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This book serves as both a textbook and a reference for using Inkscape to produce high-quality drawings. It includes a series of tutorials followed by chapters that cover completely each facet of the Inkscape program. The book is full of tips and notes to enable the user to make the best use of the program.

Inkscape is an open source SVG-based[1] vector drawing program. It is useful for drawing:

[1] All acronyms are defined in the Glossary.

  • Illustrations for the Web

  • Graphics for mobile phones

  • Simple line drawings

  • Cartoons

  • Complex works of art

  • Figures for articles and books

  • Organization charts

The file format that Inkscape uses is compact and quickly transmittable over the Internet. Yet it is powerful and can describe complex drawings that are scalable to any size. Support for the format has been added to web browsers and is already included in many mobile phones.

Inkscape supports the drawing of regular shapes (rectangles, circles, etc.), arbitrary paths, and text. These objects can be given a wide variety of attributes such as color, gradient or patterned fills, alpha blending, and markers. Objects can be transformed, cloned, and grouped. Hyperlinks can be added for use in web browsers. The Inkscape program aims to be fully XML, SVG, and CSS compliant.

Inkscape is available prepackaged for the Windows Macintosh, and Linux operating systems. The program and its source code are freely available. They can be obtained from the Inkscape website [].

Inkscape is undergoing very rapid development with new features being added and compliance to the SVG standard being constantly improved. This manual documents Versions 0.46 and 0.47.

How to Use This Book

Following this introduction, there is a set of tutorials. The tutorials are designed to cover the basics of all the important features found in Inkscape and to lead the reader from the beginning to end of the drawing process.

The bulk of the book is devoted to a detailed discussion of all of Inkscape’s features including examples of solving common drawing problems. Both the strengths and weaknesses of Inkscape are pointed out.

Depending on one’s background, one may use the book as a reference or read the book from front to back. In general, the more fundamental topics are covered first. Novices are encouraged to work through each of the tutorials sitting in front of their computer. At the end of the book are a few drawing challenges.


  • Click: Click on icon, object, and so forth with the Left Mouse button (unless another mouse button is indicated) with immediate release.

  • Click-drag: Click on icon, object, and so forth with the Left Mouse button (unless another mouse button is indicated) and hold the button down while moving the mouse.

  • Select the option in the pull-down menu. Example: File → Document Properties... (Shift+Ctrl+D): Select “Document Preferences...” under the “File” pull-down menu. Shift+Ctrl+D is the keyboard shortcut corresponding to this option.

One-button Mice

Users of one-button mice might want to upgrade to a multi-button mouse. Inkscape makes good use of a three-button mouse with a scroll wheel. (Inkscape also makes good use of graphics tablets.) In the mean time, the button on a one-button mouse corresponds to the Left Mouse button.


The icons used in this book are in general those provided by Inkscape’s default icon theme. Some icons, however, are provided by the operating system. It is possible that the icons you see in your version of Inkscape are different depending upon the source of your version. Regardless of what icons are used, the functionality remains the same.

Book Website and Color Addendum

The book has a website [] with some SVG examples and tests as well as graphics for use with the tutorials.

Being a drawing program, color is very important in Inkscape. If you have a printed version of the book in black and white, you can download from the website a color addendum, which has many of the book’s figures in color. Figures in the book that have a color version in the addendum are marked with the symbol .

Vector Graphics

There are two basic types of graphic images: bitmap (or raster) images and vector images. In the first case, the image is defined in terms of rows and columns of individual pixels, each with its own color. In the second case, the image is defined in terms of lines, both straight and curved. A single straight line is described in terms of its two end points. The difference in these types of graphic images becomes readily apparent when a drawing is enlarged.

The same line is shown on the left and right. On the left it is displayed as a bitmap image, while on the right it is displayed as a vector. In both cases, the line has been scaled up by a factor of four from its nominal size.

When the bitmap resolution of a drawing matches the display resolution, the objects in the drawing look smooth.

The same drawing, but defined as a bitmap image on the left and a vector image on the right. If the output device has the same resolution as the bitmap image, there is little difference between the appearance of the two images.

If the bitmap resolution is significantly less than the display resolution, the display will show jagged lines.

The head of the gentleman in the above drawings has been scaled up by a factor of five. Now one can see a difference in the quality of the bitmap drawing (left) and the vector drawing (right). Note that the bitmap image uses anti-aliasing, a method of using grayscale to attempt to smooth the drawing.

All output devices, with few exceptions, use a raster or bitmap image to display graphics.[2] The real difference between drawing with bitmap graphics and vector graphics is the point at which the image is converted into a bitmap. In the case of vector graphics, this conversion is done at the very last step before display, ensuring that the final image matches exactly the resolution of the output device.

[2] The few vector output devices include large plotters for engineering and architectural drawings and archaic Tektronix terminals.


SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphics. Scalable refers to the notion that a drawing can be scaled to an arbitrary size without losing detail.

Scalable also refers to the idea that a drawing can be composed of an unlimited number of smaller parts, parts that can be reused many times.

The SVG standard is directed toward a complete description of two-dimensional graphics including animation in an XML (eXtensible Markup Language) format. XML is an open standard for describing a document in a way that can be easily extended and is resistant to future changes in the document specification. A drawing saved in one version of SVG by one version of a drawing program should be viewable, to the full extent possible, by any previous or future version of any drawing program that adheres to the SVG standard. If a program doesn’t support something in the SVG standard, it should just skip over any part of a drawing that uses it, rendering the rest correctly.

SVG files are small, and drawings described by the standard adapt well to different presentation methods. This has led to great interest in the standard. Support is included in many web browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Safari), or is available through plug-ins (e.g., Adobe [], RENESIS [], Ssrc SVG [] and soon Google []). Over a dozen companies including Apple (iPhone), Blackberry, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson produce mobile phones that utilize a subset of the full SVG standard that has been tailored for devices with limited resources.

The Inkscape Program

Inkscape has its roots in the program Gill (GNOME Illustrator application) created by Raph Levian [] of Ghostscript fame. This project was expanded on by the Sodipodi [] program. A different set of goals led to the split-off of the current Inkscape development effort.

The goal of the writers of Inkscape is to produce a program that can take full advantage of the SVG standard. This is not a small task. A link to the road map for future development can be found on the Inkscape website []. Of course, you are welcome to contribute!

Instructions on installing Inkscape can be found on the Inkscape website. Full functionality of Inkscape requires additional helper programs to be installed, especially for importing and exporting files in different graphic formats. Check the log file extensions-errors.log located on Linux at ~/.inkscape/ (v0.46) or ~/.config/-inkscape/ (v0.47) and on Windows at %userprofile%\Application Data\Inkscape\ for missing programs.


The first place to look for help is under the Help menu. Here you will find links to: this book (!), a web page (as of v0.46) containing all the Keyboard and Mouse commands (Help → Keys and Mouse Reference), tutorials, and a FAQ. Some of the items require a web browser and that you be connected to the Internet.

If you encounter a problem that is not covered by this book or the other resources under the Help menu, here are some other places to look:


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