Blog: Secrets from the Chef


Dmitri JoukovAuthor: Dmitri Joukov
14 February 2006

Inkscape logotype

Many are already aware of the cunning evil Linux users having devised a way to use vector-based icons in the GUI… What will they use to create them? Now that’s a good question! They started making their own vector-based drawing program. Linuxoids are strange, but nice and generous people. No wonder their editing program is platform-independent and free. It is called Inkscape.

As a matter of fact, this icon — the logotype of Inkscape was created with this program.

What now? Inquisitive minds go to the official web site and download the version for their platform (the Mac OS version is about 14Mb, and about 8MB for Windows) and then try to create something. All the rest go on reading.

It took me some effort to run the program on Mac OS. It requires X11 to work normally, which can be found on the Tiger installation CD and is named X11User.pkg. The program installs immediately under Windows.

I was at once pleased with an opportunity to create a new file with the sizes of standard icons. By the way, Microsoft Expression, which is intended to be used to create graphics for interfaces, cannot do that (refer to our review). The main principles of drawing resemble Corel Draw and the like. After 4 years of working in Adobe Illustrator it was a bit hard, but I pulled myself together and started drawing. Icons, of course. While looking through menus and submenus I found a very promising Icon Preview pane. It shows your icon in different sizes, and it zooms out pretty good. It also has a zoomed-in pixel preview. You will have to be clicking Refresh to see the result all the time, which is not very good. For those who like working in two windows (one of them will be the actual size preview), there is such an option.

Icon preview

The rasterizing engine was very good. These guys use their own one, which is called Livarot, but they want to move on to Cairo when the latter is accomplished to some substantial point. The small-size preview now looks very clear even if you don’t hit the target pixel. If you start your work by creating a new file as an icon, you will have an additional bonus of snapping to pixel grid for more precision.

The lens took about an hour due to the lack of experience. Inspired with success I decided to go deeper and make… something easier: the folder with the sheet of paper. 15 minutes.

папка с документом лупа
Hit the icon to download the SVG-format vector file.

The interface is quite intuitive but raw, uncomfortable and slow. Well, what would you expect from the 0.43 version? The good moments were the possibility to apply gradient to strokes, adjust transparency at any point of the gradient and create elliptical radial gradients. The attentive reader will tell me that those things are present in most vector-based graphic editors. I say, this majority of editors is not intended for creating icons.


The work with objects is far from being transparent. The only way to know for sure where is which object is to use the XML editor. It is not very convenient. A better way would be to have an object inspector or layers pane as most other editors do.

The overall impression was not bad. This is probably the first vector-based drawing program specifically designed for drawing icons. It is based on the progressive Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) format, and not on the archaic PostScript, as it is the case with Adobe Illustrator. By now, it is too early to regard Inkscape as a professional tool, but it has all the chances to find its place among Linuxoids and their sympathizers. However… give it normal transparency masks and a few SVG-compatible filters, and polish it all real good… Who knows?

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Opacity mask is now part of Inkscape (in version 0.44) and SVG filters, at least blur, is programmed in the Google summer of code 2006 context.

IMHO many Inkscape features outrank Illustrator ones. Some are truly unique to Inkscape.

Reply Franp, 29 May 2006

Franp, thanks for your comment. Inkskape can outrank every other vector editor in near future. It has huge growing possibilities.

I’m going to download & test new beta as soon as I possible.

Reply joukov, 29 May 2006

Maybe time to revisit Inkscape again? I’ve been using it professionally for over 3 years now and feel it has matured considerably since your article has been written.

I love all the work presented on this site btw.

Reply Jakub Steiner, 13 February 2008

you could try a snapshot of 0.46 if 0.45 won’t work on your mac. here’s some builds from mid January:;O=D

as of 2 or 3 months ago 0.46 has become stable enough to use everyday (which I do) =)

btw: great articles on this site, you’ve hooked another reader!

Reply David Miller, 14 February 2008

I downloaded latest version recently but it didn’t run on my Mac G5. And by the way there were only 2 versions since then 0.44 and 0.45. Inkscape development is very slow, unfortunately.

Reply joukov, 13 February 2008

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