Images and Icons for Visual Studio

Note

This article applies to Visual Studio 2015. If you're looking for Visual Studio 2017 documentation, use the version selector at the top left. We recommend upgrading to Visual Studio 2017. Download it here.

Image use in Visual Studio

Before creating artwork, consider making use of the 1,000+ images in the Visual Studio Image Library.

Types of images

  • Icons. Small images that appear in commands, hierarchies, templates, and so on. The default icon size used in Visual Studio is a 16x16 PNG. Icons produced by the image service automatically generate the XAML format for HDPI support.

    NOTE: While images are used in the menu system, you should not create an icon for every command. Consult Menus and Commands for Visual Studio to see whether your command should get an icon.

  • Thumbnails. Images used in the preview area of a dialog, such as the New Project dialog.

  • Dialog images. Images that appear in dialogs or wizards, either as descriptive graphics or message indicators. Use infrequently and only when necessary to illustrate a difficult concept or gain the user's attention (alert, warning).

  • Animated images. Used in progress indicators, status bars, and operation dialogs.

  • Cursors. Used to indicate whether an operation is allowed using the mouse, where an object may be dropped, and so on.

Icon design

Overview

Visual Studio uses modern-style icons, which have clean geometry and a 50/50 balance of positive/negative (light/dark), and use direct, understandable metaphors. Crucial icon design points center around clarity, simplification, and context.

  • Clarity: focus on the core metaphor that gives an icon its meaning and individuality.

  • Simplification: reduce the icon to its core meaning – get the theme across with just the necessary element(s) and no frills.

  • Context: consider all aspects of an icon's role during concept development, which is crucial when deciding which elements constitute the icon's core metaphor.

    With icons, there are a number of design points to avoid:

  • Don't use icons that signify UI elements except when appropriate. Choose a more abstract or symbolic approach when the UI element is neither common, evident, nor unique.

  • Don't overuse common elements like documents, folders, arrows, and the magnifying glass. Use such elements only when essential to the icon's meaning. For example, the right-facing magnifying glass should indicate only Search, Browse, and Find.

  • Although some legacy icon elements maintain the use of perspective, don't create new icons with perspective unless the element lacks clarity without it.

  • Don't cram too much information into an icon. A simple image that can be easily recognized or learned as a recognizable symbol is much more useful than an overly complex image. An icon cannot tell the whole story.

Icon creation

Concept development

Visual Studio has within its UI a wide variety of icon types. Carefully consider the icon type during development. Don't use unclear or uncommon UI objects for your icon elements. Opt for the symbolic in these cases, such as with the Smart Tag icon. Note that the meaning of the abstract tag on the left is more obvious than the vague, UI-based version on the right:

Correct use of symbolic imagery Incorrect use of symbolic imagery
Correct Smart Tag icon Incorrect Smart Tag icon

There are instances in which standard, easily recognizable UI elements do work well for icons. Add Window is one such example:

Correct UI element in an icon Incorrect UI element in an icon
Correct Add Window icon Incorrect Add Window icon

Don't use a document as a base element unless it is essential to the icon's meaning. Without the document element on Add Document (below) the meaning is lost, whereas with Refresh the document element is unnecessary to communicate the meaning.

Correct use of document icon Incorrect use of document icon
Correct Document icon Incorrect Document icon

The concept of "show" should be represented by the icon which best illustrates what is being shown, such as with the Show All Files example. A lens metaphor may be used to indicate the concept of "view" if necessary, such as with the Resource View example.

“Show” “View”
Show icon View icon

The right-facing magnifying glass icon should represent only Search, Find, and Browse. The left-facing variant with the plus sign or minus sign should represent only zoom in/zoom out.

“Search” “Zoom”
Search icon Zoom icon

In tree views, do not use both the folder icon and a modifier. When available, use only the modifier.

Correct tree view icons Incorrect tree view icons
Correct tree view icon (1) Correct tree view icon (2) Incorrect tree view icon (1) Incorrect tree view icon (2)

Style details

Layout

Stack elements as shown for standard 16x16 icons:

Layout stack for 16x16 icons

Layout stack for 16x16 icons

Status notification elements are better used as standalone icons. There are contexts, however, in which a notification should be stacked on the base element, such as with the Task Complete icon:

Standalone notifications in Visual Studio

Standalone notification icons

Task complete icon

Task Complete icon

Project icons are typically .ico files that contain multiple sizes. Most 16x16 icons contain the same elements. The 32x32 versions have more details, including the project type when applicable.

Project icons in Visual Studio

VB Windows Control Library Project icons, 16x16 and 32x32

Center an icon within its pixel frame. If that is not possible, align the icon to the top and/or right of the frame.

Icon centered within the pixel frame

Icon centered within the pixel frame

Icon aligned to top right of pixel frame

Icon aligned to the top right of the frame

Icon centered and aligned to top of pixel frame

Icon centered and aligned to the top of the frame

To achieve ideal alignment and balance, avoid obstructing the icon's base element with action glyphs. Place the glyph near the top left of the base element. When adding an additional element, consider the alignment and balance of the icon.

Correct alignment and balance Incorrect alignment and balance
Correct icon balance and alignment Incorrect icon balance and alignment

Ensure size parity for icons that share elements and are used in sets. Note that in the incorrect pairing, the circle and arrow are oversized and don't match.

Correct size parity Incorrect size parity
Correct icon size and parity Incorrect icon size and parity

Use consistent line and visual weights. Evaluate how the icon you are building compares to other icons by using a side-by-side comparison. Never use the entire 16x16 frame, use 15x15 or smaller. The negative-to-positive (dark-to-light) ratio should be 50/50.

Correct negative-to-positive ratio Incorrect negative-to-positive ratio
Correct visual weight for icons (1)

Correct visual weight for icons (2)

Correct visual weight for icons (3)
Incorrect visual weight for icons

Use simple, comparable shapes and complementary angles to build your elements without sacrificing element integrity. Use 45° or 90° angles where possible.

Correct icon angles

Perspective

Keep the icon clear and understandable. Use perspective and a light source only when necessary. Although using perspective on icon elements should be avoided, some elements are unrecognizable without it. In such cases, a stylized perspective communicates the element's clarity.

3-point perspective

3-point perspective

1-point perspective

1-point perspective

Most elements should be facing or angled to the right.

Icons angled right

Use light sources only when adding necessary clarity to an object.

Correct light source Incorrect light source
Correct light sources for icons Incorrect light sources for icons

Use outlines only to enhance legibility or to better communicate the metaphor. The negative-positive (dark-light) balance should be 50/50.

Correct use of outlines Incorrect use of outlines
Correct outlines Incorrect outlines

Icon types

Shell and command bar icons consist of no more than three of the following elements: one base, one modifier, one action, or one status.

Shell and command bar icons

Examples of shell and command bar icons

Tool window command bar icons consist of no more than three of the following elements: one base, one modifier, one action, or one status.

Tool window command bar icons

Examples of tool window command bar icons

Tree view disambiguator icons consist of no more than three of the following elements: one base, one modifier, one action, or one status.

Tree view disambiguator icons

Examples of tree view disambiguator icons

State-based value taxonomy icons exist in the following states: active, active disabled, and inactive disabled.

State-based taxonomy value icons

Examples of state-based value taxonomy icons

IntelliSense icons consist of no more than three of the following elements: one base, one modifier, and one status.

IntelliSense icons

Examples of IntelliSense icons

Small (16x16) project icons should have no more than two elements: one base and one modifier.

16x16 project icon (1) 16x16 project icon (2) 16x16 project icon (3)

Examples of small (16x16) project icons

Large (32x32) project icons consist of no more than four of the following elements: one base, one to two modifiers, and one language overlay.

32x32 project icons

Examples of large (32x32) project icons

Production details

All new UI elements should be created using Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and all new icons for WPF should be in 32-bit PNG format. The 24-bit PNG is a legacy format that does not support transparency and is therefore not recommended for icons.

Save the resolution at 96 DPI.

File types

  • 32-bit PNG: the preferred format for icons. A lossless data compression file format that can store a single raster (pixel) image. 32-bit PNG files support alpha-channel transparency, gamma correction, and interlacing.

  • 32-bit BMP: for non-WPF controls. Also called XP or high color, 32-bit BMP is an RGB/A image format, a true-color image with an alpha-channel transparency. The alpha channel is a layer of transparency designated in Adobe Photoshop that is then saved within the bitmap as an additional (fourth) color channel. A black background is added during artwork production to all 32-bit BMP files to provide a quick visual cue about the color depth. This black background represents the area to be masked out in the UI.

  • 32-bit ICO: for Project icons and Add Item. All ICO files are 32-bit true color with alpha-channel transparency (RGB/A). Because ICO files can store multiple sizes and color depths, Vista icons are often in an ICO format containing 16x16, 32x32, 48x48, and 256x256 image sizes. In order to display properly in Windows Explorer, ICO files must be saved-down to 24-bit and 8-bit color depths for each image size.

  • XAML: for design surfaces and Windows adorners. XAML icons are vector-based image files that support scaling, rotating, filing, and transparency. They are not common in Visual Studio today but are becoming more popular because of their flexibility.

  • SVG

  • 24-bit BMP: for the Visual Studio command bar. A true-color RGB image format, 24-bit BMP is an icon convention that creates a layer of transparency by using magenta (R=255, G=0, B=255) as a color key for a knock-out transparency layer. In a 24-bit BMP, all magenta surfaces are displayed using the background color.

  • 24-bit GIF: for the Visual Studio command bar. A true-color RGB image format that supports transparency. GIF files are often used in Wizard artwork and GIF animations.

Icon construction

The smallest icon size in Visual Studio is 16x16. The largest in common use is 32x32. Keep in mind not to fill up the entire 16x16, 24x24, or 32x32 frame when designing an icon. Legible, uniform icon construction is essential to user recognition. Adhere to the following points when building icons.

  • Icons should be clear, understandable, and consistent.

  • It is better to use the status notification elements as single icons and not to stack them on top of an icon base element. In certain contexts, the UI might require the status element to be paired with a base element.

  • Project icons are usually .ico files that contain several sizes. Only the 16x16, 24x24, and 32x32 icons are being updated. Most 16x16 and 24x24 icons will contain the same elements. The 32x32 icons contain more details, including the project language type when applicable.

  • For 32x32 icons, the base elements generally have a 2-pixel line weight. A 1- or 2-pixel line weight can be used for detail elements. Use your best judgment to determine which is more suitable.

  • Have at least a 1-pixel spacing between elements for 16x16 and 24x24 icons. For 32x32 icons, use 2-pixel spacing between elements and between the modifier and base element.

    Element spacing for 16x16, 24x24, and 32x32 icons

    Element spacing for icons sized 16x16, 24x24, and 32x32

Color and accessibility

Visual Studio compliance guidelines require that all icons in the product pass the accessibility requirements for color and contrast. This is achieved through icon inversion, and when you are designing, you should be aware they will be inverted programmatically in the product.

For more information on using color in Visual Studio icons, see Using color in images.

Using color in images

Overview

Icons in Visual Studio are primarily monochromatic. Color is reserved to convey specific information and never for decoration. Color is used:

  • to indicate an action

  • to alert the user to a status notification

  • to designate language affiliation

  • to differentiate items within IntelliSense

Accessibility

Visual Studio compliance guidelines require that all icons checked into the product pass the accessibility requirements for color and contrast. Colors in the visual language palette have been tested and meet these requirements.

Color inversion for dark themes

In order to make icons appear with the correct contrast ratio in the Visual Studio dark theme, an inversion is applied programmatically. The colors in this guide have been chosen in part so that they invert correctly. Restrict your use of color to this palette, or you will get unpredictable results when the inversion is applied.

Examples of icons whose colors have been inverted

Examples of icons that have had their colors inverted

Base palette

All standard icons contain three base colors. Icons contain no gradients or drop shadows, with one or two exceptions for 3D-tool icons.

Usage Name Value (Light theme) Swatch Example
Background/Dark VS BG 424242 / 66,66,66 Swatch 424242 Base palette example
Foreground/Light VS FG F0EFF1 / 240,239,241 Swatch F0EFF1
Outline VS Out F6F6F6 / 246,246,246 Swatch F6F6F6

In addition to the base colors, each icon may contain one additional color from the extended palette.

Extended palette

Action modifiers

The four colors below indicate the types of actions required by action modifiers:

Usage Name Value (all themes) Swatch
Positive VS Action Green 388A34 / 56,138,52 Swatch 388A34
Negative VS Action Red A1260D / 161,38,13 Swatch A1260D
Neutral VS Action Blue 00539C / 0,83,156 Swatch 00539C
Create/New VS Action Orange C27D1A / 194,156,26 Swatch C27D1A
Examples

Green is used for positive action modifiers such as “Add,” “Run,” “Play,” and “Validate.”

Run icon Run Execute query icon Execute Query Play all steps icon Play All Steps Add control icon Add Control

Red is used for negative action modifiers such as “Delete,” “Stop,” “Cancel,” and “Close.”

Delete relationship icon Delete Relationship Delete column icon Delete Column Stop query icon Stop Query Connection offline icon Connection Offline

Blue is applied to neutral action modifiers most commonly represented as arrows, such as “Open,” “Next,” “Previous,” “Import,” and “Export.”

Go to field icon Go to Field Batched check-in icon Batched Check-In Address editor icon Address Editor Association editor icon Association Editor

Dark gold is primarily used for the “New” modifier.

New project icon New Project Create new graph icon Create New Graph New unit test icon New Unit Test New list item icon New List Item

Special cases

In special cases, a colored action modifier may be used independently as a standalone icon. The color used for the icon reflects the actions that the icon is associated with. This use is limited to a small subset of icons, including:

Run icon Run Stop icon Stop Delete icon Delete Save icon Save Navigate back icon Navigate Back

Code hierarchy palette

Folder

Usage Name Value (all themes) Swatch Example
Folders Folder DCB67A / 220,182,122 Swatch DCB67A Folder color icon

Visual Studio languages

Each of the common languages or platforms available in Visual Studio has an associated color. These colors are used on the base icon, or on language modifiers that appear in the upper right corner of compound icons.

Usage Name Value (all themes) Swatch
ASP, HTML, WPF ASP HTML WPF Blue 0095D7 / 0,149,215 Swatch 0095D7
C++ CPP Purple 9B4F96 / 155,79,150 Swatch 9B4F96
C# CS Green (VS Action Green) 388A34 / 56,138,52 Swatch 388A34
CSS CSS Red BD1E2D / 189,30,45 Swatch BD1E2D
F# FS Purple 672878 / 103,40,120 Swatch 672878
JavaScript JS Orange F16421 / 241,100,33 Swatch F16421
VB VB Blue (VS Action Blue) 00539C / 0,83,156 Swatch 00539C
TypeScript TS Orange E04C06 / 224,76,6 Swatch E04C06
Python PY Green 879636 / 135,150,54 Swatch 879636
Examples of icons with language modifiers
Visual Basic icon VB C# icon C# C++ icon C++ F# icon F# JavaScript icon JavaScript Python icon Python
HTML icon HTML WPF icon WPF ASP icon ASP CSS icon CSS TypeScript icon TypeScript

IntelliSense

IntelliSense icons use an exclusive color palette. These colors are used to help users quickly distinguish between the different items in the IntelliSense popup list.

Usage Name Value (all themes) Swatch
Class, Event VS Action Orange C27D1A / 194,125,26 Swatch C27D1A
Extension Method, Method, Module, Delegate VS Action Purple 652D90 / 101,45,144 Swatch 652D90
Field, Enum Item, Macro, Structure, Union Value Type, Operator, Interface VS Action Blue 00539C / 0,83,156 Swatch 00539C
Object VS Action Green 388A34 / 56,138,52 Swatch 388A34
Constant, Exception, Enum Item, Map, Map Item, Namespace, Template, Type Definition Background (VS BG) 424242 / 66,66,66 Swatch 424242
Examples of IntelliSense icons
IntelliSense class icon Class IntelliSense private event icon Private Event IntelliSense delegate icon Delegate IntelliSense method friend icon Method Friend Field icon Field
IntelliSense protected enum item icon Protected Enum Item IntelliSense object icon Object IntelliSense template icon Template IntelliSense exception shortcut icon Exception Shortcut

Notifications

Notifications in Visual Studio are used to indicate status. The notification palette uses the following four colors, as well as black or white foreground fill options, to define notifications with the following status levels.

Usage Name Value (all themes) Swatch
Status: neutral Notification Blue (VS Blue) 1BA1E2 / 27,161,226 Swatch 1BA1E2
Status: positive Notification Green (VS Green) 339933 / 51,153,51 Swatch 339933
Status: negative Notification Red (VS Red) E51400 / 229,20,0 Swatch E51400
Status: warning Notification Yellow (VS Orange) FFCC00 / 255,204,0 Swatch FFCC00
Foreground fill Notification Black (Black) 000000 / 0,0,0 Swatch #000000
Foreground fill Notification White (White) FFFFFF / 255,255,255 Swatch FFFFFF

Examples of notification icons

Alert icon Alert Warning icon Warning Complete icon Complete Stop icon Stop

Visual Studio Online

In general, Visual Studio Online consists of features hosted in a browser. The color varies in different environments, but the style remains the same.

Group Usage Name Value (all themes) Swatch
TFS Background TFSO BG 656565/ 101, 101, 101 Swatch 656565
TFS Outline TFSO OUT FFFFFF / 255, 255, 255 Swatch FFFFFF
Napa Background White FFFFFF / 255, 255, 255 Swatch FFFFFF
Monaco Background White FFFFFF / 255, 255, 255 Swatch FFFFFF
F12 Background White FFFFFF / 255, 255, 255 Swatch FFFFFF
F12 Normal F12 Grey_Primary 555555 / 85, 85, 85 Swatch 555555
F12 Hover F12 Blue_Hover 2279BF / 34,121,191 Swatch 2279BF
F12 Disabled F12 LtGrey_Disabled ABABAC / 171,171,172 Swatch ABABAC
F12 Hover background Hover bg D9EBF7 / 217,235,247 Swatch D9EBF7
F12 Pressed background Pressed bg B2D7F0 / 178,215,240 Swatch B2D7F0
F12 Outline VS OUT F6F6F6 / 246,246,246 Swatch F6F6F6
F12 Information Information 00BCF2 / 0,188,242 Swatch 00BCF2
F12 Warning Warning F28300 / 242,131,0 Swatch F28300
F12 Error / Negative Error_Negative E81123 / 232,17,35 Swatch E81123
F12 Start / Positive Start_Positive 009E49 / 0,158,73 Swatch 009E49
F12 Break type Break type 9B4F96 / 155,79,150 Swatch 9B4F96
F12 Event Mark Event Mark A51F00 / 165,31,0 Swatch A51F00
F12 User Mark User Mark F16220 / 241,98,32 Swatch F16220

Examples of Visual Studio Online icons

TFS Online
TFS Online team icon Online Team TFS information icon Information TFS history icon History TFS branch icon Branch
Napa
Napa content icon Content Napa office mail icon Office Mail Napa SharePoint icon SharePoint Napa task pane icon Task Pane
Monaco
Monaco files icon Files Monaco Git icon Git Monaco search icon Search Monaco text icon Text
F12
F12 pretty code icon Pretty Code F12 Warning icon Warning F12 Emulate icon Emulate