Jacob Paris
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Use svg sprite icons in React

There are many ways to use svg icons in a React app. The most intuitive, and also the worst, is to write the svg code directly in a component as JSX.

I won't go into all the reasons why, as other folks have already done a great job of explaining it, but in general it's inefficient and increases the size of your bundle dramaticallly.

The best way to use icons is an svg spritesheet.

A spritesheet is a single image that contains many sprites (icons in our case). This is one of the oldest tactics to optimize image loading. Instead of loading many small images, we load a single image and use code to display only the part we need.

Video games have used spritesheets for decades to cram each frame of an animation into a single memory efficient resource.

Mario walking animation

Websites can use the same tactic to store many icons in a single svg file. This is called an svg spritesheet. Each icon sprite is stored as a <symbol> element inside the svg file. We can display a specific icon by using the <use> element and referencing the icon's id.

<symbol id="icon1" viewBox="0 0 24 24">
<path d="..." />
<symbol id="icon2" viewBox="0 0 24 24">
<path d="..." />
<use href="#icon1" />

In this article, we will build a script that compiles a folder of svg icons into a single svg spritesheet. We will also build a React component that displays a specific icon by name with full type safe autocomplete for the available icons.

Create a folder for icons

Create a folder called svg-icons in the root of your project and add some SVGs.

You can use Sly CLI to download icons from the command line. This command will add the camera and card-stack icons from Radix UI to the svg-icons folder.

npx @sly-cli/sly add @radix-ui/icons camera card-stack

To browse all the available icons, run npx @sly-cli/sly add and follow the interactive menu. If you install Sly as a dev dependency, you can use the shorter npx sly add command.

Create a list of icons in your app

The first step is to read the icons folder and get a list of all the svg files. There are a few ways to do this, such as by recursively walking through the directory and reading the filenames, but I prefer to use the glob package.

Create a file called build-icons.ts

import { promises as fs } from "node:fs"
import * as path from "node:path"
import { glob } from "glob"
import { parse } from "node-html-parser"
const cwd = process.cwd()
const inputDir = path.join(cwd, "svg-icons")
const inputDirRelative = path.relative(cwd, inputDir)
const outputDir = path.join(
const outputDirRelative = path.relative(cwd, outputDir)
const files = glob
.sync("**/*.svg", {
cwd: inputDir,
.sort((a, b) => a.localeCompare(b))
if (files.length === 0) {
console.log(`No SVG files found in ${inputDirRelative}`)
// The relative paths are just for cleaner logs
console.log(`Generating sprite for ${inputDirRelative}`)

Compile icons into a single spritesheet

Instead of many distinct SVGs, each icon will become a <symbol> element inside a single SVG file.

SVGs often have some extra attributes that we don't need on our symbol, such as xmlns and version. We can remove them with the node-html-parser package.

We'll also remove the width and height attributes from the root <svg> element so that we can control the size of the icon with CSS.

const spritesheetContent = await generateSvgSprite({
await writeIfChanged(
path.join(outputDir, "sprite.svg"),
* Outputs an SVG string with all the icons as symbols
async function generateSvgSprite({
}: {
files: string[]
inputDir: string
}) {
// Each SVG becomes a symbol and we wrap them all in a single SVG
const symbols = await Promise.all(
files.map(async (file) => {
const input = await fs.readFile(
path.join(inputDir, file),
const root = parse(input)
const svg = root.querySelector("svg")
if (!svg) throw new Error("No SVG element found")
svg.tagName = "symbol"
svg.setAttribute("id", file.replace(/\.svg$/, ""))
return svg.toString().trim()
return [
`<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>`,
`<svg xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink" width="0" height="0">`,
`<defs>`, // for semantics: https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/SVG/Element/defs
* Each write can trigger dev server reloads
* so only write if the content has changed
async function writeIfChanged(
filepath: string,
newContent: string,
) {
const currentContent = await fs.readFile(filepath, "utf8")
if (currentContent !== newContent) {
return fs.writeFile(filepath, newContent, "utf8")

If you run this script now, it will create a single sprite.svg file in the app/components/icons folder.

Create a React component that displays an icon

There are two ways to host an asset in a Remix app

  • Place it in the /public folder and it will be served as a static asset by the server
  • Or import it as a module and it will be hashed and fingerprinted and served from the /public/build folder

I prefer the second option because we can cache it indefinitely. Every time we add new icons or change the existing ones, Remix will serve it with a different hash and the users browsers will download the new version.

So now we can create a React component called Icon.tsx and import the svg file to use it as the href of the <use> element.

To choose a specific icon, we add #id to the end of the href attribute. The id is the name of the file without the .svg extension, which was set in the generateSvgSprite function.

import { type SVGProps } from "react"
import spriteHref from "~/app/components/icons/sprite.svg"
export function Icon({
}: SVGProps<SVGSVGElement> & {
name: string
}) {
return (
<svg {...props}>
<use href={`${spriteHref}#${name}`} />

You can use the component like this

<Icon name="camera" className="w-5 h-5" />

Provide fallback types for the Icon component

We can improve the developer experience of the Icon by providing a list of all available icons to the type of the name attribute. That will allow your editor to autocomplete the icon names, and throw errors if you try to use an icon that doesn't exist.

We can generate the type automatically by reading the list of files in the svg-icons folder and using the filename as the key.

Go back to the build-icons.ts file and continue the script from right after the generateSvgSprite function.

We already have the list of files, so we can just map them into the format we want and use JSON.stringify() to convert it to JSON, then print them as types.

const typesContent = await generateTypes({
names: files.map((file) =>
JSON.stringify((file) => file.replace(/\.svg$/, "")),
await writeIfChanged(
path.join(outputDir, "names.ts"),
async function generateTypes({
}: {
names: string[]
}) {
return [
`// This file is generated by npm run build:icons`,
`export type IconName =`,
...names.map((name) => `\t| ${name}`),

Run the script automatically

Add a build:icons script to your package.json file so you can run it with npm run build:icons.

"scripts": {
"build:icons": "tsx ./build-icons.ts"

If you try running this file now, you should see the generated types in names.ts file update to include the names of all the icons you use, but it will not show up in git as a modified file.

If you're using Sly CLI, set the postinstall script in your sly.json file so that it runs automatically when you add new icons.

"$schema": "https://sly-cli.fly.dev/registry/config.json",
"libraries": [
"name": "@radix-ui/icons",
"directory": "./svg-icons",
"postinstall": ["npm", "run", "build:icons"],
"transformers": ["transform-icon.ts"]

Update the Icon component to use the new type

import { type IconName } from "~/app/components/icons/names.ts"
// and update the Icon component type to use it
SVGProps<SVGSVGElement> & {
name: IconName

Try using the Icon component with an icon you don't have yet, like arrow-left. You should get an error in your editor.

<Icon name="arrow-left" className="w-5 h-5" />

Then run npx sly add @radix-ui/icons arrow-left and the error should go away instantly as the script runs and adds the new icon to the spritesheet.

Preload svg sprite

The last step is optional, but if you preload the svg sprite as a resource, it will start downloading immediately and the browser will have it ready by the time you need to display an icon.

In Remix, you can do this by adding a links function to your route file.

import iconHref from "~/icon.svg"
export const links: LinksFunction = () => {
return [
// Preload svg sprite as a resource to avoid render blocking
rel: "preload",
href: iconHref,
as: "image",
type: "image/svg+xml",
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