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With Inkscape an artist can create most of the same illustrations that can be made with Adobe Illustrator. However, many of the functions and tools that the two applications share are used in different ways.


Anchor Points: in Inkscape, anchor points are known as "Nodes" Pallets: in Inkscape, pallets are simply "Windows" e.i, the Fill and Stroke window. Marquee: this is called the Rubberband effect when selecting Tools: see [AdobeToolMap Adobe Tool Map] for complete tool equivalency reference.

Things Illustrator can do that Inkscape can't:

  • Gradient mesh (planned for future release via multiple transparent gradient fills)
  • Multiple stokes and fills for one object (planned for future release)
  • Filters & effects (guassian blur, etc.)
  • Select line segments by clicking on the segment
  • Rubberband select multiple anchor points
  • Blend objects
  • Cut (Knife/Scissors) line segment
  • Color management for print (ICC Profiles, etc.)
  • PMS color
  • Save swatches
  • Wireframe mode
  • Natively work with graphs based on data
  • Free transform and perspective transform

Things Inkscape can do that Illustrator can't:

  • Edit SVG source directly

Getting Things Done In Inkscape

Hand Tool : Navigating the Canvas

Instead of using the Spacebar for panning around a document, in Inkscape an artist presses and holds the middle mouse button (or mouse wheel) and drags the mouse up and down to pan vertically; shift-middle mouse button pans horizontally. Curiously, in order to pan horizontally the mouse must be dragged up and down the same way as vertical panning. In Inkscape, the artist can also pan around the canvas by holding the Ctrl key and pressing the arrow keys. Holding the arrow key speeds up the pan in that direction.

Zooming : Plus and Minus Keys

Instead of holding down the Ctrl key and pressing + or - to zoom the canvas, in Inkscape the artist simply presses the + or - key to zoom.

Selecting : Selector and Nodes Tool

In order to select objects with the Rubberband in Inkscape, an artist must completely select the entire area of the object, not just select over part of it, to include it in the selection. Individual nodes cannot be selected with the Nodes tool rubberband, as can be done in Adobe Illustrator.

Group Select : Selector

In Inkscape there is no special group select tool. To select an individual object in a group of objects, hold the Ctrl key and click on the object.

Fill & Stroke : Fill and Stroke Window

Since fill and stroke are not a tool, they do no appear on the Toolbox, as is the case in Adobe Illustrator. Instead there is a Fill and Stroke window, activated through the Fill and Stroke icon on the Commands bar or through the Menu.

Styles : Cloning

There are no "styles" as such in Inkscape. Instead, Inkscape is capable of creating "clones" of object, which when edited result in the changes being propagated to all of the linked elements. Clones can be transformed, but nodes cannot be edited.

Proportional Scaling and Center Point : Shift and Control Keys

In Inkscape, the keys to maintain proportions while scaling, and to center on point are reversed. To scale objects proportionally in Inkscape, press and hold the Ctrl key, and to use the center point for scaling, hold the Shift key.

Rotate & Skew : Double Clicking Objects

Inkscape does not have special skew or rotate tools. Instead, with the Selector tool, click on an object to select it, then click on it again to change the handles to Rotate and Skew handles. Dragging these handles will


Instead of Pallets, Inkscape simply has windows that can be called up by various commands through which the artist communicates with the program. Inkscape can maintain open windows, so they function similarly to pallets, but they do not always stay on top of the Document window and sometimes need to be recalled with the F12 key.

Working with Nodes (Anchor Points) and Paths

Editing shapes post drawing must be done with the "Nodes" tool, N key. Shapes can be tweaked using this tool but it is by no means as responsive as the Illustrator counterpart. You must click on only the control nodes, and deselecting nodes is done by dragging a rubberband (marquee) with the "Nodes" tool.

An artist will need to continue a line segment by creating two paths distinctly. When the second path has been created, select both paths and "Combine" them Control+K. Then edit nodes in the newly combined shape and attach those nodes to each other. Joining nodes is a two step process. First, join the nodes, then select whether or not the join should be a corner, or a smooth curve.

Converting a straight node to a curve node is not as intuitive in Inkscape as it is in Illustrator. To convert a straight node to a curve, the line segments on either side must be converted. To select a line segment, select one node with the Node tool, then Shift+Click the connecting node so that both ends of the segment is selected. Then click the Smooth Node conversion command. This procedure adds Node Vector Handles (or simply handles) to both nodes on the line segment. Repeat this process with the line segment on the other side of the node being converted to give it handles on both sides. The node can then be converted to corner, smooth or symmetrical as needed. The nodes on either side will have handles, and they cannot be converted to straight nodes again, since only line segments can be converted, but placing the handle on the node will work to emulate straight node behavior.

Nodes cannot be added to a path with a tool. Instead the artist must select a line segment by selecting both nodes on either end, and selecting the Add Node command from the Tool Controls bar. This will place a node in the center of the line segment.

Working with nodes in Inkscape has several distinct advantages over Illustrator:

  1. The node appearance changes according to the kind of node it is. When a corner node is converted to a smooth node, it changes from a diamond shape to a square. Thus, without a particular node selected it is still possible to tell what kind of node it is.
  2. Inkscape can restrain node movement to the handle vector.
  3. Inkscape can lock the handle length.

Editing Shapes

Basic shapes created with the shapes tools (i.e., Rectangle, Ellipse, Spiral) can not be immediately edited. Before editing a shape created with the shape tool, it must first be converted to paths. Select the object with the Selector or Nodes tool, and then select Path>Object To Path (Shift+Ctrl+C) or if the Nodes Tool Controls bar is visible, click on the Object To Path command icon. Then the nodes on of the object can be edited normally.


Inkscape calls Pathfinder operations "boolean operations" on shapes.

Working with Layers

Inkscape has perfectly serviceable layers, although working with layers in Inkscape is not as convenient as it is in Illustrator. Layers are located in the Status bar, with the lock and visibility toggle located beside it. An artist can select the layer from the spinbox, and then select its visibility and lock status. Previews are not shown, and art is moved from one layer to another by means of a key command (Shift+PgUp / Shift+PgDn.)

Working with Text

Create Outlines

Converting large blocks of text to outlines in Inkscape is not very productive. Text is converted to vector shapes in a three part process: 1.) With the text selected, select Path>Object to Path (Shift+Ctrl+C) 2.) Select Path>Break Apart (Shift+Ctrl+K) 3.) Select Path>Combine (Ctrl+K)

Text Boxes

While putting text in shapes is possilbe in Inkscape, it is not yet well supported. See documentation for Flow Text into Shape for more information.


Guides can be hidden in Inkscape with the Shift+| key combination. The | symbol is called a pipe and is generally paired with the backslash character on the keyboard. Ctrl+; does not do anything in Inkscape. A guide cannot be selected by drawing a rubberband through it, as is done in Illustrator. Rather, to move or delete a guide the artist must use the Selector to grab the guide and move it to another location or to the ruler. Guides cannot be locked, and guides are global to the layers instead of bound to individual layers as they are in Illustrator.