Inkscape User Manual

Un-official manual by Kevin Wixson

Table Of Contents

Part XI
Chapter 2: Node Tool



Nodes are the points along the path that define the path's shape. Node handles extend from the node when the node is selected and define the direction of the path segments originating from that node. The primary function of the Node tool is to manipulate the position of nodes and node handles that make up all paths in an Inkscape drawing. With the Node tool, an Inkscape artist can click and drag nodes to different positions, and manipulate the node's handles in order to change the shape of the path.

Selecting Nodes

[screenshot: node on path]

To select a node on a path, first select the object with either the Selector or Node tool. Clicking near the path (inside or out) with the Node tool will select the path. Shapes with a defined fill can be selected by clicking anywhere within the shape area. Once the path is selected, the nodes of the path will be displayed while the Node tool is in use. Deselected nodes appear in gray, selected nodes appear blue, and when the cursor is placed over the node, the node will change to red until the cursor is moved away. To select a node, click on it. To add nodes to the selection, hold the Shift key and click on deselected nodes. To deselect a node, click on it while holding the Shift key, or click off the object to deselect all nodes. With the path selected, one or more nodes can be selected by drawing a rubberband around multiple nodes. To select multiple nodes from different paths, combine the paths with the Combine command, and the nodes of both paths can then be selected together. The nodes of a path can also be navigated via the keyboard. Press the Tab key to select the next node on the path Shift + Tab selects the previous node on the path. Ctrl + A selects all the nodes on the path, Esc deselects all nodes on the path.

Selecting Node Handles

[screenshot: node with handles on path]

Whenever a node or a neighboring node is selected, the node's vector handles will be displayed. When the cursor is positioned over a node handle, the hallow circle will fill with red, indicating that the node can be selected. Click and drag the handle to adjust the vector of the path from the node. Handles of nodes that do not show that they have handles can be selected by holding the Shift key and clicking and dragging from the node in the direction of the path.

Node States

[screenshot of three node types]

Nodes have three states, cusp, smooth and symmetric. Cusp nodes are corner nodes, and the node handles of a cusp node can be moved independently of each other. The paths of the nodes can be vectored in different directions, resulting in a corner at the node. The handles of smooth nodes are always aligned with each other, resulting in a continuous, smooth, line through the node. The handles of smooth nodes can drawn to different lengths and therefore influence the nodes adjacent path segments to differing degrees. Symmetric nodes are those which always have handles of the same direction and length. Drawing out the length of one handle extends the opposite handle to the same length.

Editing Nodes

To convert a node from one state to another, the Inkscape artist can select one or more nodes with the Node tool and change their state with the Tool Control bar commands. Nodes can also be converted by holding down the Ctrl key and clicking on the node. The node will cycle through the three states. Node handles can be retracted back into the node by holding the Ctrl key and clicking on the node handle. Nodes can be aligned and distributed by selecting multiple nodes and clicking on alignment commands in the Alignment window. Holding the shift key while dragging a node handle of a cusp node will cause both handles to rotate. Holding down the Ctrl + Shift keys while dragging a node will constrain the node to the direction of the handles. The Ctrl key will constrain the angle of the node handle to degree increments defined in Inkscape preferences. The Ctrl key will constrain a node to the horizontal or vertical axis while dragging.

Nodes and node handles can be edited via the keyboard. The arrow keys will nudge the selected nodes. The [ and ] keys rotate the node handles. The < and > keys scale the node handles. The Ctrl key isolates the left node handle for changes with the [ ] and < > keys. On some keyboards, the left Ctrl key isolates the left node handle and the right Ctrl key isolates the right node handle. Shift + B will break the selected nodes, and Shift + J will join two selected nodes.

When several nodes are selected, pressing < or > scales, [ or ] rotates the selected nodes as if they were an “object”, around the center of that object. Pressing Alt with these keys gives pixel-sized movement depending on zoom.

With two nodes selected, the Add Node command will create a new node equidistant between the selected nodes. Activating the Subtract Node command will remove selected nodes and join the adjacent nodes, preserving a continuous path.

Node Tool Control bar

The tool control bar for this tool has the following commands and options:

Node Tool Preferences

The tool behavior can be modified in the Inkscape Preferences window:



Additional Information

Related Topics


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This manual is my scratch pad and development site for the Inkscape documentation project. Documentation that appears here may eventually work its way into the official Inkscape documentation, and changes to the Inkscape documentation may work it's way into this draft. It is a work in progress, so please don't mind the mess. Anything that appears here is GPL'ed under the usual licenses for GPL documentation, yada, yada, yada, or has been dedicated to the public domain. For a list of those elements that have been placed in the public domain, please click here.

Links To Official Inkscape Resources