Inkscape/Shape Tools


ou will need to know how to draw basic shapes before you can draw more complex shapes. This page will teach you how to draw these shapes. The shape tools are useful because they allow you to make and manipulate basic forms easily.

All shapes have control handles that can be dragged to manipulate various aspects. Sometimes it's better to use the shape's resize handles, instead of the Selector's generic resize abilities. While the Selector resizes relative to the document, the shape tools will resize relative to the object. Experiment with both to see which works best for you. (Use Ctrl+Z to undo any changes you don't want to keep.) To restrain the resize handles, Ctrl+Drag them. This limits movement to 15-degree steps. To change the step size, go to ‣File ‣‣Preferences ‣‣‣Behavior and choose <Steps>.

Rectangles edit

Rectangles and Squares tool

Keyboard Shortcut: R or F4

The Rectangles and Squares tool has a total of four shape handles. The two square handles (☐) control the size (width/height) and the two round handles (⭘) control corner rounding (Rx/Ry).

Hold ctrl while dragging one of the square handles (☐) Ctrl+Drag to create a width to height integer-ratio square or rectangle (e.g. 1:1 square or 3:1 rectangle). Hold shift while dragging a square handle (☐) ⇧ Shift+Drag to draw a square/rectangle from the center out. Hold both ctrl and shift while dragging a square handle (☐) Ctrl+⇧ Shift+Drag to draw a integer-ratio square or rectangle from its center.

To make the corner rounding the same (even) Ctrl+Drag one of the rounding handles (⭘), as the handle is moved from the corner the other rounding handle will move at the same ratio. Another option for rounding is to use the Rx and Ry numeric-value boxes on the Rectangle's Tool Controls bar. To reset the corner rounding use the Rectangle's Tool Controls bar, and click the 'make corners sharp' button, last item on the Tool Controls bar.

For help with the Rectangle and Circle's Tool Controls bar features, mouse-over 🖰 a button or numeric-value box for a pop-up message. You can also Right-Click a numeric-value box for a pop-up menu of pre-set values.

Rectangle: Statusbar highlighting of Tool Tip message

Command keys (Ctrl, Shift and Alt) based Tool-Tip messages can be read at the bottom center of the user interface in the Statusbar. The tool tips are dynamic and will change based on (1) current edit being performed (2) mouse-over 🖰 of one the shape handles (3) press and hold one of the three command keys (Ctrl, Shift and Alt) will update with the associated tool tip, i.e., while in the Rectangles and Squares tool hold the Ctrl key and the tool-tip message will update.

3D Boxes edit

3D tool, with x,y,z shape handles

Keyboard Shortcut: X or ⇧ Shift+F4

The 3D Box tool is an easy way to create a nearly 3-dimensional shape. Inkscape is a two dimensionial x/y vector editor, there is no 'z' axis within Inkscape.

Each dimension can lie on either parallel or converging edit lines. These edit lines are shown in different colors, so that users can distinguish one line from another:

  • red lines reflect the X direction (width);
  • blue lines reflect the Y direction (height);
  • yellow lines reflect the Z direction (depth).

To select only one side of a 3D box, Ctrl+Click it.

Ellipses edit

Ellipse, Circles and Arcs tool

Keyboard shortcut: E or F5

To draw an ellipse, circle, or an arc select the Ellipse Tool, and drag from the top left to the bottom right. The ellipse tool has a total of four handles: two square handles control the size and aspect ratio; two circle handles control the angle of the arc. Mouse-over 🖰 your cursor on one of the square or circle handles and the Statusbar (bottom center) message will update and display the handle's available edits and any Ctrl, ⇧ Shift, and Alt key edits (if available).

Dragging the circle handles outside the ellipse makes a segment (pie chart); dragging them inside creates an arc.  Alt+Click one of the circle handles to completely close the ellipse.

Stars and Polygons edit

Stars and Polygons tool

Keyboard Shortcut: * or ⇧ Shift+F9

To switch between creating a Star and Polygon, click either the star-shaped or polygon-shaped icon in the Tool Controls bar of the Star/Polygon tool.

The Star Tool has two shape handles, one tip (  ⃟  ) handle for tip adjustment, and one base (  ⃟  ) handle for base radius editing. Ctrl+Drag  the tip handle in order to stretch the star without rotating, and Ctrl+Drag  the base handle to change the ratio of the two handles without skewing.

The Polygon Tool only has one shape handle, the single tip (  ⃟  ) handle can be used to lock the tip radius (rotation). Ctrl+Drag  the tip handle in order to resize the polygon without rotating it.  ⇧ Shift+Drag  edits the rounding of the tip handle, while Alt+Drag  will randomize the tip handle.

Spirals edit

Spiral tool

Keyboard shortcut: I or F9

The Spiral Tool has two shape handles an outer (◇) handle and an inner (◇) handle. Dragging the handles lengthens and shortens the spiral.

The outer handle can edit the roll/unroll of the spiral, can snap angle, scale, rotate and lock the outer radius. Here are the combination of keys to support the outer handle edits:

  • Ctrl+Drag  the outer handle to roll/unroll spiral and snap angle.
  • ⇧ Shift+Drag  the outer handle to scale and rotate the spiral.
  • Alt+Drag  the outer handle to lock the outer radius.

Divergence edit

Alt+Drag  the inner handle to change the divergence (distance between the rolls). To make the distance really big, hold Alt and move the inner handle first towards the center, and then further in the same direction beyond the center.

Spirals with a divergence less than 1 are denser towards the edges; ones with divergence greater than 1 are denser towards the center. To reset divergence, Alt+Click  the handle. ⇧ Shift+Click  the handle to return it to the center.

Experiment with the handles and the ⇧ Shift and Alt keys to get a grip on the tool.

Fill and Stroke Fill and Stroke dialogue edit

Fill and Stroke dialogue

Keyboard shortcut: Ctrl+⇧ Shift+F

All objects (shapes, paths and text) have a fill and stroke styles. The stroke is the outline of the object, and fill is the area inside the object.

To set fill and stroke styles, Select the object and go to Object ‣‣Fill and Stroke... or press Ctrl +Shift + . The Fill and Stroke dialog has three tabs labelled Fill, Stroke paint and Stroke style.

An objects fill can be set to empty, flat color, linear or radial gradient, pattern, swatch, unset, self-intersections and solid.

The Stroke style edits include:

  • Width with unit of measure (i.e, pix, pt, cm, inch...)
  • Join (corners); Miter, Round, Bevel
    • Miter maximum length of the Miter join
  • Caps (end points) Butt, Round, Square
  • Dashes (stroke patterns) and Offset
  • Markers for Start, Mid and End (nodes). Text objects only have the stroke's "Width with unit of measure" edit available.

Color models provided by Inkscape (v0.91) include RGB, HSL, CMYK, Wheel and CMS. When working with the Filters menu, if you come across a filter that seems to have no impact on the object. First remove the filter from the object, ‣Filters ‣‣Remove Filters (Alt+S, R. Open the Fill and Stroke Menu and use the HSL (hue, saturation, and lightness (or luminosity)) model tab, then under the lightness (L) setting try middle 128 to high 255 values. Some of the filters are dependent upon an object's lightness and when an object is too dark the filters seems to not work correctly.

Contrasting (opposite) colors are very easy to select when using the Color Wheel. The color wheel has two edit icons, one lies on the outer wheel and is a straight line, the other edit icon is a circle that lies within the inner triangle. The triangle has 3 main color edit corners, the corners are full white, full black and full color (no white/black). The inner triangle circle edit (position) sets the color's darkness, lightness or neutrality (middle of triangle).

Blur and Opacity, posted at the bottom of the fill and Stroke dialogue are two often overlooked edits, these two color edits impact both the fill and the stroke. The Blur % edit provides 0.0 based increments from 0.0 to 100.0, with a default of 0.0. When working with blurs it is a good idea to set the Zoom to 100% (1). The Opacity (transparency) setting is similar to the color models "Alpha" setting, the difference is that the Opacity is applied to the entire (fill/stroke) object. A setting of 0% and the color is completely gone. One of the most used 0% settings is in the default creation of gradients, one gradient stop at Opacity 100% (full color) and the other stop set to no color (Opacity 0%).

Having trouble with an objects coloring? Open this dialogue and look at three edits Blur, Opacity the Alpha settings. The alpha setting is common among all of the color models (i.e., RGB, HSL, CMS, etc...). During some, not all, of the thousands of color edits a given object's fill and or stroke will have a alpha value or opacity % of 0 assigned. Going to this menu allows one to see both the alpha (fill or stroke) opacity (fill and stroke) settings under one dialogue and set them to 255 (alpha) and 100% (opacity).

Interface · Path Drawing Tools