An introduction to Inkscape

This introduction to Inkscape covers what Inkscape is, what it can do, and what it’s not (yet) good at.

What is Inkscape?

Inkscape logo

Inkscape logo

Inkscape is a free, open source vector graphic design program. The aim of the project is to fully support the Standard Vector Graphics (SVG) standard, of which it is around 50% through doing with the most recent version, Inkscape 0.48.

Who uses Inkscape?

Inkscape is used as a teaching tool for graphic design students in many European universities, and is becoming increasingly popular with illustrators, graphic designers and web designers.

Simply, it is a great open source alternative to software such as Illustrator and PhotoShop, two of the more popular proprietary graphic design programs, with the added bonus of being focused on an open source vector format (SVG), allowing greater transferability to other software systems.

What is Inkscape great for?

Inkscape is fantastic for creating scalable graphics, from logo designs to large flow charts and intricate illustration and graphic design work. It also has some pretty powerful bitmap image tools for manipulating JPEGs, PNGs and other bitmap formats as part of a scalable drawing.

Recently, the typography tools have become more developed, allowing for easier control of kerning and line-height within designs, and its stability has been greatly increased.

Inkscape 0.48 Essentials for Web Designers book

Inkscape 0.48 Essentials for Web Designers book

There is also a lot of documentation and user guides available online, with Inkscape’s own documentation being fairly comprehensive if not always up to date! This is a great resource if you’re looking to learn Inkscape on a limited budget, and you’re prepared to be patient in finding suitable guides!

Thanks to its growing popularity, there are also a few books on Inkscape available: I’d recommend the Inkscape 04.8 Illustrator’s Cookbook by Mihaela Jurković and Rigel Di Scala for new-comers to Inkscape, and Inkscape 0.48 Essentials For Web Designers by Bethany Hiitola is a reasonable book for beginners too.

What is Inkscape not good for?

Primarily, Inkscape is not yet at a stage to be able to create professional print-ready design, but they’re working on it! Many Inkscape users also use Scribus or a similar program to finalise print artwork (we still rely on PhotoShop for that). Another weakness in Inkscape for print design is that is a single-canvas system only: i.e., you cannot save multiple pages within the same document, as you may want to do for a brochure design.

Inkscape also only exports bitmaps in PNG format at the moment (though you can also export to vector in PDF format), which is generally fine for us (we use it for web design), although some images are obviously better saved in the JPEG format.

Need help with Inkscape?

We’ve helped companies and individuals around the world get to grips with Inkscape through our Inkscape training courses and customised training documents. Contact us if you would like to know more about these services!