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Inkscape User Manual

Un-official manual by Kevin Wixson

Table Of Contents

Appendix A
Inkscape for Adobe Illustrator Users

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. It is important to note that the key to productivity in Inkscape is the use of keyboard shortcuts, which are available for most of Inkscape's functions. For help with Inkscape's keyboard commands, see the *Keys and Mouse* tutorial located in the Help menu.


* Anchor Points: in Inkscape, anchor points are known as "Nodes"
* Palettes: in Inkscape, "palettes" are called "dialogs", such as the Fill and Stroke dialog.
* Marquee: this is called "the rubberband" when selecting
* Tools: see [Adobe Tool Map] for complete tool equivalency reference.
* Bounding Box: in Inkscape it is sometimes referred to as bounding box, but most of the time it is called a selection cue in dialogs.

Things Adobe Illustrator can do that Inkscape can not do:

* Gradient mesh (planned for future release via multiple transparent gradient fills)
* Multiple strokes 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 Adobe Illustrator can not:

* Edit SVG source directly
* Clones, Tile clones, edit clones on canvas
* Keys to move/rotate/scale by screen pixels
* Live shapes
* Edit gradients with handles on-canvas
* Edit nodes with keyboard

Getting Things Done In Inkscape

Hand Tool : Navigating the Canvas

Instead of using the Spacebar for panning around a document, in Inkscape an artist can 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. 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 of paths can be selected with the Node tool rubberband, the same as in Adobe Illustrator; however the object must be selected first, and only the nodes from one object (which may combine several subpaths) can be selected. Unlike Adobe Illustrator, nodes from multiple uncombined objects cannot be selected at the same time.

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 with the Selector. Or you can right-click the group and do "Enter group" after which objects in the group can be selected as if they are not grouped.

Drag A Copy : Selector + Space Key

Inkscape is capable of dragging copies of objects in a similar way to the Ctrl+drag operation in Adobe Illustrator. To drag a copy, drag the original object to the desired position, holding down the mouse button, press the space bar to "drop a copy" and then press the Esc key to cancel the move. The original will return to its original spot, but the copy will remain where it was dropped.

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.

Styles : Cut 'N Paste

A palette for stored styles is still being developed. 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). These copied styles are not linked to the original as they are in Adobe Illustrator.

Symbols : Cloning

Inkscape is capable of creating "clones" of objects, which are somewhat similar to Adobe Illustrator's Symbols. 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. A clone can be painted if the original has unset fill or stroke. Inkscape's clones are not stored in a palette.

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 palettes, Inkscape has dialogs and windows that can be called up by various commands through which the artist communicates with the program. Dialogs function similarly to palettes. (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 paths post drawing is done with the Node tool. Select nodes by clicking on them, by Tab/Shift?+Tab keys, or by the rubberband around several nodes. To deselect nodes, press Esc or click in an empty space. While in the node tool, you can also select a different object by clicking on it, after which its nodes become selectable, otherwise only the nodes of the presently selected object can be selected.

To continue an open path, select the path with the Selector, and then select the Pen tool from the toolbox. When the cursor is over either end node of the open path, the node will change to a red color, letting the artist know that clicking on that point will continue the path. By default, the Pen tool is in "append mode" when an object is selected. In append mode, any path created becomes part of the object that is selected, whether or not the new path continues the original path. Multiple paths in the same object are called subpaths. See the help page for the "Combine" command for more information about overlaping subpaths and subpaths behavior. To avoid creating a new path as a subpath of a selected object deselect the object with the Esc key or press "a" to toggle out of append mode. Also press the Esc key after clicking on the other end node of an open path in order to create a shape. Continuing to draw with the Pen tool will result in a open path with a separate node over the end node of the original path.

To convert node types in Inkscape, hold down the shift key to drag a control handle out of a node that does not have any. To change a node with control handles from one type to another, hold the Ctrl key and click on the node. This will cycle the node through cusp, smooth and symmetric node types. To retract the control handles back into the node so they don't influence the direction of the line, hold down the Ctrl key and click on the control handle to be retracted. There are many ways to work with nodes and node types in Inkscape. See the Nodes section of the help file for more detailed information.

The Node tool 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.

Working with nodes in Inkscape has several distinct advantages over Adobe 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

The *nodes* of basic shapes created with the shapes tools (i.e., Rectangle, Polygon, Ellipse, Spiral) can not be immediately edited. Before editing nodes of 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.

The basic shapes created with the shapes tools (i.e., Rectangle, Ellipse, Star, Spiral) can be transformed with the same tool that created them. Shapes that can be transformed with the tool that created them in this way are called "Live Shapes." Each kind of live shape has its own handles which you can drag, 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 shapes tools. Consult the Shapes tutorial (in Help menu) for details on Inkscape's live shapes.


Inkscape calls Pathfinder operations "boolean operations" on paths. Unlike Adobe Illustrator, open and closed paths can both be used in combination, using the boolean operations. Drawing an open path across the path of a closed shape and then performing a "cut path" operation, you achieve the same effect as using the "knife" tool in Adobe Illustrator.

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 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.) 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 possible 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 Adobe 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 Adobe Illustrator. Double clicking a guide will open a dialog where you can set the guide position precisely.


Grids for drawing reference and snapping can be shown with the Shift+3 (the # symbol) key combination. The default value of the grid lines for most document templates is set to 1px, and is likely one of the first things an Illustrator user would want to customize in Inkscape. The resolution of the grid will change with the zoom factor of the canvas, like it does in Illustrator, down to the smallest resolution as set in the preferences. In Inkscape, the grid preferences are located in the Document Preferences window.


Date: 07/08/2005
Nickname: Soxofaan
Subject: some remarks
Message: about zooming: another way of zooming in Inkscape is + mousewheel, I think (I don't have Inkscape on the computer I'm working right now) about Drag A Copy: drag a copy in Illustrator is +drag, not +drag about Proportional Scaling and Center Point: I'm not totaly sure about this but the key's aren't reversed from the Illustrator way: scaling around center point in Illustrator is with , not with
Date: 07/08/2005
Nickname: Soxofaan
Subject: some remarks, again but more readable :)

about zooming: another way of zooming in Inkscape is [ctrl] + mousewheel, I think (I don't have Inkscape on the computer I'm working right now)

about Drag A Copy: drag a copy in Illustrator is [alt]+drag, not [ctrl]+drag

about Proportional Scaling and Center Point: I'm not totaly sure about this but the key's aren't reversed from the Illustrator way: scaling around center point in Illustrator is with [alt], not with [ctrl]

Date: 11/24/2005
Nickname: Goosey
Subject: Perspective
Message: Is perspective transform going to be possible? I can see some immediate uses for this and it means I just can't use Inkscape for some specific freeware and Open Source projects I am trying to contribute to (GB-PVR and MediaPortal).
Date: 11/25/2005
Nickname: User
Subject: update
Message: you can remove this from AI advantages, as this is already possible in Inkscape: selecting segment by clicking dragging segments wireframe mode
Date: 11/30/2005
Nickname: Kevin
Subject: Updates
Message: With .43 it is now possible to select and manipulate segements by clicking on them, but wireframe mode has not been added yet. I am told that it's in CVS, but I don't count anything not in a production release for documentation purposes. About different zoom methods...well, this document is not meant to be a comprehensive manual to functions mentioned. Rather, it's to be an orientation for people who use Adobe Illustrator. All the zoom methods should be covered in the documentation page about views, so if I fall down there be sure to let me know.

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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