Particles with a diffuse-mapped material
When you choose Icon, the mapping coordinates of the material are applied across the V (vertical) axis, from V=0 (the bottom edge of the map) to V=1 (the top edge of the map). The bottom edge of the map is applied at the birth of the particle, and the top edge at either the death of the particle (if Time is on) or the distance of the particle at its death (if Distance is on).
The Time spinner specifies the number of frames from birth that it takes to complete one mapping of a particle. Thus, if set to 15, the particle uses the bottom edge of the map at its birth, and moves through to the top edge of the map at frame 15.
The Distance spinner specifies the distance, in units, from birth that it takes to complete one mapping of a particle. Thus, if set to 50, as the particle moves along the normal vector, it displays the bottom edge of the map at birth, and the top edge at 50 units along the normal vector.
When you choose Picked Emitter, the particles take on the color of the object at the point at which they're created. If the mapped surface is yellow where the particle emerges, then the particle is yellow.
When Thickness is greater than 0, the outer faces of the fragment copy the surface of the distribution object, and are assigned the material ID specified in the Outside ID spinner in the Particle Type rollout Fragment Materials group. The thickness edges use the Edge ID number, and the inner faces use Backside ID. Thus, by assigning a multi/sub-object material to the object-based emitter, you can specify a different material for the outer fragment surfaces, the edges, and the inner surfaces. Note that the Outside ID spinner defaults to a value of 0, which means "use whatever material is currently assigned." Change this to a specific sub-material number to assign a sub-material to the outside edges of the fragments.