iPhone Iconography

Working on an iPhone app or planning on starting one soon?  Need some images, backgrounds, and textures?  Unlike web development you can’t just go to iStockPhoto and pick-up your artwork.  Unfortunately you now need to worry about distribution  licensing.

ist2_9033636-moosemuscleFor example, on iStockPhoto this picture of a cartoon moose costs about 10 credits under the standard license. 

But if you want to use this in your iPhone app you need to purchase the extended unlimited reproduction license for an additional 125 credits.  

It is also important to note that many licenses such as the iStockPhoto license does not allow you to use their artwork as your logo. 

Other sites like dreamstime offer better pricing but still have strict distribution and logo restrictions.  Dreamstime does offer an interesting but expense option to purchase the the rights to artwork.  In this case since you would be basically be buying the artwork outright.  This is an expensive option using between $500-$5,000. I’d recommend using 99Designs to contract with a designer instead.

My strategy for developing graphic rich applications without breaking the bank.

  1. See if you can draw it yourself.  There are many PhotoShop tutorials and templates to help you.  If you are comfortable in Microsoft PowerPoint you can also leverage many of those shapes to design your icons.  Using PowerPoint and Photoshop I was able to design the icon for my iHelpTranslate application example below.
  2. Look for creative commons artwork that fits your need.  Often this offers a better licensing option.  Wikimedia’s site offers a good example of what is available.
  3. Try finding your artwork on icon sites such as Fast Icon.  Since icons art often licensed for distribution they offer more affordable usage terms.
  4. Use a site like 99Designs to contract with a designer.  For as little as $250 you can have a professionally developed one of a kind icon created.  A attention grabbing icon can often pay for itself.
  5. Try using the same resources as video game developers use for their artwork.  You’d be amazed in the amount of free and low cost textures.  Some noteworthy sites are:

There are a ton of options available for different skill-sets and in a variety of costs.  My only recommendation is that you read, and re-read the licenses that are associated with your iconography.


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