Are Web Icons Better As 2D Or 3D Graphics?

Fundamental differences between 3D and 2D icons design

Three-dimensional icons simulate lighting effects to produce textured images that are rendered in three dimensions. Web design and development experts recommend the application of multiple light sources in modern web design, as long as they follow the basic laws of physics. These lights normally make 3D icons appear authentic and soft.


3D and 2D icons differ in that the former has volume and thickness along with length and width, which are expressed using different techniques to achieve the desired illusion. Two-dimensional icons are easier to render compared to 3D icons simply because they use a single perspective and are flat. As a rule, soft shadows that are barely visible and detailed highlights are missing. Shades are also applied, albeit sparingly.

Icons that are 3D in nature boast several features missing in 2D icons, but their application is limited because they are static mathematical representations of data. 2D objects or media clips could make 3D objects or icons for a website largely unnecessary. These images used in the video clip have dimensionality because of animation and immersive sound.

Software used in making 3D models allows that dimensionality to be expressed. Properly displaying 3D icons in context with other objects on the site is a crucial step.

Are 3D web icons authentic or artistic?

Depending on your preference, the weakness of using 3D web icons is ironically the realism and details of their images. The graphic designer can let his imagination run wild when creating any graphical assets for website design and development project. For example, using a desktop computer as a subject, draw it based on what you see, but take away the highlights, shadows and details. Your consciousness will still recognize that it is a PC because you are already familiar with it.

There are times when 2D schematic drawings are more useful compared to 3D models. It is up to you to determine what works best. High quality 3D icons must thoroughly render every detail for a realistic finished product. The true challenge lies in balancing realism with artistry, and for any graphic designer, herein lies the true reward.