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Settings Icons: Custom vs. Stock – Which Is Better?

In the realm of user interface (UI) design, icons play a significant role in guiding users through digital products. They are the visual shorthand that communicates functionality, aids navigation, and reinforces branding. As designers, you have two primary options when it comes to setting icons: custom-made icons or stock icons. While the allure of custom icons is undeniable, this post explores why stock icons are often the better choice for many UI design projects. We’ll dive into the benefits of using stock icons and offer insights into how they can be leveraged to create an effective and cohesive user experience.

What Are Stock Icons?

Stock icons are pre-designed icons available for purchase or download, often as part of an icon pack or library. These icons are designed to be used across a range of projects and are typically created with flexibility and versatility in mind. They’re available in various styles, from minimalist to detailed, and cover a wide range of common functions, such as settings, navigation, and actions.

The Appeal of Custom Icons

Custom icons are created specifically for a project, designed to fit a unique brand or design language. Custom icons can offer distinct advantages, including:

  • Uniqueness: Custom icons are exclusive to a particular product, ensuring they stand out from the crowd.
  • Brand Alignment: Custom icons can be designed to align closely with a brand’s style guide and visual identity.
  • Creative Expression: Custom icons allow for creative freedom and experimentation with different concepts and styles.

While these benefits are compelling, custom icons come with notable drawbacks, such as increased cost, longer development time, and potential inconsistency.

Why Stock Icons Are the Better Choice

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Given the potential downsides of custom icons, let’s explore why stock icons can be a better option for UI design projects:

1. Cost-Effectiveness

Stock icons are more budget-friendly than custom icons. Custom icon design requires hiring a designer or design team, which can significantly increase project costs. Stock icons, on the other hand, are available at a fraction of the price, allowing designers to allocate their budget to other critical aspects of the project.

2. Time Efficiency

Developing custom icons can be time-consuming, especially when iterating through design concepts. Stock icons are readily available, allowing designers to quickly incorporate them into their projects. This is particularly useful for tight deadlines or when prototyping rapidly to test user interactions and feedback.

3. Consistency and Standardization

Stock icons are often designed to adhere to industry standards, ensuring consistency across different platforms and devices. This can be especially important for settings icons, where users expect familiar symbols. Using stock icons helps maintain a cohesive visual language and reduces user confusion.

4. Wide Selection

Stock icon libraries offer an extensive range of icons, covering various styles, themes, and categories. This diversity allows designers to find icons that fit their project’s aesthetic while maintaining a unified look and feel.

5. Compatibility

Stock icons are typically designed to be compatible with various design tools, platforms, and frameworks. This compatibility simplifies the integration process and ensures that the icons work across different devices and screen sizes.

6. Accessibility

Stock icons are often designed with accessibility in mind, following best practices for contrast, size, and readability. This is crucial when designing settings icons, as users with varying levels of visual ability must be able to interact with them effectively.

7. Scalability

Stock icons are usually available in vector formats, allowing for easy scaling without loss of quality. This flexibility is valuable when designing for multiple screen sizes, from mobile to desktop, ensuring that icons remain sharp and clear at any resolution.

How to Make the Most of Stock Icons

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To maximize the benefits of stock icons, consider these tips for incorporating them into your UI design projects:

1. Choose a Consistent Style

When selecting stock icons, choose a set or library that maintains a consistent style. This helps create a cohesive design and ensures that the icons complement each other. Look for icon packs with a unified design language, such as consistent line thickness, color palette, and geometric shapes.

2. Customize Where Needed

While stock icons offer a ready-made solution, you can still customize them to match your brand’s identity. Consider adjusting colors, sizes, or other minor elements to align with your project’s visual style. This approach allows you to maintain the benefits of stock icons while adding a personal touch.

3. Test for Usability

Ensure your chosen stock icons are intuitive and easily recognizable by conducting usability tests. Gather feedback from users to ensure the icons effectively communicate their intended functions. This step is crucial, especially for settings icons, where clarity is essential.

4. Maintain Accessibility Standards

When using stock icons, adhere to accessibility guidelines to ensure all users can interact with your design. This includes maintaining proper contrast, ensuring icons are large enough to be easily seen, and providing text labels or tooltips for additional context.

5. Keep Licensing in Mind

Before using stock icons, ensure you understand the licensing terms. Some stock icon libraries have specific restrictions on usage, while others allow for more flexibility. Always verify that you have the appropriate permissions to use the icons in your project.


While custom icons have their place in UI design, stock icons offer a practical and cost-effective solution for many projects. Their cost-efficiency, time efficiency, consistency, wide selection, compatibility, accessibility, and scalability make them a compelling choice for settings icons and beyond. By choosing stock icons and following best practices, UI designers can create cohesive, accessible, and visually appealing designs that meet user expectations.

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