Now that site speed has become important in rankings, every website owner tries to make his site load up as quickly as it can. There are several ways to improve speed and one of them using image sprites reducing requests and thus loading times.
Even if sprite are a good way to go, if your website uses a lot of icons there is another way to go to improve speeds without using lots of images or image sprites. Using font-face icon sets you can easily display icons (from custom web fonts) instead of images. Using this way you save up requests decreasing loading times.
Using free font-face icons sets you can display icons with custom font sizes and colors modifying only CSS code without using any image editing software. There are a lot of icons sets types and we’ll provide some below (font-face social icons sets, font-face action icons sets, etc).
10 free font-face icon sets worth checking
Designed mainly for designers and programmers. Works perfect on any website on sizes down to 18 pixels and up to 24 pixels.
Great set of icons with what you can do any CSS3 stuff. First designed in SVG, they are now available in CSS format. Works great in Firefox, IE, Opera, Chrome and Safari.
Social Media Icons Pack
The pack includes 74 social media icons combined into a single font-face. Every icon matches a key on your keyboard. Normal letters will provide icons inside a circle and using capital letters will provide them without wrapped into a circle.
Includes 150+ icons in the font-face and is free for both commercial and personal use. The pack is screen reader compatible providing infinite scalability. The free font-face icon set was built using Twitter bootstrap and you can control using CSS the color, size, shadow.
Web Symbols typeface
Web Symbols is a set of vector html-compliant typefaces, so it might be used in any size, color and browser (okey, mostly — but IE7 for sure). There are icons for content management system, gallery navigation icons, social networks, and many more.
Iconic icon set
Iconic is an open source icon set consisting of 171 marks in raster, vector and font formats. The font-face icon set comes in all formats if needed (svg, png, swc, etc) having a high size flexibility.
Symbol Signs collection
This is a collection of 50 common used signage symbols, professional designed. The symbols signs are free of charge available as an OpenType font format, allowing you to easily add symbols & icons to your sign and wayfinding design. All the symbols have been designed & created by Sander Baumann and set to the proportions of a regular typeface, so you no longer need to copy/paste the symbols into your designs.
ikoo icon set
ikoo typo is a font specially developed to be integrated into an html page without using images via @FontFace (or other). Customize the color and size by css. You can also use ikoo font for your web page design on photoshop or fireworks. ikoo has 65 icons inside the pack!