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A mystical CSS icon solution.
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Latest commit bdd45c0 @jefflembeck jefflembeck Merge pull request #294 from jtbr/jtbr-patch-1
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Filament Group

A mystical CSS icon solution

grunticon is a Grunt.js task that makes it easy to manage icons and background images for all devices, preferring HD (retina) SVG icons but also provides fallback support for standard definition browsers, and old browsers alike. From a CSS perspective, it's easy to use, as it generates a class referencing each icon, and doesn't use CSS sprites.

grunticon takes a folder of SVG/PNG files (typically, icons that you've drawn in an application like Adobe Illustrator), and outputs them to CSS in 3 formats: svg data urls, png data urls, and a third fallback CSS file with references to regular png images, which are also automatically generated and placed in a folder.

grunticon also generates a small bit of JavaScript to drop into your site, which asynchronously loads the appropriate icon CSS depending on a browser's capabilities, and a preview HTML file with that loader script in place.

You can see a demonstration of the output here.

Version 2.0 is out - Here's What's New!

With Grunticon version 2.0, we've added the enhanceSVG option which allows you to easily style and animate your SVGs with CSS or add interactivity with JavaScript. Standard Grunticons are static background images that can't be styled or scripted because SVG only supports this ability if the SVG data is in the HTML document. In 2.0, you can now choose which icons you want to "enhance" and the new loader script will copy the icon SVG paths from the cached Grunticon stylesheet and inject them as an embedded SVG element for you to script and style as needed. This allows us to offer the best of both worlds: the full power of embedded SVGs but with none the wasted bandwidth of including SVGs in your page markup.

Remember that only browsers that support SVGs will see these effects so use them only for "enhancements" that don't break the experience when not present. Embedding icons also has some degree of execution overhead so we recommend using this feature sparingly: only embed an icon if you need to apply style or scripting, otherwise use the classic background-image icon.

To start - in your Gruntfile.js, set the value for enhanceSVG to true so the loader will parse the markup for icons that should be embedded at runtime:

grunticon: {
  foo: {
    files: {
      // Handle files here
    options: {
      // Handle your options as you normally would here
      enhanceSVG: true

Then, make sure you get the new loader that's produced for you when you run grunt (it should be in the same place as before) and inline that script in the <head>.

Just after the loader, you'll need to call grunticon and pass your 3 CSS file paths to it as usual. Additionally though, you'll want to add a fourth argument to kick off the SVG embedding, which we've pre-defined for you as grunticon.svgLoadedCallback. In all, your call to grunticon will now look something like this:

grunticon(["", "", "icons.fallback.css"], grunticon.svgLoadedCallback );

After you've done this, you can have any icon embedded in the page and ready for styling just by adding a data-grunticon-embed attribute.

<div class="icon-burger alt" data-grunticon-embed></div>

Once the loader runs, the SVG will be embedded:

<div style="background-image: none;" class="icon-burger alt">
  <svg class="svg-source" xmlns="" width="32" height="30" viewBox="170.6 12.6 32 30" enable-background="new 170.6 12.6 32 30">
    <g class="hamburger">
      <path class="buns" fill="#DDAF6D" d="M188.6 12.6h-4c-5.5 0-13 4.5-13 10v1c0 .6.4 1 1 1h28c.6 0 1-.4 1-1v-1c0-5.5-7.5-10-13-10zm-17 28c0 1.1.9 2 2 2h26c1.1 0 2-.9 2-2v-2h-30v2z">
      <path class="burger" fill="#BB6F39" d="M172.6 34.6h28c1.1 0 2 .9 2 2s-.9 2-2 2h-28c-1.1 0-2-.9-2-2s.9-2 2-2z">
      <path class="cheese" fill="#EFC75E" d="M172.6 30.6h28v4h-2l-3 3-3-3h-20v-4z">
      <path class="lettuce" fill="#3DB39E" d="M200.6 27.6l-28-.1v.1c-1.1.2-2 1.2-2 2.4 0 1.4 1.1 2.5 2.5 2.5 1.2 0 2.2-.9 2.4-2h4.1c0 1.1 1.1 2 2.5 2s2.5-.9 2.5-2h4c0 1.1 1.1 2 2.5 2s2.5-.9 2.5-2h4.1c.2 1.1 1.2 2 2.4 2 1.4 0 2.5-1.1 2.5-2.5 0-1.1-.9-2.1-2-2.4z">
      <path class="tomato" fill="#BF392C" d="M172.6 24.6h28v3h-28v-3z"></path>
      <path class="shadows" fill="#C69D63" d="M172.6 24.6h2c-.6 0-1-.4-1-1v-1c0-5.5 7.5-10 13-10h-2c-5.5 0-13 4.5-13 10v1c0 .5.4 1 1 1zm1 16v-2h-2v2c0 1.1.9 2 2 2h2c-1.1 0-2-.9-2-2z">
      <path class="burger-shadow" fill="#A86433" d="M172.6 36.6c0-1.1.9-2 2-2h-2c-1.1 0-2 .9-2 2s.9 2 2 2h2c-1.1 0-2-.9-2-2z">
      <path fill="#37A18E" d="M172.6 30.1c0-1.2.9-2.2 2-2.4v-.1h-2v.1c-1.1.2-2 1.2-2 2.4 0 1.4 1.1 2.5 2.5 2.5.4 0 .7-.1 1-.2-.9-.4-1.5-1.3-1.5-2.3zm9 .5h-2c0 1.1 1.1 2 2.5 2 .4 0 .7-.1 1-.2-.9-.3-1.5-1-1.5-1.8zm9 0h-2c0 1.1 1.1 2 2.5 2 .4 0 .7-.1 1-.2-.9-.3-1.5-1-1.5-1.8zm9 0h-2c.2 1.1 1.2 2 2.4 2 .4 0 .7-.1 1-.2-.7-.4-1.2-1-1.4-1.8z" class="lettuce-shadow">

Now, style appropriately:

  .icon-burger {
    width: 32px;
    height: 30px;
    display: inline-block;
  .icon-burger.alt .cheese {
    fill: red;
  .icon-burger.alt .buns {
    fill: orange;
  .icon-burger.alt .burger {
    fill: yellow;
  .icon-burger.alt .lettuce {
    fill: green;

And voila! Styled SVG icons!

Check out our example at

Also: How to use SVG Embedding across domains

If you're hosting your grunticon CSS on a different domain than your HTML, you will need to do a little extra configuration to use SVG Embedding.

  1. Set the corsEmbed option to true in your gruntfile. This adds a little extra scripting to the grunticon loader so that it can make a cross-domain request.
  2. Once that's in, change the callback at the end of your grunticon call to reference svgLoadedCORSCallback instead of the one listed above.
  3. That might be enough, but if not, you'll need to enable cross-domain requests on the server where the CSS is hosted. Here's how that looks in Apache .htaccess for example:
<IfModule mod_headers.c>
    Header add Access-Control-Allow-Origin "*"

(That "*" can be a particular domain if you want)

Before you get started!

Have you seen Grumpicon?

Grumpicon is a browser-based app that performs much of the functionality of Grunticon through a simple drag and drop interface. It's much easier to set up than Grunticon, and sometimes, it's all you need (though it won't always be!)

If you're interested in trying out Grumpicon, you might be interested in this handy guide as well: Grumpicon Workflow

Getting Started

This plugin requires Grunt ~0.4.2

If you haven't used Grunt before, be sure to check out the Getting Started guide, as it explains how to create a Gruntfile as well as install and use Grunt plugins. You might also check out Chris Coyier’s great article, Grunt for People Who Think Things Like Grunt are Weird and Hard.

Once you're familiar with that process, you may install this plugin with this command:

npm install grunt-grunticon --save-dev

Once the plugin has been installed, it may be enabled inside your Gruntfile with this line of JavaScript:


The "grunticon" task

For a brief overview of the Grunticon workflow, particularly from a designer's perspective, you might check out Todd Parker's article, A Designer’s Guide to Grumpicon, which covers basic SVG workflow tips for both Grunticon and Grumpicon.

Required configuration properties

grunticon has a files object that needs to be filled in order to run, this files object currently requires that a cwd, and a dest dir are placed, and therefore will blow up without it. This will be fixed to better fit the pattern set by Grunt for this.

These can be set in your Gruntfile.js config file. Grunticon is a multitask, making it easy to create as many export batches as you'd like. Just create one or more custom named objects within the grunticon object, and configure Grunticon options within it, like so:

grunticon: {
    myIcons: {
        files: [{
            expand: true,
            cwd: 'example/source',
            src: ['*.svg', '*.png'],
            dest: "example/output"
        options: {

IMPORTANT NOTE: grunticon will overwrite any files in the dest directory if they are of the same name as a file that grunticon needs to create. For easiest results, you can set dest to a folder that does not yet exist in your directory and grunticon will create that folder, or set it to an existing folder and be sure to configure grunticon to create file names that do not already exist in that folder.

With these configuration properties set, you can add grunticon to your default tasks list. That'll look something like this:

grunt.registerTask('default', ['jshint', 'qunit', 'concat', 'uglify', 'grunticon:myIcons']);

grunticon will now batch your icons whenever you run grunt.



Type: String Default value: ""

The name of the generated CSS file containing SVG data uris.


Type: String Default value: ""

The name of the generated CSS file containing PNG data uris


Type: String Default value: "icons.fallback.css"

The name of the generated CSS file containing external png url references.


Type: String Default value: "preview.html"

The name of the generated HTML file containing PNG data uris.


Type: String Default value: "grunticon.loader.js"

The name of the generated text file containing the grunticon loading snippet.


Type: Boolean Default value: False

Include additional methods in the loader script to offer SVG embedding


Type: Boolean Default value: False

Include additional methods in the loader script to offer cross-domain SVG embedding. options.enhanceSVG must be true for this option to be respected.


Type: String Default value: "png/"

The name of the generated folder containing the generated PNG images.


Type: String Default value: value of options.pngfolder

Allows you to specify a custom URL to serve fallback PNGs at.


    pngpath: "/assets/icons/png"

Will generate PNG fallbacks like:

.icon-bar {
    background-image: url('/assets/icons/png/bar.png');
    background-repeat: no-repeat;


Type: String Default value: ".icon-"

a string to prefix all icon selectors with (currently only classes or ids are guaranteed to work with the preview)


Type: Object

Allows you to specify custom selectors for individual files. This is in addition to the selectors generated using cssprefix + filename - extension.


    "foo": [".icon-bar", ".baz"]

will produce:

.icon-foo {

You can also use an asterisk in your custom selector. The filename can be referenced with $1.


customselectors: {
  "*": [".icon-$1:before", ".icon-$1-what", ".hey-$1"]
cssprefix: ".icon-"

Should give the file bear.svg the css

.icon-bear {

And if there are files bear.svg and cat.svg, the css should be like:

.icon-bear {

.icon-cat {

This should give you more flexibility with your selectors.


Type: String Default value: "400px"

a string that MUST be defined in px that will be the size of the PNG if there is no width given in the SVG element.


Type: String Default value: "300px"

similar to defaultWidth, but for height


Type: String Default value: Goes to the example/preview.hbs file

Takes a path to the template that will be used for the preview.html. Example of .hbs file contents:

<!doctype HTML>
    <title>Icons Preview!</title>
      body {
        background-image: linear-gradient(#eee 25%, transparent 25%, transparent), linear-gradient(#eee 25%, transparent 25%, transparent), linear-gradient(transparent 75%, #eee 75%), linear-gradient(transparent 75%, #eee 75%);
        width: 100%;
        background-size: 10px 10px;
      grunticon(["", "", "icons.fallback.css"]);
  <noscript><link href="icons.fallback.css" rel="stylesheet"></noscript>
    {{#each icons}}
      {{#with this}}
      <pre><code>{{prefix}}{{name}}:</code></pre><div class="{{prefixClass}}{{name}}" style="width: {{width}}px; height: {{height}}px;" ></div><hr/>


Type: String Default value: os.tmpDir()

Let's you specify an absolute tmp-path (options.tmpDir will still be appended).


Type: String Default value: "grunticon-tmp"

Let's you specify a tmp-folder. Useful when having multiple grunticon tasks and using grunt-concurrent.


Type: String Default value: ""

Location of a handlebars template that will allow you to structure your CSS file the way that you choose. As more data becomes available via directory-encoder, more options will be available for you to tap into during templating.

Example of .hbs file contents:

{{#each customselectors}}{{this}},{{/each}}
{{prefix}}{{name}} {
    background-image: url('{{datauri}}');
    background-repeat: no-repeat;


Type: Boolean Default value: false

Will compress the converted png files using optipng


Type: Integer Default value: 3

If compress is set to true, this will set the optimationLevel for optipng

Automating color variations

Grunticon allows you to output any icon in different colors simply by changing its filename to the following syntax: myfilename.colors-red-aa0000-gray.svg. In this example, any color names or hexidecimal values that follow colors- and are separated by a dash will be used to generate additional icons of that color. By default, each icon will be assigned a numbered class name for CSS use. You can improve the class naming conventions by defining color variables in your Gruntfile's colors option shown below. When defined, you can reference a color variable in place of a color in your file names, and the generated classes will use that variable name as well. See the Gruntfile.js's colors and dynamicColorOnly options for an example of how color automation.

A note on filesize impact: Adding color variations of an icon involves creating duplicates of that icon's SVG source in the CSS, so unfortunately, each color variation will cause an increase in filesize. However, transferring CSS with gzip compression can negate much of this filesize increase, and we highly recommend always transferring with gzip. In testing, we found that creating a color variation of every icon in our example set increased overall size by 25%, rather than 100% as a raw text duplicate would increase. That said, size increases for non-SVG-supporting browsers will be more dramatic, as the fallback PNGs will not have the heavy transfer compression as SVG enjoys. We advise using this feature on a case-by-case basis to ensure overhead is kept to a minimum.


Allows you to predefine colors as variables that can be used in filename color configuration.

options: {
    colors: {
        myAwesomeRed: "#fc3d39",
        coolBlue: "#6950ff"


Type: Boolean Default value: false

Allows you to tell directory-colorfy to ignore the original file when using colors.

For example, if given a file named like so:


And dynamicColorOnly is set to true:

    dynamicColorOnly: true

Then only a single file: bear-white.svg, will be generated, rather than two: bear.svg with the original colors and bear-white.svg with white colors.

Grunticon Loader Methods

With enhanceSVG turned on, the Grunticon loader has a few exposed methods and attributes on the grunticon object that you can use:


Type: String

The url that is being loaded by Grunticon.


Type: String

Is "svg" if the page loaded the SVG-based css. Is "datapng" if the page loaded the png with datauri-based css. Is "png" if the page loaded the plain link to png-based css.




Arguments: String Returns: Object

Fetch a stylesheet link by its href.


Arguments: String Returns: Object

Takes a stylesheet node (link or style) and returns all of the icon selectors and the svgs contained within it in an object formatted in this way:

  grunticon:selector: "SVG Content in String"


Arguments: Object Returns: NodeList

Takes icons in the object format outputted by getIcons and then queries the page for all icons with the data-grunticon-embed attribute. For each of these that it finds, it places the SVG contents associated with the relevant selector in the icons. It then returns the NodeList of all of the elements that had SVGs embedded in them.


Arguments: Function Returns: None

An alternative to listening for the DOMContentLoaded event. Takes a function as a callback and calls the function when the DOM is ready.


Arguments: Function Returns: None

Uses the above methods to call:

var svgLoadedCallback = function( embedComplete ){

If embedComplete is defined, the loader will call it when SVG embedding is complete. This is true for both local and CORS embedding. So if you need to run logic after SVG markup is appended to the DOM, just pass a callback to grunticon.svgLoadedCallback or grunticon.svgLoadedCORSCallback.

Cross-domain SVG Embedding Methods

With enhanceSVG and corsEmbed turned on, the Grunticon loader has a few exposed 2 more methods and attributes on the grunticon object that you can use:


Arguments: String, Function Returns: Object

First argument is a string reference to a url to request via cross-domain Ajax. Second argument is an optional callback when the request finishes loading. (In the callback, this refers to the XHR object).


Arguments: Function Returns: None

Uses the above methods to make SVG embedding work when CSS is hosted on another domain. (CORS must be allowed on the external domain.)

Browser testing results for icon output

The generated asynchronous CSS loader script delivers an appropriate icon stylesheet depending on a device/browser's capabilities. Grunticon is supported in cases where icon fonts fail.

Browsers that render the SVG data url stylesheet:

  • IE9
  • Chrome 14+ (maybe older too?)
  • Safari 4+ (maybe older too?)
  • Firefox 3.6+ (maybe older too?)
  • Opera 15+
  • iOS 3+ Safari and Chrome
  • Android 4.0 Chrome (caveat: SVG icons do not scale in vector, but do appear to draw in high-resolution)
  • Android 4.0 ICS Browser
  • BlackBerry Playbook

Browsers that receive the PNG data url stylesheet:

  • IE8
  • All versions of Opera, Opera Mini, and Opera Mobile before Chrome integration (v 15)
  • Android 2.3 Browser
  • Android 2.2 Browser
  • Android 2.1 Browser
  • Android 1.6 Browser
  • Android 1.5 Browser

Browsers that receive the fallback png request:

  • IE7
  • IE6
  • Non-JavaScript environments

View the full support spreadsheet here. Feel free to edit it if you find anything new.

The test page can be found here.


Cleaning the cruft out of your SVGs

In earlier versions of Grunticon, we included SVGO to optimize the SVG output. In the 1.0 version, we removed this dependency to ease the installation complexity but still recommend that SVG optimization is part of the Grunticon workflow.

When producing SVGs through a tool like Illustrator, there is a lot of unnecessary markup, comments, and general code written into your SVG files. Because of that, we strongly recommend using a tool like grunt-svgmin. If run before running Grunticon, it can greatly reduce your filesizes!

Here's an example:

svgmin: {
    dist: {
        options: {
            plugins: [
                // Don't remove XML declaration (needed to avoid errors creating PNG on Win 7)
                { removeXMLProcInst: false }
        files: [{
            expand: true,
            cwd: 'example/svgs',
            src: ['*.svg'],
            dest: 'example/source'
grunticon: {
    foo: {
        files: [{
            expand: true,
            cwd: 'example/source',
            src: ['*.svg', '*.png'],
            dest: "example/output"
        options: {

The svgmin options section is only needed to avoid errors under windows and can be omitted for smaller svg files on other platforms. For a more extensive example, check out our Gruntfile example project.

Serving compressed CSS

One of the great benefits to data uris is the ability to compress the images heavily via gzip compression. Be sure to enable gzip of CSS on your server, as it'll cut your icon transfer size greatly.

Creating SVG Artwork

The workflow we've been using so far involves creating a new Illustrator file with the artboard set to the desired size of the icon you want set in the CSS.

Export the artwork by choosing File > Save as... In the dialog, choose "SVG" as the format and enter a name for the file (this wil be used as your class name later, so keep it free of any disallowed CSS class characters like ., {, (, ), etc.

In the Save SVG dialog that opens up, there are lots of options. SVG has a ton of formats, so here are a few tips we've learned.

  • SVG Profile: Seems like SVG 1.1 Tiny is really well supported across even older mobile platforms so if you have simple artwork that doesn't use gradients or opacity this will yield a smaller and more compatible graphic. If you want to use all the fancy effects, save artwork as SVG 1.1.
  • Type: Convert to outline before export.
  • Subsetting: None, I usually convert all text to outlines ahead of time
  • Images: Embed
  • Don't check "Preserve Illustrator editing" to reduce file size


  • If your files have #, ., >, or any other css selecting character in their names, they will likely be improperly processed.

Release History

  • Version 2.1.0: Add ability to embed SVGs with cross-domain requested CSS files via corsEmbed option
  • Version 2.0.0: Add ability to enhance SVGs by embedding them inside of the element instead of using a background-image
  • Version 1.4.0: Add tmpPath option
  • Version 1.3.0: Add dynamicColorOnly support from directory-colorfy
  • Version 1.2.0: Update directory-encoder version, this allows the pngpath option
  • Version 1.1.0: Add previewTemplate option
  • Version 1.0.0: Some alpha and beta bugs taken care of.
  • Version 1.0.0-alpha: Almost complete rewrite. Breaking out pieces of this project into other areas. Removed SVGO and PNGCrush. SVGO is better served through the svgmin plugin.
  • Version 0.6.5: CSS Writing has been moved from Phantom to Node, in order to decrease base64 datauri sizes
  • Version 0.6.0: Grunticon now comes with PNG Crush. This will reduce the size of your PNGs
  • Version 0.5.0: Grunticon now comes with SVGO. This cleans up your SVGs, greatly reducing the size of your CSS file.
  • Version 0.4.1: Opera browsers prior to version 15 are given fallback PNG due to SVG scaling troubles.
  • Version 0.4.0: Automated filename-driven color variations were added, along with the colors option
  • Version 0.3.4: SVGs without width and height can be used
  • Version 0.3.2: Added PhantomJS as a Node dependency, easing installation
  • Version 0.3.1: Documentation updates
  • Version 0.3.0: Grunticon becomes a multitask - syntax change involved in Gruntfile
  • Version 0.2.1: Custom selectors feature added
  • Version 0.2.0: Compatibility rewrite for Grunt 0.4x
  • Version 0.1.6: Switched from base64 encoding to escaping raw SVG text in data uris. Fixes to cssprefix setting. If fallback png data uri is > 32768 chars, link to ext png instead for IE issues.
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