Inkscape/Shape Tools

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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 FileInkscape Preferences and choose Steps.

Rectangles Inkscape icons draw rectangle.svg[edit]

Squares and Rectangles tool

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 Inkscape icons 3d boxes.svg[edit]

3D tool, with x,y,z shape handles

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.

Ellipses Inkscape icons draw ellipse.svg[edit]

Ellipse, Circles and Arcs tool

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 Inkscape icons draw polygon star.svg[edit]

Stars and Polygons tool

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.

Spirals Inkscape icons draw spiral.svg[edit]

Spiral tool

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 Fill and Stroke dialogue[edit]

Fill and Stroke dialogue

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 ObjectFill and Stroke, or press Ctrl +Shift + . 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 Inkscape icon import file[edit]

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 →Extensions  →Images  →Embed images... .


Interface · Path Drawing Tools