Improve recognizability of Segment Editor effects icons

With recent optimization of the Segment Editor module GUI the segment effects are now displayed a QToolButtons with icons that do not display text with the button. Text was removed to make the buttons more compact and to align with the style of other programs such as Paint, Photoshop, Gimp etc where they don’t put text under each effect in their list of tools.

As originally suggested by @tomekcz, we could update the segment editor effect icons to more closely align with the icons used in other programs.

Familiarity is key to improving usability as indicated over in this post:

Current Segment Editor effects icons


Column 1 Column 2
No editing Threshold
Paint Draw
Erase Level Tracing
Grow from seeds Fill between slices
Margin Hollow
Smoothing Scissors
Islands Logical operators
Mask Volume

What do you think about using/combining Google material design icons?They come with Apache license - all free to use, modify, combine, etc.

Paint: image
Draw: image
Scissors: image

We could change the two tone icons to use color in the Slicer logo.

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Yes licensing will be an important consideration if we are adopting the designs of others as most of us are not icon artists. Those google icons are simple and adopt similar designs of others.

A great overview of all of Photoshop’s toolbar effects: Photoshop Tools and Toolbar Overview


  • Slicer “Paint”

  • Photoshop “Brush”
    This brings up another item which is effect name. The “Brush” tool may be more common than saying to use the “Paint” tool.

The Brush Tool is Photoshop’s primary painting tool. Use it to paint brush strokes on a layer or on a layer mask.


  • Slicer “Draw”

  • Photoshop “Pencil”
    Again just like “Paint”/“Brush”, it may be more common to refer to this as “Pencil” instead of “Draw”. MS Paint also refers to it as the “Pencil” tool.

The Pencil Tool is another of Photoshop’s painting tools. But while the Brush Tool can paint soft-edge brush strokes, the Pencil Tool always paints with hard edges.

Level Tracing/Paint Bucket

  • Slicer “Level Tracing”

  • Photoshop “Paint Bucket”

The Paint Bucket Tool fills an area of similar color with your Foreground color or a pattern. The “Tolerance” value determines the range of colors that will be affected around the area where you clicked.


  • Slicer “Erase”

  • Photoshop “Eraser”

The Eraser Tool in Photoshop permanently erases pixels on a layer. It can also be used to paint in a previous history state.

As I began to explain in the last post, should we name the items in the Segment Editor module as the “effect” or the “tool” being used? Such as you may use the “Pencil” tool to draw or the “Brush” tool to paint brush strokes. The simple/recognizable icons would be reflecting the tool rather than the effect/action. The current icons reflect more the action such as the pixels actively being placed in the “Draw” icon.

I think this is what @Umesh_Persad was getting at as it relates to naming them “Segmentation Tools” rather than “Segmentation Effects”. Photoshop refers to the buttons in the vertical layout as “Tools” rather than “Effects”.

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I agree, everybodyelse uses the term “tool”. Slicer uses the “tool” term, too, in Dynamic modeler module (which will be the engine for the Model Editor module in the future). Maybe it was not obvious 20 years ago that this term was going to win, or it was just a quick decision that was hard to change.

However, if I look at the cost and benefits of making this change (at least in the GUI & documentation, but - to be consistent - also in the source code and everywhere else) then this change would rate very poorly compared to other things that we could work on.

I don’t think that many medical professionals and researchers use Photoshop as much as a few decades ago. Nowadays, people do most image processing tasks using various apps. So, I would not prioritize familiarity for Photoshop users.

We should use similar terms as other medical image viewer and segmentation software, such as Mimics, ITK Snap, Osirix, MITK, OHIF, napari, and various commonly used commercial radiology software.

Changing the effect icons and names at the same time may not be the best idea, though. Probably we should change the icons soon and then the effect names in a few years.

It appears we cannot change to a simple “Pencil” icon for the “Draw” effect as we would no longer be providing artwork for the thing being described. The current “Draw” icon is describing the action of draw rather than using a “Pencil”.

The “pencil” icon above was actually the “edit” icon, so probably it was not a good fit anyway. Based on what the draw effect does, maybe using a “lasso” icon would be the most descriptive. We’ll probably merge the draw and scissors tools at some point (since they do the exact same thing, with a bit different limitations), so that would be a good opportunity to change the name and icon to “lasso”.

As it relates to familiarity I don’t think Photoshop is a specific standard but also aligns well with well known applications like MS Paint. Familiarity of icons for actions like these in general I would say is better than primarily focusing on what other medical imaging applications refer to these tools. The other medical imaging applications may not be applying familiarity principles either. So if a user comes to 3D Slicer and has never used mimics or ITK-snap etc they can still rely on familiarity with other applications they have used before.