What is a Favicon, and How To Make a Favicon in Photoshop?

What is a Favicon, and How To Make a Favicon in Photoshop?

What is a Favicon

A favicon is a small 16×16 pixel icon that appears at the top of a web browser. It serves as branding for your website and a convenient way for visitors to locate your page when they have multiple tabs open. Because of their tiny size, favicons work best as simple images or one-to-three characters of text.

what is a favicon

Example of favicons on a desktop browser (above).

To get a favicon for your website, you could hire a freelance designer to create one based on your logo and brand colors, or (we would highly recommend) create the favicon yourself.

Technical Definition of Favicon:

favicon /ˈfæv.ɪˌkɒn/ (short for favorite icon), also known as a shortcut iconwebsite icontab iconURL icon, or bookmark icon, is a file containing one or more small icons, associated with a particular website or web page. A web designer can create such an icon and upload it to a website (or web page) by several means, and graphical web browsers will then make use of it. Browsers that provide favicon support typically display a page’s favicon in the browser’s address bar (sometimes in the history as well) and next to the page’s name in a list of bookmarks. Browsers that support a tabbed document interface typically show a page’s favicon next to the page’s title on the tab, and site-specific browsers use the favicon as a desktop icon.

Favicons can also be used to have a textless favorite site, saving space.

History of Favicon:

In March 1999, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 5, which supported favicons for the first time. Originally, the favicon was a file called favicon.ico placed in the root directory of a website. It was used in Internet Explorer’s favorites (bookmarks) and next to the URL in the address bar if the page was bookmarked. A side effect was that the number of visitors who had bookmarked the page could be estimated by the requests of the favicon. This side effect no longer works, as all modern browsers load the favicon file to display in their web address bar, regardless of whether the site is bookmarked.

Favicon Sizes and Formats

16×16 pixels is the standard size used by desktop website browsers. However, many website builders will ask for larger sizes. For example, WordPress requires 512×512 pixels and Squarespace asks for 300×300 pixels.

This is because favicons are not only used in browser bars. They are also displayed when a user bookmarks a site or saves a shortcut to their desktop or mobile home screen. In these cases, the size of the icon grows much larger.

what is a favicon

Example of favicons on a smartphone home screen. These icons are significantly larger than the desktop favicons pictured further above.

To be safe, try to upload whatever image size is requested by your website builder. Again, for WordPress, this is 512×512 pixels. WordPress will automatically resize and display the proper image for each scenario, so you don’t have to worry about resizing them yourself.

The standard file format for favicons is .ico but most website platforms will also accept .png files.

How to Make a Favicon in Photoshop

The majority of websites we create is via WordPress (site icon), so we simply need to create a 512px x 512px (icon) png. We personally prefer using Photoshop to create favicons. Even if you have limited graphic design experience you should not be overwhelmed by any means by this “project”.

If you don’t have the latest version of Photoshop, here’s the official Adobe link:

Latest version of Photoshop

1. Create a blank 512px x 512px canvas (working area).

2. Create a basic icon via combining basic geometric shapes with a shape tool or even simply large letters with a text tool.

What is a favicon and how do you make a favicon?
What is a favicon and how do you make a favicon?

Optional: We personally prefer a favicon w/o a background, so if using photoshop unlock the background layer and delete it which will create a transparent background.

3. Save the image as a 512px x 512px png file.

Congrats you’ve now created a favicon! It’s that easy!

Now you can share this knowledge/skill to anyone else asking “What is a Favicon?… How Do You Make a Favicon?”


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  •  Firefox only accepts favicon.ico in the website’s root without a <link> tag if the setting browser.chrome.favicons or browser.chrome.site_icons is set to true in about:config. The default value is true. If set to false, these favicons are ignored.
  • ^ Opera loads /favicon.ico only if Multimedia/Always load favicon option in opera:config is set to 1. See Opera Support page for more details.

If links for both PNG and ICO favicons are present, PNG-favicon-compatible browsers select which format and size to use as follows. Firefox and Safari will use the favicon that comes last. Chrome for Mac will use whichever favicon is ICO formatted, otherwise the 32×32 favicon. Chrome for Windows will use the favicon that comes first if it is 16×16, otherwise the ICO. If none of the aforementioned options are available, both Chromes will use whichever favicon comes first, exactly the opposite of Firefox and Safari. Indeed, Chrome for Mac will ignore the 16×16 favicon and use the 32×32 version, only to scale it back down to 16×16 on non-retina devices. Opera will choose from any of the available icons completely at random.[37]

Only SeaMonkey doesn’t fetch favicon.ico files in the website’s root by default.[38]

Device support

The recommended basic size for this icon is 152×152 pixels. For Apple devices with the iOS operating system version 1.1.3 or later, as well as some Android devices,[39] it is possible to provide a custom icon that users can display on their home screens by using theAdd to Home Screen button within the share sheet in Safari.[40][41] This feature is enabled by supplying a <link rel="apple-touch-icon" ...> in the <head> section of documents served by the website. If the custom icon is not provided, a thumbnail of the web page will be put on the home screen instead.[42]

For the iPad, the basic size is 180×180 pixels. Android tablets [via Chrome] prefer a 192×192 PNG icon.[44]

The icon file referenced by apple-touch-icon is modified to add rounded corners. On the iOS versions prior to iOS 7, a drop shadow, and reflective shine would be added, and apple-touch-icon-precomposed icon may be provided to instruct devices not to apply reflective shine on the image.[41][42]

With rounded corners, added by iOS
<link rel="apple-touch-icon" href="https://example.com/image.png">

No HTML is required by browsers or mobile devices to retrieve these icons, either.[42] The website’s root is the default location for the file apple-touch-icon.png (in order of priority).[41][42]

HTML5 recommendation for icons in multiple sizes[edit]

The current HTML5 specification recommends specifying multiple sizes for the icons, using the attributes rel="icon" sizes="space-separated list of icon dimensions" within a <link> tag.[45] Multiple icon formats, including container formats such as Microsoft .ico and Macintosh .icns files, as well as Scalable Vector Graphics may be provided by including the icon’s content type in the format type="file content-type" within the <link> tag.

As of iOS 5, Apple mobile devices ignore the HTML5 recommendation and instead use the proprietary apple-touch-icon method detailed above. The Google Chrome web browser however, will select the closest matching size from those provided in the HTML headers to create 128×128 pixel application icons, when the user chooses the Create application shortcuts… from the “Tools” menu.

Animated favicons[edit]

Various browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and Opera support animation of favicons. A bug report has been open for Firefox since 2001 requesting a way to disable the feature.[46][47]

Limitations and criticism[edit]

Due to the need to always check for it in a fixed location, the favicon can lead to artificially slow page-load time and unnecessary 404 entries in the server log if it is nonexistent.[6]

The W3C did not standardize the rel-attribute, so there are other keywords such as shortcut icon that are also accepted by the user agent.[11][24]

Favicons are often manipulated as part of phishing or eavesdropping attacks against HTTPS webpages. Many web browsers display favicons near areas of the web browser’s UI, such as the address bar, that are used to convey whether the connection to a website is using a secure protocol like TLS. By changing the favicon to a familiar padlock image an attacker can attempt to trick the user into thinking they are securely connected to the proper website. Automated man-in-the-middle attack tools such as SSLStrip utilize this trick.[48] In order to eliminate this, some web browsers display the favicon within the tab whilst displaying the security status of the protocol used to access the website beside the URL.[49]

Since favicons are usually located at the root of the site directory on the server, they can be employed with some reliability to disclose whether a web client is logged into a given service. This works by making use of the redirect-after-login feature of many websites, by querying for the favicon in a redirect-after-login URL and testing the server response to discern whether the user is given the requested resource (which means they are logged in), or instead redirected to the login page (which means that they aren’t logged into the service).[50]

In March 1999, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 5, which supported favicons for the first time.[4] Originally, the favicon was a file called favicon.ico placed in the root directory of a website. It was used in Internet Explorer‘s favorites (bookmarks) and next to the URL in the address bar if the page was bookmarked.[5][6][7][4] A side effect was that the number of visitors who had bookmarked the page could be estimated by the requests of the favicon. This side effect no longer works, as all modern browsers load the favicon file to display in their web address bar, regardless of whether the site is bookmarked.[6]

Standardization[edit]

The favicon was standardized by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in the HTML 4.01 recommendation, released in December 1999, and later in the XHTML 1.0 recommendation, released in January 2000.[8][9] The standard implementation uses a link element with a rel attribute in the <head> section of the document to specify the file format and file name and location. Unlike in the prior scheme, the file can be in any Web site directory and have any image file format.[10][11]

In 2003, the .ico format was registered by a third party with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) under the MIME type image/vnd.microsoft.icon.[12][13] However, when using the .ico format to display as images (e.g. not as favicon), Internet Explorer cannot display files served with this standardized MIME type.[13] A workaround for Internet Explorer is to associate .ico with the non-standard image/x-icon MIME type in Web servers.[14]

RFC 5988 established an IANA link relation registry,[15] and rel="icon" was registered in 2010 based on the HTML5 specification. The popular <link rel="shortcut icon" type="image/png" href="image/favicon.png"> theoretically identifies two relations, “shortcut” and “icon“, but “shortcut” is not registered and is redundant. In 2011 the HTML living standard[16] specified that for historical reasons “shortcut” is allowed immediately before “icon“;[17] however, “shortcut” does not have a meaning in this context.

Legacy[edit]

Internet Explorer 5–10 supports only the ICO file formatNetscape 7 and Internet Explorer versions 5 and 6 display the favicon only when the page is bookmarked, and not simply when the pages are visited as in later browsers.[4]

favicon /ˈfæv.ɪˌkɒn/ (short for favorite icon), also known as a shortcut iconwebsite icontab iconURL icon, or bookmark icon, is a file containing one or more small icons,[1] associated with a particular website or web page.[1][2] A web designer can create such an icon and upload it to a website (or web page) by several means, and graphical web browsers will then make use of it.[3] Browsers that provide favicon support typically display a page’s favicon in the browser’s address bar (sometimes in the history as well) and next to the page’s name in a list of bookmarks.[3] Browsers that support a tabbed document interface typically show a page’s favicon next to the page’s title on the tab, and site-specific browsers use the favicon as a desktop icon.[1]

Favicons can also be used to have a textless favorite site, saving space.