Welcome to this Inkscape tutorial series! In this lesson, we will go over the basics of Inkscape and explore the interface and some of the different tools and things we have presented with when we first open Inkscape. If you haven’t yet already installed the Inkscape on your computer you can download it free on Windows, Linux and Mac here. It’s not a free trial version and it’s very, very powerful.
Inkscape is very similar to Adobe Illustrator and has all the same functionality and tools that you would find with that program. The first thing to understand is how to pan around and change the way we’re viewing the page. To do so, we use our scroll wheel on our mouse to scroll up and down. If we hold down the control wheel we can move around our entire work space. This will be really important, because sometimes you’ll just be seeing white space and you won’t be sure where your object in your page is. So by holding the holding down the control wheel we can find our project. We can also hold down the control key on our keyboard and scroll wheel in and out to zoom in more detail on this page. We can also use the arrow keys on our keyboard to move around our work space.
These are our tools on the left hand side and by default we have a little light blue box on our selection tool which means anything we click on will be selected. By selecting an object, we can change its properties.
Lets begin by drawing on object. Click on the small square tool to draw a square. Left-click and drag to create the square. Then click back on your selector tool. When you click on your square with the selector tool, you will see a dotted line showing you that the object is selected. You will also see arrows around the the object. By clicking and dragging these arrows, you can adjust the size and shape of your object. If you click on your object again, you will see rotation arrows. These allow you to skew or rotate your object. You will also see a little plus sign in the middle of your object. By moving that plus sign, you can change the axis of your rotation.
With every tool you select, you will see options for that tool across the top of your work space. When the select tool is selected, you will see a W and an H with numbers next to them. These determine the width and height of your object. You will see the numbers change as you adjust the size of your object with the arrows, and you can also manually change your objects size by typing specific numbers in the boxes. Millimeters is the default measuring system in this program, however, that can be changed to inches by clicking on the drop down menu next to “mm”.
By typing in 2 in the height and 2 in the width, I get a 2×2 inch square. By having your “select” tool selected, you can left click and move your object where ever you would like. However, when you want to print your project, make sure to keep it within the page guidelines in your work space, or your page will be blank.
While it’s selected, if we click out here in white space we see the object is no longer selected and we can’t change the numbers anymore, because because there’s no selection. You can also deselect by hitting the escape key. If you look at the bottom of your screen you will see different colors. If you click on them nothing happens because we can’t change the color either because nothing selected. By left clicking on our object we will see the dotted line box around it and know it is re-selected. You can then click on the different colors to change the color of your object. To draw a second object, simply click on the square tool again to create another.
To change the color of your object, first notice that your object is filled with a specific color, but is outlined in another. The inside color is called fill, and the outline is called stroke. You may not notice the difference if both the fill and stroke are the same color. You can more prominently see your stroke color by selecting your object, and then clicking on white at the bottom of your screen. that will change your fill color to white and you will see your outline/stroke color. To change the stroke color, simply hold down shift when selecting a color. In future lessons, we will go into more detail on colors, fill and stroke.
To save your work, click on the table “file” and then save. You can save it to your desktop or any file. By clicking save, you are saving your project as a vector project. When you open it, your project will open in Inkscape as it is now. However, if you want to save it as a picture, maybe to email to someone, you would need to export it. To export, click on “file”, then “export png image”. That will bring up some options on the right side of your work space. There are 3 four buttons on the top of those options: Page, Drawing, Selection, Custom. By selecting “Page”, you will export everything in the guides of your page. By selecting “Drawing”, it will export everything that has been drawn, whether it is in the page guidelines or not. By selecting “Selection”, it will export everything you have selected with the “select” tool. We will learn about the “Custom” button later.
The file name shows what the project will be called and where it will be located. To change it, click on “Export As” to direct where you want your project to be saved. Then click the “Export” button with the green check mark.
You can check out your project by opening up the png image that you exported. Png images have transparent backgrounds, so depending on your default program that the image opens in, the background for your image may look different. Some are black, or checkered, or grey. Just know that the background is not part of your image. We will talk more about transparent backgrounds in future lessons.
This concludes our first lesson in Inkscape. Feel free to watch the video for more visuals, and I look forward to our next lesson!