Vectorized icons in native Chrome UI


Chrome can draw vectorized images using Skia. Vector images have the advantages of looking better at different scale factors or sizes, can be easily colorized at runtime, and reduce the chrome binary size.

Chrome uses .icon files to describe vector icons. This is a bespoke file format which is actually a C++ array definition. At build time, the .icon files are composed into a .cc file which is compiled into the binary.

Vector icons can be found in various vector_icons subdirectories throughout the code base. Use components/vector_icons/ for generic icons shared among many directories and components, or more specific directories such as ui/views/vector_icons or ash/resources/vector_icons for less widely used icons.

Some of the .icon files have multiple variants of the same icon (contained within the same file). See Why do we need multiples sizes of vector icons.

Converting an SVG to .icon format

This tool generates .icon file output from SVGs. (If you want to contribute improvements, here's the project.)

It handles only a small subset of SVG (paths, circles, etc.) and it's finicky about what it expects as the format, but with a minor amount of manual intervention beforehand, it mostly spits out usable .icon output. It will often work better if you run the SVG through SVGO first, which is a separate project (an SVG minifier). Jake Archibald's SVGOMG is a web interface to SVGO. If any manual adjustments need to be made to the output, the SVG Path spec is a helpful reference; compare with the relevant Chromium drawing commands.

Some SVGs are already pretty minimal, like the ones at the Material Design Icon repository so they don't require much if any adjustment, but some SVG editing tools like Sketch leave a lot of random cruft so SVGOMG helps a lot. Take the output and insert into a .icon file.

Troubleshooting icon generation

  • My colors are inverted! There is probably a surplus square path encompassing your icon. For example, <path d="M0 0h16v16H0z"/>. Delete this and try again.

Using .icon files

Adding new icons

Once you have created an .icon file, place it in an appropriate vector_icon subdirectory and add the filename to the corresponding A constant is automatically generated so that the icon can be referenced at runtime. The icon file foo_bar.icon is mapped to the constant name of kFooBarIcon (‘k’ + camel-cased filename + ‘Icon’), which you can use to reference that icon in code. The icon‘s name should match its identifier on the MD icons site if that’s where it came from. For example, ic_accessibility would become accessibility.icon.

Make sure not to add trademarked resources such as Google product logos to the Chromium repo.

Icons with multiple definitions

To add multiple icon definitions to a single .icon file, place the definitions generated by Skiafy in descending order of size. Each definition after the first must start with a CANVAS_DIMENSIONS directive.

Your icon may not need multiple definitions. Don't add different sizes that are exact copies of one another with a scaling multiplier applied.

In code

A sample call site to create an icon for the foo_bar.icon file looks something like:

gfx::CreateVectorIcon(kFooBarIcon, 32, color_utils::DeriveDefaultIconColor(text_color));

If the size argument is unspecified, the size will be taken from the smallest icon size in the .icon file.

CreateVectorIcon() will use the icon definition that best matches the final pixel size required, which is the product of DIP and the device scale factor (DSF). For example, for a DIP size of 32 and DSF of 100%, a rep with CANVAS_DIMENSIONS, 32, would be used, whereas a configuration with DSF of 150% would prefer a rep with CANVAS_DIMENSIONS, 48.


Where can I use vector icons?

Chrome's native UI on desktop platforms. Currently the vector icons are in extensive use on Views platforms, where Skia is the normal drawing tool. Mac uses them sometimes, but optimizing performance is still a TODO so many places stick with raster assets. The files in chrome/app/theme/default_*_percent/legacy are ones that have been switched to vector icons for Views but not yet for OS X. If you need to add raster assets (PNG) for mobile or OS X, please make sure to limit their inclusion to those platforms.

How can I preview vector icons?

Use this extension to preview icons in codesearch.

You can also build and run the views_examples_exe (or views_examples_with_content_exe) target and select “Vector Icons” from the dropdown menu. This loads a simple interface which allows you view a provided vector icon file at a specified size and color. Contributions to improve this interface are welcome (bug).

Can my vector icon have more than one color?

Yes. You can hard-code colors for specific path elements by adding a PATH_COLOR_ARGB command to the appropriate place within the .icon file. Any path elements which are not given a hard-coded color in this manner will use the color provided to CreateVectorIcon() at runtime.

When introducing a new icon, should I use a PNG or a vector icon?

Use a vector icon, unless the icon is extremely complex (e.g., a product logo). Also see above, “Where can I use vector icons?”

I see mentions of ‘.1x.icon’ files on the bug tracker. What are those?

A deprecated format where different icon representations were spread across different files.

Why do we need multiple sizes of vector icons?

Even though these icons are vector, sometimes they may still be blurry or fuzzy drawn at different sizes. This is due to the icon not being aligned to the pixel grid and is more obvious at small sizes. In these cases, it is better to design an additional icon specifically for that size. For larger icons, the line stroke width used is often thicker (e.g. 2px for 100%, 3px for 200%), or they may include more detail omitted from smaller ones.