This is a guide to--a vector illustration program that is open source and cross-platform. To get help while running Inkscape, choose Help → Tutorials in its menu.
- #Shape Tools
- #Path Drawing Tools
- #Other Tools
Inkscape is a free open source scalable vector graphics (svg) editor application. Its stated goal is to become a powerful graphic tool while being fully compliant with the XML, SVG, CSS and HTML5 standards.
Inkscape is for Linux, Windows and Mac OS X (under X11), and other Unix-like operating systems. As of 2013, Inkscape is under active development, with new features being added regularly. Inkscape's implementation of SVG and CSS standards is not at svg 1.1 standards; most notably, it does not support animations, and SVG fonts. However, complete support for both is on the roadmap. As of this writing inkscape is at version 0.48. The version numbering goal is to release a fully svg 1.1 compliant editor, labelled inkscape 1.1.
Inkscape has good multi-lingual support particularly for complex scripts, something currently lacking in most commercial vector graphics applications.
Inkscape began in 2003 as a fork of the Sodipodi project. Sodipodi, developed since 1999, was itself based on Gill, the work of Raph Levien.
The fork was led by a team of four former Sodipodi developers (Ted Gould, Bryce Harrington, Nathan Hurst, and MenTaLguY) who identified differences over project objectives, openness to third-party contributions, and SVG compliance as their reasons for forking. Inkscape, they claimed, would seek to focus development on implementing the complete SVG standard, whereas Sodipodi development had emphasized creating a general-purpose vector graphics editor, possibly at the expense of SVG.
Since the fork, Inkscape has, among other things, changed from using the C to C++; changed to the GTK+ toolkit C++ bindings (gtkmm); redesigned the user interface and added a number of new features. Its implementation of the SVG standard has shown gradual improvement, but is still incomplete.
Rather than top-down governance, its developers claim to encourage an equal culture where authority stems from an individual developer's abilities and active involvement in the project. As a result, the project places special emphasis on giving full access to its source code repository to all active developers, and on participation in the larger open source community (often in the form of inter-project initiatives and secondary projects like the Open Clip Art Library). While the project founders are still well-represented in the decision-making process, many newcomers have also come to play prominent roles. Among them is "bulia byak", architect of the profound user interface changes that have given Inkscape its present appearance.
Inkscape is currently a Google Summer of Code and linuxfund.org projects.
- Pencil tool (freehand drawing with stroked paths)
- Bezier Curves and Straight lines
- Calligraphy tool (freehand drawing with calligraphic strokes, graphics tablet pressure/angle support)
- Shape tools:
- Rectangles and Squares (optionally with rounded corners)
- 3D Boxes
- Circles, Ellipses and Arcs
- Stars and Polygons (optionally rounded or randomized)
- Spirals (inner/outer controls, divergence)
- Text and other tool editors
- Text tool (text on path, flow into frame, support for unicode (ctrl+u))
- Spray tool, duplicate pre-selected objects by sculpting or painting
- Bucket tool, fill bounded areas
- Diagram Connector tool, create path based diagram connectors (i.e., flow charts, circuit boards)
- Menu based rendering:
- Linked or Embedded bitmap images, either imported or rasterized from selected objects.
- >Edit>Clones ("live" linked copies of objects). Other programs refer to similar functionality as "symbols".
- >Extensions>Render (create menu driven objects)
- Object transformations (positioning, scaling, rotating, skewing), via freehand, snapped, locked, key combinations, by numeric values or dedicated dialogs (menus)
- Z-order operations, object stacking order within a layer
- Grouping objects, with a way to "select in group" without ungrouping, or "enter the group"
- Layers, with a way to lock and/or hide individual layers, rearrange them, etc; layers form a stacking order
- Cut, Copy and Paste operations of objects
- Alignment and Distribution commands, including grid arrange, randomization, unclumping
- A tool to create patterns of clones, using wallpaper symmetries plus arbitrary scales, shifts, rotates, and color changes, optionally randomized
- Grid, Guide, Node, Object and other options for snapping
- Fill and Stroke dialog (RGB, HSL, CMYK, Color Wheel)
- Color palette
- Color picker ("dropper") tool
- Opacity (stroke, master, gradient stop)
- Gradients: linear and radial (multi-point)
- Pattern fills (bitmap/vectors)
- Filters (menu bar, over 250 filters)
- Masks and clip effects
- Dashed strokes, with many predefined dashes
- Path Markers (start, middle and end marks, e.g. arrowheads)
- Copy/Paste styles
- Per file Swatch
Operations on paths
- Node editing: positioning nodes and segments, curve handles, node alignment and distribution, scaling and rotating node groups, "node sculpting" (proportional editing of multiple nodes)
- Converting to path (for text, images or shapes), including converting stroke to path
- Boolean operations (union, intersection, difference, exclusion, division)
- Path simplification, with variable threshold
- Path insetting and outsetting, including dynamic and linked offset objects
- Clipping paths (non-destructive clipping)
- Bitmap tracing (both color and b/w)
- Path Effects Editor... contains over a dozen effects that can be manipulated on canvas and via menu settings.
- >Extensions >Modify Path, to add effects to existing paths and >Generate from Path for additional operations on paths.
- Multi-line text (SVG 1.0/1.1 <text>)
- Flowed text in frame(s) (<flowRoot>, formerly proposed for SVG 1.2)
- Full on-canvas editability, including styled text spans
- Uses any outline fonts installed on the system
- Can use any scripts and languages supported by the Pango library including complex scripts (e.g. Hebrew, Arabic, Thai, Tibetan etc.)
- Bold or Oblique (Italic), Align left/center/right, line spacing, character spacing, word spacing, character rotation, subscript, superscript, horizontal kerning, vertical shift, horizontal or vertical text.
- Text on path (both text and path remain editable)
- Spell Checking
- Unicode support (ctrl+u while in the 'Create & Edit Text Tool')
- 256x (25600%) maximum zoom
- Fully anti-aliased display
- Alpha transparency support for display and PNG export
- Normal, No Filter and Outline (wireframe) mode
- Collaborative editing over a network (whiteboard)
- Live watching and editing the document tree in the XML editor
- PNG export
- EnhancedPostScript (EPS) and PDF export
- Command line options for export, conversions, and analysis of SVG files
- RDF metadata (authorship, date, license, etc.)
- Extension support
- User interface is translated in more than 40 languages
Interface and usability
One of the priorities of the Inkscape project is interface consistency and usability. This includes efforts to follow the GNOME Human interface guidelines compliance, universal keyboard accessibility, and convenient on-canvas editing. Inkscape has achieved significant progress in usability since the project started.
The interface of Sodipodi (Inkscape's predecessor) was partly based on those of CorelDRAW and GIMP. The current Inkscape interface has been partially influenced by that of Xara Xtreme.
The number of floating dialog boxes has been reduced, with their functions available using keyboard shortcuts or in the docked toolbars in the editing window. The tool controls bar at the top of the window always displays the controls relevant to the current tool.
All transformations (not only moving but also scaling and rotating) have keyboard shortcuts with consistent modifiers (e.g. Alt transforms by 1 screen pixel at the current zoom, Shift multiplies the transformation by 10, etc.); these keys work on nodes in Node tool as well as on objects in Selector. The most common operations (such as transformations, zooming, z-order) have convenient one-key shortcuts.
Inkscape provides floating/mouse-over tooltips and status bar hints for all buttons, controls, commands, keys, and on-canvas handles. It comes with a complete keyboard and mouse reference (in HTML and SVG) and several interactive tutorials in SVG.
- On-line Book: A Guide to Inkscape
A vector object is composed of edit enabled path(s) and geometrical elements (nodes) based on vector (x/y) coordinate values. This is very different from raster (or bitmap) images, which are composed from a grid (bitmap) of colored squares. Bitmaps are inherently "pixellated" when scaled larger (zoomed in), while vectors can be scaled to any size, and won't display any pixelized objects.
Some graphic editor programs, such as the GIMP, are known as bitmap or raster (photograph) editors. With Inkscape, you can create and edit vector graphics, and save them as SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) files or 'save as' over 25 graphic editor based file formats. SVG is an open standard designed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), that uses XML to create vector based objects.
The Graphic User Interface (GUI)
When you load Inkscape you will see the main interface:
Here are some brief descriptions of what each tool does:
You will need to know how to draw basic shapes before you can draw more complex shapes. This page will teach you how to draw these shapes. The shape tools are useful because they allow you to make and manipulate basic forms easily.
All shapes have control handles that can be dragged to manipulate various aspects. Sometimes it's better to use the shape's resize handles, instead of the Selector's generic resize abilities. While the Selector resizes relative to the document, the shape tools will resize relative to the object. Experiment with both to see which works best for you. (Use Ctrl+Z to undo any changes you don't want to keep.) To restrain the resize handles, Ctrl+Drag them. This limits movement to 15-degree steps. To change the step size, go to
Inkscape Preferences and choose
Keyboard Shortcut: R or F4
The rectangle and square tool has four shape handles. The square (☐) handles control the size (width/height) and the round (⭘) handles control corner roundings.
Hold Ctrl while dragging to create a width to height ratio-proportionate rectangle (e.g. 1:1 square or 3:1 rectangle). Hold ⇧ Shift while dragging to draw a rectangle from its center out. Hold both Ctrl+⇧ Shift together to draw a square from its center. These command tool-tips messages can be read at the bottom center of the user interface in the Status Bar.
To reset the corner's rounding place the mouse cursor over a rounding (⭘) handle and press ⇧ Shift+Click. One of the rounding handles is vertical and makes rectangles more circular; the other is horizontal, and makes rectangles more elliptical.
3D Boxes 
Keyboard Shortcut: X or ⇧ Shift+F4
The 3D Box tool is an easy way to create a nearly 3-dimensional shape. Inkscape is a two dimensionial x/y vector editor, there is no 'z' axis within Inkscape.
Each dimension can lie on either parallel or converging edit lines. These edit lines are shown in different colors, so that users could distinguish one line from another:
- red lines reflect the X direction (width);
- blue lines reflect the Y direction (height);
- yellow lines reflect the Z direction (depth).
To select only one side of a 3D box, Ctrl+Click it.
Keyboard shortcut: F5 or E
To draw an ellipse, circle, or an arc select the Ellipse Tool, and drag from the top left to the bottom right. The ellipse tool has a total of four handles: two square handles control the size and aspect ratio; two circle handles control the angle of the arc. Hover (a.k.a. mouse-over) your mouse over one of the square or circle handles and the Status bar (bottom center) message will update and display the handle's available edits and any Ctrl, ⇧ Shift, and Alt key edits (if available).
Dragging the circle handles outside the ellipse makes a segment (pie chart); dragging them inside creates an arc. Alt+Click one of the circle handles to completely close the ellipse.
Stars and Polygons 
Keyboard Shortcut: * or ⇧ Shift+F9
To switch between creating a Star and Polygon, click either the star-shaped or polygon-shaped icon in the Tool Controls bar of the Star/Polygon tool.
The Star Tool has two shape handles, one tip (◇) handle for tip adjustment, and one base (◇) handle for base radius editing. Ctrl+Drag the tip handle in order to stretch the star without rotating, and Ctrl+Drag the base handle to change the ratio of the two handles without skewing.
The Polygon Tool only has one shape handle, the single tip (◇) handle can be used to lock the tip radius (rotation). Ctrl+Drag the tip handle in order to resize the polygon without rotating it. ⇧ Shift+Drag edits the rounding of the tip handle, while Alt+Drag will randomize the tip handle.
Keyboard shortcut: I or F9
The Spiral Tool has two shape handles an outer (◇) handle and an inner (◇) handle. Dragging the handles lengthens and shortens the spiral.
The outer handle can edit the roll/unroll of the spiral, can snap angle, scale, rotate and lock the outer radius. Here are the combination of keys to support the outer handle edits. Ctrl+Drag the outer handle to roll/unroll spiral and snap angle. ⇧ Shift+Drag the outer handle to scale and rotate the spiral. Alt+Drag the outer handle to lock the outer radius.
Alt+Drag the inner handle to change the divergence (distance between the rolls). To make the distance really big, hold Alt and move the inner handle first towards the center, and then further in the same direction beyond the center, and possibly beyond the external boundary of the spiral. Spirals with a divergence less than 1 are denser towards the edges; ones with divergence greater than 1 are denser towards the center. To reset divergence, Alt+Click the handle. ⇧ Shift+Click the handle to return it to the center.
Experiment with the handles and the ⇧ Shift and Alt keys to get a grip on the tool.
Fill and Stroke 
Keyboard shortcut: Ctrl+⇧ Shift+F
All objects (shapes, paths and text) have a fill and a stroke style. The stroke is the outline of the object. The fill is the area inside the object.
To set fill and stroke style, select the object and go to
Fill and Stroke, or press Ctrl +Shift +F . The Fill and Stroke dialogue has three tabs labelled Fill, Stroke paint and Stroke style.
An objects fill can be set to empty, flat color, linear or radial gradient or a pattern. The Stroke style edits include:
- Width with unit of measure
- Join (corners); miter, round, bevel
- Caps (end points) butt, round, square
- Dashes (stroke patterns)
- Markers for start, mid and end points (nodes).
Bitmap images 
Keyboard shortcut: Ctrl+I
To insert a bitmap image—PNG or JPEG, paste it from the clipboard or drag and drop a bitmap file from the desktop onto the Inkscape canvas. In this way, the images are only linked to the original file and not embedded into Inkscape's .svg file.
To turn selected or all of the linked bitmap images into embedded images, use the Menu bar →
Embed images... .
Path Drawing Tools
Paths can be created by Path Tools, Pencil, Bezier, and Calligraphy, rendering and conversions. Rendering of pre-configuured objects can be created using the >Extensions <Render> Menu bar features. Converting an existing shape or text object to a path, can also create paths:
- >Path >>Object to path
- >Path >>Stroke to path
Unlike the use of shape handles for editing, path objects use three types of path nodes. The start/end and corner(s) of a path are referred to as Cusp Nodes ◇ nodes along a path. A path's curve settings are provided by two types of Smooth□ ○ Nodes . The Cusp and Smooth Nodes have handles that are used to set the nodes length (x,y value of the handle itself), angle and distance, the 'tool-tip message' in the Status Bar displays this dynamic information. Spiro based paths do not respond to node handle edits.
There are thin red lines between path nodes and can also be used to edit a 'segment' between two nodes. To view the red line segment editing, you must change from the Path Tool to the Node Tool. When you mouse-over 🖰 a segment the Node Tool cursor changes to a pointer with a fist. This segment editor can also change a segment from a curve to a straight line or vice versa. Once a segment is selected (clicked) the two adjacent path nodes change color and the edit is applied by either dragging the segment or using the Tools Controls bar edits. The Tool Controls bar can be used for many edits; change selected segment(s) to a line; change selected segment(s) curves; delete the segment between two non-end points. This segment based editing does impact the editing of Spiro paths.
The default stroke, fill and Ctrl+Click settings of the tools can be set using:
- >Edit >>Preferences <Pencil>, <Bezier> and <Calligraphy> settings.
|Bezier curve and Straight line tool|
Pencil Tool - Bezier (Freehand) 
Keyboard shortcuts: P or F6
The Pencil Tool creates two styles of a path and dots (circle shapes). The first (default) option creates freehand Bezier curves and lines. Freehand drawing can be done in two ways. (1) By dragging (press+hold) the mouse 🖰 on the canvas. (2) By a series of Clicks and Releases, example Click on the canvas (don't drag) then move the cursor to another location and Click again this will create a path segment. Additional segments can be added to the first segment, by clicking on one of the end nodes. This Click-Release method is helpful when creating Spiro paths.
Once a path is created, there are three options for editing the path nodes. (1) To reduce the number of nodes on a given path use the path simplify command; >Path >>Simplify (Ctrl+L). (2) To add nodes to an existing path place the mouse cursor 🖰 over a start/end node, the node will change color left click and either drag or click to another position on the canvas. (3) Once a path is created the Node Tool can edit the nodes, it has an extensive set of node and segment editing features, available in the Tool Controls bar.
Pencil Tool - Spiros 
Keyboard shortcuts: P or F6
The second mode of editing, enabled by using the Tool Controls bar, creates a Spiro based path which involves both cusp ◇ and smooth ○ nodes . Smooth nodes apply spiro based interconnection to adjacent nodes within the path. Once the spiro path is created, the Node Tool must be used to edit the positioning of the spiro's smooth and cusp nodes. Even though smooth node handles are displayed on Spiro paths they do not impact editing of the Spiro. The positioning (vector) of smooth nodes in relation to adjacent cusp/smooth nodes is how a spiro's rendering is calculated. The thin red line segment editor can be used to set a straight or curved segment within a spiro.
Note - The pencil tool's spiro rendering is based on the Smooth setting of the Tool Controls bar. Smoothing is how much path simplifying nodes are applied to the spiro being created. If smoothing is set too low, there will be no effect (vector distance between nodes dependant), set to high and the smoothness will render a straight line.
Pencil Tool - Dots (Circle Shapes)
The pencil tool can also create single dots (circle shapes), using command keys;
- Ctrl+L-Click creates a dot shape ○
- Ctrl+⇧ Shift+L-Click creates a dot twice the size of the
Ctrl+L-Click dot ○
- Ctrl+⇧ Shift+Alt+L-Click creates a random radius dot ○
Once the dot is created, the editing is now changed over to the Ellipse Tool. The dot radius can be set in the Preferences of the pencil tool, >Edit >>Preferences <Tools> <<Pencil>> (Ctrl+⇧ Shift+P) "Ctrl+Click radius setting: xox times current stroke width".
This dot creation can be used as a work-around for creating text bullets, as of Inkscape v0.91 there is no internal support, other than Unicode values, for bullets in any native Text formatting.
Bezier Curve tool 
Keyboard shortcuts: B or ⇧ Shift+F6
Above is an example of a bezier curve. You can see two nodes in this view. These are the start and end nodes of the curve. But there are path nodes with control handles that you cannot see. These determine how the line curves between the end nodes. In order to view and edit path (stroke) nodes you will need to click on the Node tool button (N}.
Node tool 
Clicking on the node tool reveals another node in the middle of the curve.
If you then click on the middle node you will see the bezier handles appear.
These handles allow you to change the shape of the curves between the nodes. Notice that a list of node tools appear at the top. You can use these to change the nodes. We will not go into detail about these tools in this beginners tutorial.
The node tool can be used on all the objects created with the other tools to reveal their nodes.
More on the drawing tools
The other two drawing tools also create paths. The top tool of the three is the scribble tool . Use it like a pencil. The computer will calculate all the nodes and beziers for you. Closed paths can be created by drawing a loop. (With the bezier tool, click on the start node to close the curve).
The last tool in the group is the calligraphy tool. It allows you to do calligraphic writing. The pen creates closed loops in a realistic pen nib like way. Because of this many graphic artists like to draw with this pen all the time.
Selection tool 
Keyboard Shortcuts: S or F1 or Spacebar
This tool allows you to select objects, resize them and move them about. If you click twice on an object with the selection tool, the handles change and you are able to rotate an object. Click a third time to switch to the object's tool.
Zoom tool 
Keyboard Shortcuts: Z or F3
Drag the tool over a given area to zoom in. ⇧ Shift+Left click to zoom out again.
You can zoom in and out with the + and - keys, respectively. These keys are to the left of the ← Backspace key, and on the right side of the numeric keypad.
Other shortcuts to zoom in are:
- Ctrl+Middle click
- Ctrl+Right click
Shortcuts to zoom out are:
- Ctrl+⇧ Shift+Middle click
- Ctrl+⇧ Shift+Right click
Inkscape keeps a history of your zoom levels. For a 'Previous' zoom level, use `; for the 'Next' zoom level, use ⇧ Shift+`.
Text tool 
Keyboard Shortcuts: T or F8
Click and Drag an area where you want your text to go, then start typing! If the letters are too small, open on the Select tool F1, then drag the handles to make it bigger. There are a lot of things that you can do with text that are beyond the scope of this beginners tutorial.
Paint bucket tool
Gradient tool 
Keyboard Shortcut: G or Ctrl+F1
Click the Gradient tool button in the Inkscape tool bar, then Click+Drag on an object and you will create a gradient from a fully opaque colour to full transparency. The gradient tool can be used to edit an existing gradient, adjust colour stops by dragging and placing the gradient handles that appear over an object when the tool is active.
The Gradient tools Control bar (3rd bar from the top of the Inkscape GUI) is how to select the following beginner edits:
- Linear gradient
- Radial gradient
- Apply gradient to fill
- Apply gradient to stroke
- Select edit to preset gradients
Colour Picker tool 
Keyboard Shortcuts: D or F7
The Colour Picker, or "eyedropper" tool can be used to sample any colour in the Inkscape canvas. One of the key reasons for this tool's use is to enable the picking of colors from an image. First import Ctrl+I the image into Inkscape and then use this tool to pick a colour setting from the image to the selected object, beginner options listed:
- Click to set fill
- ⇧ Shift+Click to set stroke
- Drag to set average color of area
- Alt Click to pick inverse color
Connector tool 
Keyboard Shortcut: O
Use this to draw a connection between two objects. For example, a drawing and a label.
The nice thing about using this tool is that if you decide to move the objects about on the canvas, the connector still maintains the connection. As of v0.91, once the connector is created and rendered onto the canvas, if you drag only the path it will 'disconnect' itself from the objects it was attached to.
Making a Tomato
We want to make a juicy and plump tomato. Mouthwatering to look at, we really want to bring our product to life.
NOTE:In some versions SHIFT + CRTL + F is replaced by CRTL + ALT + F to access the attributes of an object
- Using the Circle tool draw a circle on the page
- With the circle selected, press SHIFT + CRTL + F to go to its attributes
- Change the Opacity to 80%
- Change the colour to a nice tomato red
- With the circle tool again, draw an ellipse, the same width as the tomato, below the tomato, this will be our shadow
- With the ellipse selected, press SHIFT + CRTL + F
- Change the blur to 20%, you can check the results as you move the slider.
- To add the leaves, select the calligraphy tool and change the colour to green
- In the calligraphy tool, change the Thinning attribute to 0.90
- Scribble the leaves on, if you aren't satisfied, delete them and try again.
- select the main body of the tomato and press CTRL + D, this will make an exact copy of the tomato directly over the original
- Select this new copy and press SHIFT + CRTL + F
- Change the Alpha channel to 50%
- Change the colour to white, you should now have a hazy looking tomato
- select the 'haze' and press CTRL + SHIFT + C, this will change the haze from being a circle to allow you to change its shape more vigorously
- With the Node editing tool select the haze and using the square handles crop the haze to look like a reflection. If you want to add more square handles to the haze just double click.
- Sit back and admire your work
|Ctrl+Z||Undo (can be done multiple times)|
|Redo (can be done multiple times)|
|⇧ Shift+Mouse wheel||Scroll horizontally|
|Ctrl+Tab ↹||Cycle through Inkscape windows|
|Ctrl+⇧ Shift+Tab ↹||Cycle backwards through Inkscape windows|
|Ctrl+Middle click / Right click||Zoom in|
|⇧ Shift+Middle click / Right click||Zoom out|
|Ctrl+Mouse wheel||Zoom in (up) or out (down)|
This is a glossary of the book.
- bezier curve
- A line connecting two objects, one which sticks to them even when they move.
- A small rectangle or circle that enables the user to control shapes.
- A point on a curve at which the curve can be manipulated.
- Help:Tutorial for Vectorial graphism — a basic tutorial on Inkscape; 3400 words,
- Help:Inkscape#Saving files in Inkscape
- Help:Text and Inkscape — 380 words
- Inkscape — Official Web Page
- Official User Documentation — licensed under GNU GPL V2
- Manual at flossmanuals.net — licensed under GNU GPL V3
- Inkscape Manual — by Tavmjong Bah — available without paying only for personal use
- Inkscape drawings — on DeviantArt
- Inkscape Keyboard Layout v0.48 — on Openclipart