7 awesome new Inkscape features and how to use them

Inkscape got a bunch of new capabilities with its 2017 release. Check out these great video tutorials to learn how to use them.
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Open source creatives were rewarded in 2017 with the first major new release of Inkscape since 2015. Inkscape 0.92 was released in January last year with a couple of subsequent updates. The current stable version is 0.92.2, released on August 7, 2017.

"Version 0.92.2?" you might ask. "That's an odd version number. Why is it less than 1?"

It's a good question. The Inkscape team has a long-term goal to fully implement the SVG 1.1 specification in Inkscape and will advance the version number to 1.0 to demarcate that accomplishment. Inkscape, as a project, is dedicated not only to open source but open standards as well: The project team collaborates with the upstream W3C Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) Standards Committee. This collaboration has manifested in new and improved SVG and CSS properties in the SVG specification.

Inkscape added a variety of new features in 2017. Here's a selection of tutorials to help you get started using them right away.

1. Mesh Gradients

An example of in-progress work towards collaboration with the W3C SVG Standards Committee is 0.92's new Mesh Gradients feature, one of the features Adobe Illustrator converts have long pined for; the Inkscape team is hoping for the feature to be adopted into the SVG specification. Inkscape's gradient tool has long had the ability to create multi-point linear and radial gradients. The addition of Mesh Gradients means the control points for an object's fill are in a grid ("mesh"), and individual control points can be given different values. This provides a lot more artistic control over the appearance of the fill and can make it much easier to achieve photorealistic coloring and shading in Inkscape illustrations.

Here is a sweet little introductory tutorial on Mesh Gradients that shows you how to create an illustration of a realistic-looking mangosteen, created by James Auble for his HueDroid YouTube channel:

2. Conical Gradients

Speaking of gradients, Inkscape's Mesh Gradient feature offers a Conical Gradient function! Nick Saporito of Logos By Nick has a great tutorial on how to create a Conical Gradient. To  learn more, you can read his blog post Now You Can Easily Create Conical Gradients with Inkscape or watch his video:

Live Path Effects (Envelope/Perspective, Lattice, Mirror/Rotate)

The Live Path Effects (LPEs) system is a powerful, non-destructive tool for applying live and interactive effects on the vector paths you draw in Inkscape. The effects can be composed together in any order you choose for a wide range of possibilities. Inkscape 0.92 has introduced a large family of LPEs; let's take a look at several of them.

3. Envelope and Perspective

These effects allow you to deform a path using four control points that Inkscape provides around the object. Envelope stretches and squashes the shape on a flat plane as you modify the control points; Perspective maps the object to match the perspective of the plane created by your manipulation of the control points.

We recommend a couple of video tutorial on these effects. The first, from Rob of ScrappyDew Creations, focuses on using the Envelope effect to create warped text.

The second, from Jabiertxof Foxtreibaj, demonstrates both the Envelope and Perspective effects using an early, unstable version of the tool.

4. Lattice

Similar to how the Mesh Gradient control gives you finer control of the colors and shades in a gradient by introducing more control points in a grid, the Lattice LPE allows you greater creative control than the four points of the Envelope LPE via a grid of deformation control points. This video demonstration from Jabiertxof Foxtreibaj (based on an early prototype) shows the basics of using the tool:

5. Rotate Copies and Mirror Symmetry

The Rotate Copies and Mirror Symmetry LPEs take the goodness of the Tiled Clones feature of Inkscape and make it less clunky and confusing as well as allow for the interactive adjustment of the resulting compositions.

The Rotate Copies LPE is similar to the Mirror Symmetry LPE; rather than creating mirror-image copies, it creates multiple copies rotated around a point, and you can customize the various parameters of this rotation to create cool effects. Here's a demonstration from Jabiertxof Foxteibaj on using this tool to create kaleidoscope designs:

The Mirror Symmetry LPE creates a copy of an object and mirrors it across lines. You can also control where the copies overlap, how they connect, and merge ("fuse") them together. Here is a demonstration, from Jabiertxof Foxtreibaj, of this tool and the Rotate Copies tool:

6. B-splines

Inkscape 0.47 introduced Spiro Splines, a new mode for the pen tool that brought spirograph-style functionality to drawing vector paths. B-splines ("Basis Splines") are another new-to-Inkscape pen tool mode that is an alternative to traditional bezier paths. One of the main differences between B-spline paths and bezier paths is that B-spline paths are one continuous path with multiple control points; bezier paths are compositions of multiple individual and connected line segments. To modify a bezier path, you can select and move the nodes between line segments and use the handles attached to each node to control the curve. To modify a B-spline path, you can move or modify the control points and adjust how tightly the curve hugs the control point segments. This is a bit hard to grok using words, so check out this demonstration video from Jabiertxof Foxtreibaj:

7. Selection sets

The new Selection Sets dialog (in the main menu: Objects > Selection Sets) makes housekeeping and organization of your Inkscape files much easier. It enables you to select multiple objects as you would normally, then save that selection, give it a name, and recall it later as needed, rather than having to manually select everything again. For example, say you have an illustration of a birthday cake with 10 candles; this tool would allow you to make a Selection Set of just the flames on each of the candles, a separate Selection Set for the candle sticks, and yet another Selection Set for all candle components for each candle, and be able to easily recall each selection. Check out this Selection Sets tutorial by James Auble for his HueDroid channel:

Bonus: Interpolate and Pattern Along Path

In coming up with these video links I found a very neat tutorial combining the Interpolate and Pattern-Along-Path features of Inkscape; while these are older features, this tutorial by tadal2009 is really compelling and I offer it here as a bonus gift to you. :) Happy Inkscaping!

If you've tried out Inkscape's new features, which have you used the most? Share your favorites, as well as any tutorials you think we missed, in the comments below.

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Máirín is a senior principal interaction designer at Red Hat. She is passionate about software freedom and free & open source tools, particularly in the creative domain: her favorite application is Inkscape (http://inkscape.org).


Just curious... Are open-source graphics tools like Gimp, Krita, Inkscape and Scribus now considered mature and feature-rich enough to replace Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign for professional publications at Red Hat?
I helped a daily newspaper in Bangladesh migrate their photographers to Gimp. However, the graphics staff refused to consider Inkscape/Scribus, they claimed they were missing too many features required for print like CMYK colour support. Of course, this was 3 years ago.

Zeeshan - yep. Pretty much all Fedora swag produced in the past 10 years was produced with a workflow that involved Gimp, Inkscape, and Scribus. CMYK is easy in Scribus.

In reply to by Zeeshan Hasan

I have been looking for that tutorial on CMYK in scribus -- especially as regards colour separation. It would be easier to convince the print-industry in emerging economies to consider Linux graphic tools when more people achieve colour-separated CMYK outputs from Inkscape (or Scribus as an alternative) without doing something seriously involving. I'd appreciate a pointer, because that one puzzle delayed my last print-job. The press kept persuading me to redo my design in CorelDraw to ease their pick-up. The CTP processes here may become more adaptive as they see more samples of successful executions in alternative tools. Any ideas?

In reply to by mairin

Onyeibo - have you seen the Fedora design team howto I wrote on CMYK conversion in Scribus? That's the process I follow. Has worked with many vendors for some years now. Is that process not working for you?

In reply to by Onyeibo (not verified)

Fantastic news, thanks for sharing!

As a self-taught Inkscape dabbler who doesn't know keep up with all the latest features, I found a number of these quite interesting, especially the mesh gradient tutorial. I can see myself using that in future projects. Thanks!

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