Drawing with Inkscape

If you attended the RoboSumo lecture today (DT021/DT081) or yesterday (DT009), hopefully you found the Inkscape demo informative. Admittedly, I’m no Inkscape expert myself, but I have taught myself the basic features and I’ve really found that it has helped me to draw an awful lot faster (and hopefully a bit better too).

Inkscape is completely free and is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. You can download it from http://inkscape.org/.

This was the drawing that I created during the demo:

Also, here’s a quick sketch of a logo idea for the 2012 RoboSumo tournament, using a technique very similar to that I used for this blog’s banner image:

Inkscape Built-in Tutorials

The best way to start learning Inkscape is probably through its built-in tutorials. You’ll find them in a submenu inside the “Help” menu. They explain the different shape tools, how to navigation around the canvas, and so on. What I love about these tutorials is that they themselves are editable Inkscape documents so you can try out what you’re reading about right there inside the tutorial document itself.

Spending an hour or two on these tutorials now could save you 100 wasted hours of frustration down the road (whether it’s in Inkscape, MS Paint, or whatever other drawing tool you might be using).

YouTube Inkscape Demostrations

My favourite way to learn about more advanced Inkscape techniques and features is through YouTube. Just do a search for “Inkscape” or “Inkscape tutorial” and you will find some absolutely incredible demonstrations of how to create really professional looking images. For example:

Here’s one I found useful:

Shortcut Keys

Finally, if you are planning to try Inkscape, I suggest learning at least a few of the shortcut keys because they’ll speed up your work no end. These are the ones I use most frequently:

Navigation keys:

  • Ctrl + any arrow key moves around the canvas.
  • “+” and “-” keys zoom in and out.
  • The arrow keys move the selected object(s) around.
  • Alt + an arrow key moves selected object(s) in small steps.

All the normal Windows edit keys work in Inkscape (these aren’t specific to Inkscape – they work in most programs and are incredibly useful!):

  • Ctrl + C Copy selected object(s) to clipboard.
  • Ctrl + X Cut selected object(s) to clipboard.
  • Ctrl + V Paste from the clipboard to the canvas.
  • Ctrl + Z Undo last operation.
  • Ctrl + Y Redo whatever you just undid.

My most used tool shortcut keys:

  • F1 is the arrow selection tool.
  • F2 is the node tool.
  • F8 is the text tool.
  • Shift + F6 is the line and curve tool.
  • Ctrl + Shift + A opens the align and distribute tool.
  • Ctrl + Shift + F opens the fill and stroke tool.
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