Design

Vector Graphics Editor Review: Inkscape

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What is Inkscape?

new-inkscape-logo

Official Inkscape Logo

Inkscape is an Open Source vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, Freehand, CorelDraw, or Xara X using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format. Supported SVG features include shapes, paths, text, markers, clones, alpha blending, transforms, gradients, patterns, and grouping. Inkscape also supports Creative Commons meta-data, node editing, layers, complex path operations, bitmap tracing, text-on-path, flowed text, direct XML editing, and more. It imports formats such as JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and others and exports PNG as well as multiple vector-based formats. It can also export JPG with a little trick.

The main goal of Inkscape is to create a powerful and convenient drawing tool fully compliant with XML, SVG, and CSS standards. The guys over at Inkscape aim to maintain a thriving user and developer community by using open, community-oriented development.

The term Inkscape is made up of the two English words ‘ink‘ and ‘scape‘. Ink is a common substance for drawings, and is used when the sketched work is ready to be permanently committed to paper, and thus evokes the idea that Inkscape is ready for production work. A scape is a view of a large number of objects, such as a landscape or ocean-scape, and thus alludes to the object-oriented nature of vector imagery.

What is vector graphics?

Designed with Inkscape by Andy Fitzsimon

Designed with Inkscape by Andy Fitzsimon

In contrast to raster (bitmap) graphics editors such as Photoshop or Gimp, Inkscape stores its graphics in a vector format. Vector graphics is a resolution-independent description of the actual shapes and objects that you see in the image. A rasterization engine uses this information to determine how to plot each line and curve at any resolution or zoom level.Contrast that to bitmap (raster) graphics which is always bound to a specific resolution and stores an image as a grid of pixels.

Vector graphics are a complement, rather than an alternative, to bitmap graphics. Each has its own purpose and are useful for different kinds of things. Raster graphics tend to be better for photographs and some kinds of artistic drawings, whereas vectors are more suitable for design compositions, logos, images with text, technical illustrations, etc.

Note that Inkscape can import and display bitmap images, too. An imported bitmap becomes yet another object in your vector graphics, and you can do with it everything you can do to other kinds of objects (move, transform, clip, etc.)

What is SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics)

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) is an open, industry-standard XML-based format for vector graphics developed by the W3C. Its acceptance is growing fast. Most vector editors these days can import and export SVG, and modern browsers (such as Firefox and Opera) can display it directly, i.e. without requiring any plugins. (For Internet Explorer, there’s an SVG Viewer plugin from Adobe.)

Is Inkscape ready for regular users to use?

Designed with Inkscape by Andy Fitzsimon

Designed with Inkscape by Andy Fitzsimon

Yes! While Inkscape does not have all the features of the leading vector editors, the latest versions provide for a large portion of basic vector graphics editing capabilities. People report successfully using Inkscape in a lot of very different projects (web graphics, technical diagrams, icons, creative art, logos, maps). For example, thousands of images on Wikipedia are created_with_Inkscape, as is the majority of the content on openclipart; many examples of Inkscape art can be seen here and here. We try to always keep the codebase usable for real users, as we believe that a tight iteration cycle between users and developers will give best results. You can start using Inkscape alongside your other tools now!

What platforms does Inkscape run on?

Inkscape is great for yet another reason, it can run in different OS. When I switched from Windows to Ubuntu, I was very happy for being able to use Inkscape in Ubuntu too. Inkscape team provides binary packages for Linux, Windows 2000/2003/XP (fully self-contained installer), and OSX (dmg package). It is know also that Inkscape is successfully used on FreeBSD and other Unix-like operating systems. Windows 98/ME is no longer supported.

How did Inkscape start?

Inkscape was started as a fork of Sodipodi, in late 2003, by four Sodipodi developers: Bryce Harrington, MenTaLguY, Nathan Hurst, and Ted Gould. Their mission was creating a fully compliant Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) drawing tool written in C++ with a new, more user friendly (Gnome HIG compliant) interface and an open, community-oriented development process. Within several months the project had produced several releases, demonstrating a sequence of significant new features and improvements to the codebase and quickly established Inkscape as a noteworthy Open Source project.

Can I create web sites with Inkscape?

Designed with Inkscape by Andy Fitzsimon

Designed with Inkscape by Andy Fitzsimon

Yes, Inkscape is perfect for web design. I have designed all my websites and clients’ ones with Inkscape. Many other webpage authors use Inkscape for website mockups or to generate parts of web pages, such as banners, logos, icons, and more.

With the recent advances in SVG support in web browsers (such as Firefox or Opera), using SVG directly on the web becomes more of a possibility. For example, with Firefox 1.5 or better, you can open any Inkscape SVG document right in the browser, and Firefox will show it correctly. In theory, SVG and XHTML can be used together within the same document, so interested users or developers can explore this possibility further. Unfortunately, even though SVG is the internet standard for vector graphics, some older (but still common) web browsers fail to support SVG.

Web page authors who need to support widest variety of web browsers convert each SVG graphic to a raster image (.png) as the very last step.

Conclusion

Inkscape is definitively a very powerful and promising vector design tool. As a Inkscape user and lover, I suggest everybody to go and download it regardless of thier OS. Also, you might like to have a look at some Inkscape screenshots or visit Inkscape galleries. Don’t forget to share your thoughts below and also consider subscribing to my feeds. Thanks very much for reading.

Baki Goxhaj
I’m a web consultant specializing in WordPress. I love elegant solutions, quality code and a good laughter.
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8 Comments
  • Rodney Aug 17,2010 at 2:48 pm

    Inkscape is my favorite open source application. The Trace Bitmap feature is great for turning hand drawings into vectors, which I then export to Gimp for coloring.

  • Nathan Lee Jul 10,2010 at 7:02 am

    those who are in the graphics business could never live without Adobe Photoshop.-;`

  • Jesus Ross May 2,2010 at 5:38 pm

    We have a photo studio in our town and Adobe Photoshop is our primary software for photo editing. .”

  • Lesley Slaughenhoupt Apr 27,2010 at 4:08 pm

    Adobe Photoshop is simply the best photo editing tool on the market. I often use it a lot on my photo studio and also in webpage design .

    • Uadrian May 29,2012 at 6:38 am

      case you were wondering, GIMP is an aonrcym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. Put GIMP alongside InkScape, the open source vector drawing tool, and you have quite a powerful set of design

  • stelt Feb 17,2009 at 9:33 am

    Inkscape is great indeed.
    Much more SVG via http://svg.startpagina.nl

    • BANAGO Feb 17,2009 at 12:39 pm

      Yes, you are right – Inkscape is a great too. Thanks for sharing the link.

  • Cristina Definition Feb 8,2009 at 5:05 pm

    Once you have your graphics ready, ranging from the humble MS Paint to the big daddy of design Adobe Photoshop.

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