Automatic Icon Color Adjustment?

I have been wondering before, if Icons could be automagically adjusted to what ever background they appear on (at least as long as there is one dominant color).

So I took the recently created folder icon and the set of background colors for an experiment. The icon should be quite a problematic case with its strong orange, subtle outlines and almost no shadow (this mainly due to just scaling the whole icon down, though).

Full size

1st section: The same icon repeated with no tweaks at all.

2nd section: I adjusted the value gradation curves by pulling down a single point in the middle to leave black and white in place.

3rd section: Additional use of GIMP’s Hue-Saturation tool to adjust hue, lightness and saturation once, for all colors.

I am confident that this could be done automatically, but I guess it isn’t too trivial due to non-linear characteristics of human color-perception. Also, for optimal results, it might be necessary to treat sections of an icon differently.


About thorwil
I'm a designer from Germany. My main interests are visual and interaction design, free/open-source software and (electronic) music.

7 Responses to Automatic Icon Color Adjustment?

  1. Hylke says:

    Just go for the Tango style, it looks good on every background. 😉

  2. me says:

    they all look crap. Gnome will NEVER look good.
    DIE TO KDE 4.2!!!!

  3. That’s an exceptionally good idea.

  4. Tango says:

    Tango looks crap on every background 😀

  5. Vadim P. says:

    I don’t see a difference =(

  6. dev says:

    ubuntu’s new theme idea’s suck. It always has, and always will for as long as they
    have the stupid human philosophy

  7. troy_s says:


    And we wonder why we are stuck in the Free Software art and design doldrums? If the sum of all of your knowledge and education on art and design leads you to type that anonymous comment on this blog, I worry for not only yourself but our entire culture.

    In no particular order:
    1) Ubuntu’s ‘human philosophy’ has never been executed. I’d encourage you to do a little research and qualify your comment with a de-facto analysis of where / when the ‘human philosophy’ has been executed with tact, skill, and precision. In fact, what you are rallying against is probably a tepid bog of nightmarish and inhuman glossy ‘chase-after-other-kids’ swooshes, poorly grounded colour theory, ignorantly invisible conceptualization, Wal-Mart photography, and completely inept presentation. At no point would a rational individual summarize the above facets as ‘the human philosophy’ unless one is directly attempting to comment upon ‘to-err-is-human.’
    2) Who is Ubuntu, because I certainly don’t know this person. The presentation in Ubuntu falls upon the extremely limited number of people employed by Canonical who are willing to execute the vision of Shuttleworth. No more, no less. Don’t blame the community for Canonical’s decisions.
    3) “Always has and always will” implies that you are someone akin to Nostradamus and can offer us what the future has in store. If you are indeed psychic, please enlighten us with the proper path to take regarding art and design in Free Software. We certainly could use your help as it would save us a lot of time.

    “Just go for the Tango style, it looks good on every background.”
    Ugh. Look’s good on every background. Tastes good to everyone. I’d hope we can cook a dish that doesn’t appeal solely to twenty odd icon creators and their parents.

    I’d challenge you to find some _real world_ examples of design that worry about working against every different contextual / cultural scenario. Pentagram’s work? Rand’s? Glaser’s?