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Revision as of 09:10, 8 March 2005 by Buliabyak (talk | contribs)
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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 called "dialogs", such as the Fill and Stroke dialog.
  • Marquee: this is called "the rubberband" 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
  • Filters & effects (guassian blur, etc.)
  • Select line segments by clicking on the segment
  • Blend objects
  • 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
  • Clones, Tile clones
  • Keys to move/rotate/scale by screen pixels
  • Richer shape controls

Getting Things Done In Inkscape

Hand Tool : Navigating the Canvas

Instead of using the Spacebar for panning around a document, in Inkscape you press and hold the middle mouse button (or mouse wheel) and drag the canvas in any direction. Alternatively, rotate mouse wheel to pan vertically, rotate with shift to pan horizontally. You 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. (Much more convenient!)

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 of paths can be selected with the Node tool rubberband, the same as in Illustrator.

Group Select : Selector

In Inkscape there is no special group select tool. To select an individual object in a group of objects, Ctrl+click it in Selector.

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, or by Ctrl+Shift+F.


Inkscape is capable of creating "clones" of objects. When you edit the original, the changes are propagated to all of its clones. Clones can be transformed, but their nodes cannot be edited. Clones can themselves be cloned. You can use the Edit > Tile clones command to create patterns and arrangements of clones.


There's no palette of stored styles yet. However you can copy style from one object to another: select the source object, do Edit > Copy (Ctrl+C), select the destination object, do Edit > Paste Style (Ctrl+Shift+V).

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 : The Second Click

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 the corner handles will rotate and dragging the middle handles will skew.


Instead of Pallets, Inkscape has dialogs that can be called up by various commands through which the artist communicates with the program. Dialogs function similarly to pallets. (In Windows, they do not stay on top of the Document window; this is a known problem.) You can toggle visibility of all active dialogs with F12 key.

Working with Nodes (Anchor Points) and Paths

Editing shapes and paths after drawing is done with the Node tool, N key. It currently has some limitations; notably, you can only drag nodes, not path fragments between nodes; and you can only add new nodes over the old ones or in the middle between them, instead of an arbitrary point on path.

Nodes can be cusp (curner), smooth, or symmetric. Symmetric is the same as smooth but the handles are always the same length. There are conveninent keyboard shortcuts for switching the types of selected nodes.

To continue a path, select its endnode and duplicate it (Shift+D), then drag the new node. You can break the path at any selected node(s), or join two end nodes, using the correspondint toolbar buttons. You can edit the nodes of only one path object at a time, but that path object may consist of any number of distinct subpaths. Use the Break Apart and Combine commands to break a path into its subpaths and combine separate paths into a single path.

To convert a straight path segment to a curve, select both endnodes of the segment and press the "Make selected segments curves" button on the toolbar. Conversely, you can convert a segment from a curve to a straight line with the "Make selected segments lines" button.

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 or to the adjacent straight line segment (dragging node with Ctrl+Alt).
  3. Inkscape can lock the handle length (dragging handle with Alt).
  4. You can move nodes, rotate handles, scale handles, and move selection from one node to the next using keyboard shortcuts. For moves, scales, and rotates, use Alt to move by one screen pixel.

Editing Shapes

Shapes created with the shapes tools (i.e., Rectangle, Ellipse, Star, Spiral) can be immediately edited in the same tool which created them. Each kind of shape has its own handles which you can drag, possibly with keyboard modifiers, to achieve various effects (such as rounding corners of a rectangle). There are also various numeric fields in the controls bars of the shape tools. Consult the Shapes tutorial (in Help menu) for details on Inkscape shapes. Overall, shapes in Inkscape are more rich and flexible than in Illustrator.

You can also convert any shape to path, to be able to edit its nodes freely. 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.


Inkscape calls Pathfinder operations "boolean operations" on shapes.

Working with Layers

Inkscape has perfectly serviceable layers, although working with layers in Inkscape is not yet very convenient. Layers are located in the Status bar, with the lock and visibility toggles located on the left. An artist can select the layer from the list, and then select its visibility and lock status. Previews are not shown. Selected objects can be moved from one layer to another by Shift+PgUp / Shift+PgDn. Layers can nest, and you can enter a group making it a temporary layer.

Working with Text

Create Outlines

Converting a text object to outlines (i.e. to path) in Inkscape produces a single path object. If you want to manipulate each letter separately, you can break this path into subpaths (Path>Break Apart, Shift+Ctrl+K) and, for letters with holes, reselect parts of each letter and recombine them (Path>Combine, Ctrl+K) to fix the holes.

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. Double clicking a guide will open a dialog where you can set the guide position precisely.