Sometimes when you are creating a project in Inkscape, you have a
need for some little repeating pattern to use. You can create those
Next month we will start a project that will use some of these
patterns. Let's make them now. In this project we will be moving
nodes to make the shapes we want from the ones we can draw.
Starting a new drawing in Inkscape, use the toolbox at left to draw
some basic shapes: square, triangle and circle. Also, draw an
8-pointed star and a pentagon. We'll edit these and develop some
We can make many other shapes and designs with just these five
basics.Let's start with the circle. Just by duplicating, resizing
and filling with different colors we can make several different
"beads". Choose the circle and make the stroke about 10 and change
it to another color. Then fill it with a different color. They can
be similar colors or contrasting colors, and whatever colors you
The triangle can be manipulated the same way, increasing the stroke
and filling with something different. Remember, the beauty of
saving this as an Inkscape svg file is that you can go back next
year and change all of these… changing color, size, combination and
how they are grouped.
One of my combinations has been to duplicate the triangle, change
the stroke to none and the fill to red, and place a white circle
You can reshape these as well, by manipulating the nodes. We used
the nodes to reshape our object on the holiday
tree a while back. One thing I did using an 8-pointed star was
to pull out some of the nodes and create a cross. The first thing
you do after selecting your star is to click Path > Object to
Path, then select the Nodes tool. Pull 3 nodes out of the center
to about the same distance, then pull the fourth node out even with
the two next to it. Those three nodes we will select together and
lengthen for the bottom of the cross. Select one node, then, holding
down the shift key, select each of the others. (You can also use
your mouse to draw a rectangle around only those three nodes and
they will be selected as well.) Placing your mouse pointer (with the
nodes tool activated, it will be a long arrowhead) on the center
node, pull down. All three nodes should move down together.
Leave it as it is, fill it with color or black, or whatever you
want. If you haven't saved any of this yet, you probably should. I
just named mine BasicShapes.svg.
One of the good things about nodes is that they can be manipulated
in many ways. Besides grabbing the handle and pulling it somewhere
else, the lines themselves can be stretched or rounded. Let's use
the pentagon to make something like a leaf. Duplicate your pentagon
and move it over to an open spot. Click on Path > Object to
Path, then click on the Nodes tool, and select the top three
nodes but using your mouse to "draw" a rectangle around them.
In the Nodes toolbar just above your page, two of the tools look
When you hover your mouse, one tooltip should say "Make selected
nodes smooth" and the other should say "Make selected nodes
Auto-Smooth". Clicking on the auto-smooth tool will change your
pentagon so the top three lines are now curved.
I don't know about you, but my hand is occasionally shaky, so this
is a really handy tool to have when you are trying to smooth out a
curve you have made. Select the nodes around it and click the
Clicking outside your object will deselect all the nodes, and we
can then pull it a little differently. Some leaves are longer and
have more of a point where they connect to the stem, so select the
bottom two nodes, and click the Add Node tool.
Grab the center node and pull down until your leaf looks right to
Clicking back on the selection tool, you can resize and change the
width or length. You can also stay with the Nodes tool and pull
nodes (or the line segments in between) until it looks the way you
want it to look. If you want it to look more like an actual leaf,
lines can be drawn inside to represent the veins. Those can be
curved as well.
Experiment with your lines: curves will be different depending on
where you grab the line. If you grab it in the center, the curve
will be fairly symmetrical from the center to the outside, but if
you grab closer to one of the ends, it will look a bit different.
Play with them until you get what you want. Remember that as long
as the file is an svg, you can always change it, and if you move
something and don't like it, you can always undo it with
<CTRL> + Z.
Yes, I realize I could have started with a hexagon instead of a
pentagon and wouldn't have had to add a node, but the more tools we
know about, the better, right?
Another combination is something that may look familiar, appearing
on the cover of the February 2014
PCLinuxOS Magazine. Using three circles, I combined them with a
triangle that I altered with the settings Spoke Ratio 0.300 and
Rounded -0.360. I then made the stroke red and size 3 and arranged
them this way:
The white lines in the third figure resulted from duplicating the
combination figure, changing the stroke to 1 and changing the color
to white. All objects were then grouped.
Play with these shapes yourself. I'm sure you can come up with
other useful patterns. Next month we'll put them to work.