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Icon Master: Creating icons for Amiga Workbench 1.3

Posted: Sun May 20, 2018 10:05 pm
by intric8
The Source: DiskMAGs

An online friend of mine who I met on the massive Amiga Facebook group, Tim Kovak, keyed me into an awesome program for creating custom Workbench 1.3 icons. The program is called Icon Master.

There were at least two versions of Icon Master released - one being the free-to-use Shareware version, the second being the paid version with a few extra features. There is a program on Aminet named Icon Master - and it is not the same. You can safely avoid that program.

I ultimately found the shareware version on the Memphis Amiga Group (MAG) website, which created and still hosts entire disks they assembled back in the day called DiskMAGs, which you had to pay for back then. http://www.memphisamigagroup.net/ They distributed the disks from 1987-1996. These days, the DiskMAGs - which were carefully curated disks of public domain (PD) software, much like Fred Fish disks or DevWare. In any case they are all freely available these days and are under a creative commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.5) license.

These DiskMAGs were associated with “MAGazines” that they still have records of as well.

The disk in question that contains Icon Master is from June, 1989. Here it is on the MAG site. We're also hosting a copy of this disk, with permission, here on AmigaLove, too. (We'll likely host many more MAG disks as well in the near-future.)

Folks, these disks are freaking awesome and a treasure trove of pure goodness. I’ve moved the disk with the original Icon Master here for you to easily grab (and may move a lot more), but I highly recommend you browse their entire catalog. So good.

Icon Master for Workbench 1.3
IMG_5127.jpg
The icon for Icon Master is a spectacle to behold. Truth is there is a TON of artwork to be gleaned from this icon to be repurposed for other icons.

Icon Master provides a lot of pop right off the bat. You can create images from scratch, open images and convert them to icons, save off just the “flags” or tool types of a given icon, etc. But to keep it simple, this is how I have used Icon Master so far to make some fun icons. I plan on making several more. It’s a ton of fun! Why not?

Let’s say you want to create an icon for one of your partitions, which currently all look the same. You only want to change one - not all - to start.
  1. Launch Icon Master
  2. Go to “Open” in the top pulldown menu. Navigate to your drive and find the file Disk.info. That’s the file that contains the artwork and info for your given icon. Select it and open it.
  3. You should see your hard drive icon - twice - on the screen. The icon on the left is the “Primary” icon, which is what you always see when you boot the machine. The other image on the right is the “Secondary” image, or the click-state.
  4. Go to the top of the screen and right-mouse-click to invoke the menu systems and choose “Edit Image - Primary”
  5. You’re now in the Editing (or Drawing) mode. This is where the magic happens. And Icon Mastery. :)
IMG_5218.png
The interface for Icon Master is pretty simple and easy to understand. Sometimes less really is more.

Edit Mode

At the top of the screen are 10 color “gadgets” or swatches. They seem fairly limiting but this is actually where the fun comes in. The lack of color options forces you to be more creative with your choices. There are only 4 true colors, but some of the “colors” are really two of the four alternating side by side, which create the illusion of a new color. For example one of the colors is navy blue - the color of your Workbench desktop. Another color is white. A third is light blue - but light blue is really an “ink” that alternates between navy blue and white for you in single-pixel increments. And this pixel art 101 trick fools our eyes into thinking we see light blue.

Something worth noting: While most people think pixels are perfect squares - and this is typically the case - when stretched onto a 4:3 screen the pixel actually looks like a long vertical rectangle twice as high as it is wide. So, for me to create a perfect tiny square on the screen, I would need to click twice side by side. A single click gives you something more like || whereas two clicks looks like ||| (imagine that being a solid block).

Beyond the palette options there are of course the drawing tools themselves. There is a free-hand pen tool, a line tool, a bordered rectangle and circle tool, and a solid fill rectangle and circle tool, and a text tool. There is also the ability to fill an area (think paint bucket tool from photoshop) and a clear tool. And, finally, there is a fabulous clone tool. I used this to quickly recreate my Lemming heads in one case so I didn’t have to meticulously copy them. It took me a moment to figure out how to use it, but once I did I fell in love. You click and drag a rectangle around the area you want to clone, then click to place it.

Oh, and there is only one single level of Undo. But at least there is an Undo. Just be prepared to re-draw or re-work experiments if you go too far down a creative rabbit hole.

All in all the program offers a very simply and intuitive interface. I've recorded a video demo and would encourage others to give it a shot. And if you do? Let us see what you come up with! Warning: once you get rolling, it can be very addicting!
icon-lemmings.png
One of the 2-state icons I've made. CRTs make the color blending even more awesome.

IMG_5264.jpg
An icon I designed for some of my other partitions.

IMG_5263.jpg
An icon I designed for one of my favorite Amiga terminals - 64Door - which renders C64 PETSCII perfectly.


Re: Icon Master: Creating icons for Amiga Workbench 1.3

Posted: Mon May 21, 2018 9:34 pm
by McTrinsic
Flash & Ming?
Now that's 80ies :) .

Really like the HDD icons. Any chance to share them? Do you know how they look like with the MagicWB palette??

Re: Icon Master: Creating icons for Amiga Workbench 1.3

Posted: Mon May 21, 2018 9:44 pm
by intric8
I'm happy to share them. I'll stick them somewhere soon and let you know.

I've no idea how they'll behave outside the 1.3 palette (yet).

Re: Icon Master: Creating icons for Amiga Workbench 1.3

Posted: Mon May 28, 2018 7:51 pm
by ptyerman
Great find, hadn't heard of this one before now. Downloaded the whole collection to go through one by one.

Re: Icon Master: Creating icons for Amiga Workbench 1.3

Posted: Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:31 am
by primitivefunction
Great post. Designing those 2-state ‘animated’ icons, now that takes me back! Love your Lemmings icon.

Forgive me one tiny nitpick - Workbench runs in 640x200 (or 640x256 PAL) which was often referred to as hi-res mode, so those pixels are always going to be twice as high as they are wide (they would still look tall even when viewed on a modern PC or Mac). Totally agree with the wider point that folks aren’t seeing the artwork as intended when viewed through modern LCDs with their poor colour reproduction and ‘obese’ picture display - if its not CRT 4:3 then you’re only seeing an approximation of the artwork as it was produced and viewed BITD.

Re: Icon Master: Creating icons for Amiga Workbench 1.3

Posted: Mon Jun 04, 2018 8:45 am
by intric8
Yeah, I learned about that discrepancy after posting the video. It's true. They're even more elongated vertically as a result. My original point still holds true, but not nearly as obviously as with 640x200. You're absolutely right that I misspoke about that.

Re: Icon Master: Creating icons for Amiga Workbench 1.3

Posted: Thu Jun 07, 2018 4:39 am
by Amon_RA
Those icons look amazing.
I'm currently running 3.1 with a 1.3 theme, but I don't seem to find a lot of 4 color icon-packs...

Re: Icon Master: Creating icons for Amiga Workbench 1.3

Posted: Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:24 am
by Shot97
Search out the Fred Fish archives, plenty of 4 color icon packs exist there.

Re: Icon Master: Creating icons for Amiga Workbench 1.3

Posted: Thu Jun 07, 2018 10:09 am
by intric8
Those icons look amazing.
Thanks! And I do love the 1.3 palette. It has so much more character. If I want a gray computer I'll go get a Mac. Hah!
I'm currently running 3.1 with a 1.3 theme
Oh now that's interesting...
but I don't seem to find a lot of 4 color icon-packs...
That's what I love about a tool like Icon Master - you can just make the icons yourself. That being said, I did load it up in 2.0 and the color options simply don't translate at all. It's be best to look for a 2.0+ specific icon creator is my guess. Or use DP and use an icon converter script. But something like Icon Master would be way more efficient. I'll put some feelers out there.

@Shot - do you know of any Icon Creation tools - specifically focused like Icon Master - that aim at the later OS colors?

Re: Icon Master: Creating icons for Amiga Workbench 1.3

Posted: Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:14 pm
by Shot97
Nothing off the top of my head. Although a major reason why I wanted to figure out how to soft kick my machine into 2.01 was to work with that kind of software. My problem with the newer magic wb focused icon packs are that they are designed for PAL hi-res interlace mode, which look awful on an NTSC med-res mode. So I wanted to find something that let me modify icons, like stretch them so they'd look good on my setup. I did the Workbench kick thing intending to try out some software, but, eh... I'll get to it someday...

I've found nothing in terms of WB 1.3 that lets me mess around with 8 color icons. As you say, old blue has more character, but I'm sorry, if I wanted a 4 color computer I'd use CGA DOS :P

Now, if I could find/alter 8 color icons and give that the old blue look, just with more colors, I'd be all for that. Anyway, I'm sure a simple Aminet search will find you many 2.01 and above icon editing tools. There's no shortage of them for 1.3 quite honestly, either... It's just you're stuck with 4 color icons, which is a no for me. Proudly running the ONLY Workbench 1.3 setup which has Workbench in 8 color mode :P

While I normally am not the kind of person that gives out my hard researched files... Finding 8 color magic WB icons that looked correct in NTSC med-res was SUCH a pain in my butt... I might actually just let everyone steal mine at some point.

I do have a program that converts 1.3 icons to look better with the 2.01 look, as I have that look. It just reverses the colors I think... White turns black, vice-versa. Makes the 1,3 icons look okay I suppose.