The toolbox in both applications use icons that have no colors. What's the reasoning behind this? What are the pros and cons? I've heard that some people can get overwhelmed by colors... is that it?

Here's Krita:

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And here's Photoshop:

enter image description here (Source: https://photoshoptrainingchannel.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/customize-toolbar-photoshop.jpg )

By comparison, here's paint.net:

enter image description here

Personally I find this much nicer - prettier to look at and I can more easily find an icon.

  • Hi there. This question is off topic because it will generate answers that are primarily opinion-based. This site favors questions that lead to short definitive answers, rather than speculative discussion. For a definitive answer to your question, you'd have to talk to the designers of the applications in question.
    – dennislees
    Feb 5, 2018 at 3:21
  • Possible duplicate of What is the reasoning behind grayscale icons? Feb 5, 2018 at 7:38

1 Answer 1


Pros of using gray-scale:

  • Accessibility (color blindness etc..)

  • Doesn't take the focus away from the content. Chrome browser also uses monochrome iconography in order to "hide" the UI and allow the user to be content focused

  • Gives a clear and consistent style. Color can sometimes add too much detail which makes it harder for people to process/understand the actual icon

  • They are more versatile, you can use grayscale incons on different colored background by simply inverting the color

  • Color is often used on elements to signify a change of state or to provide a CTA, if icons are also colored and there are different colors everywhere, then it takes away the "power" of color to signify important changes or actions in the system


  • Doesn't look so pretty. (not important in UI)

  • Obscure icons can be harder to identify without the help of color

Not sure I can think of any further cons. I don't have references as this is an answer from my own personal experience and knowledge.

  • 1
    Personally I have a much easier time reading colored icons (more "data" for my eyes to use, so to speak) but good answer nonetheless.
    – Srekel
    Feb 6, 2018 at 7:58
  • 1
    It's easier because it adds depth, but in the case of a heavy used and feature heavy software like Photoshop, it's more important that the UI doesn't distract from the work being done. It's a tradeoff I suppose. Most people memorise the location of a tool at some point, and switch to shortcuts soon after. The benefit of grayscale becomes stronger over time. Also less straining for the eye! Feb 6, 2018 at 9:35
  • 1
    I have found that with software or OS updates, the color of icons change as well. So relying on color to identify icons needs to be learned again and again. It is much easier to recognize icons with the shape alone. In the long run, relying on shape works better.
    – Ren
    Jun 18, 2019 at 8:47

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