Images and Icons for Visual Studio

Visual Studio 2015

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The latest version of this topic can be found at Images and Icons for 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.


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 imageryIncorrect use of symbolic imagery
Correct Smart Tag iconIncorrect 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 iconIncorrect UI element in an icon
Correct Add Window iconIncorrect 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 iconIncorrect use of document icon
Correct Document iconIncorrect 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 iconView 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 iconZoom icon

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

Correct tree view iconsIncorrect 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


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 balanceIncorrect alignment and balance
Correct icon balance and alignmentIncorrect 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 parityIncorrect size parity
Correct icon size and parityIncorrect 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 ratioIncorrect 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


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 sourceIncorrect light source
Correct light sources for iconsIncorrect 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 outlinesIncorrect use of outlines
Correct outlinesIncorrect 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.


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


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.

UsageNameValue (Light theme)SwatchExample
Background/DarkVS BG424242 / 66,66,66Swatch 424242Base palette example
Foreground/LightVS FGF0EFF1 / 240,239,241Swatch F0EFF1
OutlineVS OutF6F6F6 / 246,246,246Swatch 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:

UsageNameValue (all themes)Swatch
PositiveVS Action Green388A34 / 56,138,52Swatch 388A34
NegativeVS Action RedA1260D / 161,38,13Swatch A1260D
NeutralVS Action Blue00539C / 0,83,156Swatch 00539C
Create/NewVS Action OrangeC27D1A / 194,156,26Swatch C27D1A

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

Run icon RunExecute query icon Execute QueryPlay all steps icon Play All StepsAdd control icon Add Control

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

Delete relationship icon Delete RelationshipDelete column icon Delete ColumnStop query icon Stop QueryConnection 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 FieldBatched check-in icon Batched Check-InAddress editor icon Address EditorAssociation editor icon Association Editor

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

New project icon New ProjectCreate new graph icon Create New GraphNew unit test icon New Unit TestNew 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 RunStop icon StopDelete icon DeleteSave icon SaveNavigate back icon Navigate Back

Code hierarchy palette


UsageNameValue (all themes)SwatchExample
FoldersFolderDCB67A / 220,182,122Swatch DCB67AFolder 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.

UsageNameValue (all themes)Swatch
ASP, HTML, WPFASP HTML WPF Blue0095D7 / 0,149,215Swatch 0095D7
C++CPP Purple9B4F96 / 155,79,150Swatch 9B4F96
C#CS Green (VS Action Green)388A34 / 56,138,52Swatch 388A34
CSSCSS RedBD1E2D / 189,30,45Swatch BD1E2D
F#FS Purple672878 / 103,40,120Swatch 672878
JavaScriptJS OrangeF16421 / 241,100,33Swatch F16421
VBVB Blue (VS Action Blue)00539C / 0,83,156Swatch 00539C
TypeScriptTS OrangeE04C06 / 224,76,6Swatch E04C06
PythonPY Green879636 / 135,150,54Swatch 879636
Examples of icons with language modifiers
Visual Basic icon VBC# icon C#C++ icon C++F# icon F#JavaScript icon JavaScriptPython icon Python
HTML icon HTMLWPF icon WPFASP icon ASPCSS icon CSSTypeScript icon TypeScript


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.

UsageNameValue (all themes)Swatch
Class, EventVS Action OrangeC27D1A / 194,125,26Swatch C27D1A
Extension Method, Method, Module, DelegateVS Action Purple652D90 / 101,45,144Swatch 652D90
Field, Enum Item, Macro, Structure, Union Value Type, Operator, InterfaceVS Action Blue00539C / 0,83,156Swatch 00539C
ObjectVS Action Green388A34 / 56,138,52Swatch 388A34
Constant, Exception, Enum Item, Map, Map Item, Namespace, Template, Type DefinitionBackground (VS BG)424242 / 66,66,66Swatch 424242
Examples of IntelliSense icons
IntelliSense class icon ClassIntelliSense private event icon Private EventIntelliSense delegate icon DelegateIntelliSense method friend icon Method FriendField icon Field
IntelliSense protected enum item icon Protected Enum ItemIntelliSense object icon ObjectIntelliSense template icon TemplateIntelliSense exception shortcut icon Exception Shortcut


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.

UsageNameValue (all themes)Swatch
Status: neutralNotification Blue (VS Blue)1BA1E2 / 27,161,226Swatch 1BA1E2
Status: positiveNotification Green (VS Green)339933 / 51,153,51Swatch 339933
Status: negativeNotification Red (VS Red)E51400 / 229,20,0Swatch E51400
Status: warningNotification Yellow (VS Orange)FFCC00 / 255,204,0Swatch FFCC00
Foreground fillNotification Black (Black)000000 / 0,0,0Swatch #000000
Foreground fillNotification White (White)FFFFFF / 255,255,255Swatch FFFFFF

Examples of notification icons

Alert icon AlertWarning icon WarningComplete icon CompleteStop 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.

GroupUsageNameValue (all themes)Swatch
TFSBackgroundTFSO BG656565/ 101, 101, 101Swatch 656565
TFSOutlineTFSO OUTFFFFFF / 255, 255, 255Swatch FFFFFF
NapaBackgroundWhiteFFFFFF / 255, 255, 255Swatch FFFFFF
MonacoBackgroundWhiteFFFFFF / 255, 255, 255Swatch FFFFFF
F12BackgroundWhiteFFFFFF / 255, 255, 255Swatch FFFFFF
F12NormalF12 Grey_Primary555555 / 85, 85, 85Swatch 555555
F12HoverF12 Blue_Hover2279BF / 34,121,191Swatch 2279BF
F12DisabledF12 LtGrey_DisabledABABAC / 171,171,172Swatch ABABAC
F12Hover backgroundHover bgD9EBF7 / 217,235,247Swatch D9EBF7
F12Pressed backgroundPressed bgB2D7F0 / 178,215,240Swatch B2D7F0
F12OutlineVS OUTF6F6F6 / 246,246,246Swatch F6F6F6
F12InformationInformation00BCF2 / 0,188,242Swatch 00BCF2
F12WarningWarningF28300 / 242,131,0Swatch F28300
F12Error / NegativeError_NegativeE81123 / 232,17,35Swatch E81123
F12Start / PositiveStart_Positive009E49 / 0,158,73Swatch 009E49
F12Break typeBreak type9B4F96 / 155,79,150Swatch 9B4F96
F12Event MarkEvent MarkA51F00 / 165,31,0Swatch A51F00
F12User MarkUser MarkF16220 / 241,98,32Swatch F16220

Examples of Visual Studio Online icons

TFS Online
TFS Online team icon Online TeamTFS information icon InformationTFS history icon HistoryTFS branch icon Branch
Napa content icon ContentNapa office mail icon Office MailNapa SharePoint icon SharePointNapa task pane icon Task Pane
Monaco files icon FilesMonaco Git icon GitMonaco search icon SearchMonaco text icon Text
F12 pretty code icon Pretty CodeF12 Warning icon WarningF12 Emulate icon Emulate