Creating vector graphic images with Inkscape

When you need to have maximum flexibility working with graphics and text, a vector graphic editor can let you deal with geometric elements (such as lines, curves, and boxes) instead of dots (as you do with image editors). As a result, you usually get cleaner edges on your fonts and graphics and the ability to bend and shape those elements as you like. Inkscape (www.inkscape.org) is a popular vector graphics editor that is available with most Linux systems.

With Inkscape, you have an application with features similar to those you would find in commercial products such as Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw. Inkscape creates images in Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) format—an open standard from the W3C (www.w3.org/Graphics/SVG). Thousands of SVG graphics and clipart elements are available in the public domain or under Creative Commons licenses.

If you are using a Linux distribution such as Fedora, install the inkscape package to get Inkscape. I recommend you also install the openclipart package, which gives you access to hundreds of clipart items to use in your Inkscape creations. With the inkscape and openclipart packages installed, select Applications O Graphics O Inkscape Vector Graphics Editor to open an Inkscape window. Figure 5-8 shows an example of the Inkscape window.

FIGURE 5-8

Inkscape enables you to manipulate graphics and text.

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You can start by opening one of the dozens of templates available with Inkscape (select File C New and choose from web banner, business card, DVD cover, or other templates). With the new window open, here are some ways to get started with Inkscape:

• Add text—Select the text icon from the toolbar on the left, click on the page, and begin typing. After typing some text, choose the Select icon and click on the text. Use the side or corner arrows to resize the text. Click the text again and use the arrows around the text to slant or rotate the text. Grab the text box with the mouse and drag it where you want it to go. With the text still selected, select Text C Text and Font to see a window where you can choose the font family, font style, layout, and line spacing.

• Add graphical elements—From the toolbar on the left, select the rectangle, 3D box, circles, start, or swirls button. Move the mouse cursor to the place where you want the new element, click and hold the mouse on that place, and move the mouse so the new element grows to the size you want. Click the color palette on the bottom of the screen to change the element's color.

• Add clipart—If you added the openclipart package, you can import clipart from there. Select File C Import and browse the /usr/share/clipart/openclipart folder. Choose from hundreds of SVG clipart images in categories such as food, geography, office, recreation, tools, and transportation. After the image imports, use your mouse to select and shape it as you did with the text.

• Group objects—Select a text or clipart object, and then hold the Shift key and select other objects. When all the objects you want in the group are selected, choose Object C Group. You can now move all the grouped objects around together as one unit.

• Use layers—Click the Layer button to add, delete, raise, or lower layers.

When you are done creating your vector graphic, you can print that graphic by selecting File C Print. From the Print window, you can select to have the image in vector or bitmap form from the Rendering tab.

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