilles: IrfanView does seem to at least satisfy the required features in the question. The Paint Dialog (Edit > Show Paint Dialog F12) allows you to create "Basic shapes, such as rectangles, ellipses and lines".
    – MrWhite
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 23:40
  • Warning: IrfanView is not free for commercial usage. Commented May 3, 2014 at 3:49
  • Details added for I18n and license restrictions
    – Aubin
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 9:27

For specifically pixelart and icons:

  • Graphics Gale (Free and Paid versions, Windows and runs with WINE)

screenshot of GraphicsGale from developer's site

Screenshot from developer

Have the following features:

  1. Creating icons with a transparent background
  2. Importing image files that are not icon files
  3. Basic shapes, such as rectangles, ellipses and lines
  4. Ability to save icons in the .ico format

In addition, I would HIGHLY recommend GIMP. It's a great image editing program, as was already mentioned.


Pixelformer is what I turned to after ICOFX stopped being free.

As for your requirements:

  1. transparent backgrounds - yes
  2. import from other image formats - yes
  3. basic shapes - yes
  4. save as .ico - yes
  5. works on Windows 7 x64 - yes



Microsoft Expression Design 4

I guess it's more than your needs..So complex program like Adobe Photoshop and much lightweight than it..Also supports .ico and .icon file output..

And The best of it : Totally Free ! (Almost 1 year ago Microsoft announced that there will be no future releases..For new downloads will be free without Professional support, Existing paid users still continue to get Professional Support service till their payment contracts end)

The above link is official download link from Microsoft.com

An Example View of Expression Design 4
(source: softpedia-static.com)


I have just recently had to deal with .ico files - creating, getting images from, etc. After a brief google of available programs, I settled on trying out two: "icofx 3" and "RealWorld Icon Editor". Though former is no longer free, it can at least be used for a limited "trial period" for free. The latter is free.

My experience with "icofx 3" was not good: I could not seem to extract images from an .ico file easily. I could not find a way to put text into and icon. It seemed to have some bugs in some of its features (e.g. "replacing color" feature did not seem to work.) It may be that I simply did not get familiar enough with it - perhaps those features are there. But if I cannot find them without extra effort, it's not well designed in any case.

My experience with "RealWorld Icon Editor" was excellent. Trivial to install and use, powerful. It easily performed all the functions I mentioned that I could not get "icofx 3" to do. In particular, it will do exactly what you require: you can open an .ico file and view and extract the images. You can find it here: http://www.rw-designer.com/3D_icon_editor.php


Visual Studio has a pretty good built-in icon editor. The Community edition of Visual Studio is free.

The menus in general in VS may be overwhelming for non-developers but basically it's File menu, New, Icon file, which will open up the icon editor. You can create multiple icon sizes in the file, delete un-needed ones, create them with nonstandard dimensions. You can also open a graphic file in a separate editor like Paint.NET and paste it into the current icon.

VS context menu VS icon editor

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