Tools are cool: they’re what thumbs were made for. Both Misha and I love tools; the little things that make a dif­fi­cult job into an easy one. Whether it’s a com­fort­able pair of pli­ers for jew­ellery work, a little plastic doodad for mak­ing poly­mer clay beads, or a new rotary tool with enough attach­ments to build a fully oper­a­tion­al death­star.

So, I thought I’d start an occa­sion­al series of posts about the tools, both phys­ic­al and vir­tu­al, that we use in our art and crafts. Inkscape Logo - (c) Inkscape

Today: Inkscape 

People some­times ask “Do you do your art on the com­puter then?”. When I say “Yes, some of it”, they used to say “In Paint?”.

Well, I’m sure some great works of art have been done in MS Paint. Pixel art, for instance.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of pixels, but most of my com­puter work is vec­tor based, like this friendly air-squid:Filling in the claim form wasn't easy

And pro­du­cing that in Paint is only slightly more feas­ible than pro­du­cing in in Excel!

But people don’t say “In Paint?” any­more; that was the olden days. Nowadays they say “In Photoshop?”. Everyone’s heard of Photoshop, and to many people it’s become a gen­er­ic term for any image work done on a com­puter. Photoshop’s a great tool, but I don’t use it.

Most of the my com­puter work is, as I said, vec­tor based. (What do I mean by that? Wikipedia has the answer but suf­fice it to say that vec­tor art is based on shapes and geo­metry as opposed to pixels, though it all ends up as pixels on the screen). For vec­tor work the industry stand­ard is Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator is a great tool, but I don’t use it. It has one simple but very import­ant flaw: it costs £500+ pounds (circa $800)!

Enter Inkscape, which costs exactly £0.00 (that’s approx­im­ately $0 dol­lars).

But it’s not just its price that it’s got going for it. It’s a very fully fea­tured bit of soft­ware, and it’s get­ting bet­ter all the time. It already does most of what Illustrator does, and it’s fast catch­ing up on the remain­ing fea­tures. (There’s a fea­ture list over on their web­site).

Like all the best tools, it doesn’t make any fuss, it just does what I ask and gets out of the way. This has made it my tool of choice, not only for art, but also for the design of our UnArt busi­ness cards, and even the ban­ner that appears at the top of this web-page, and the but­tons that appear to the left.

Click thru to embiggenificateAs well as being a really use­ful tool, I par­tic­u­larly like the fact that it’s open source. What’s that? Well, I’ll leave the details to Wikipedia, but the main point is that, as the name sug­gests, the source code is open.

That means that any­one with the neces­sary tal­ent can fix the bugs, and any­one with the neces­sary tal­ent can add new fea­tures. It’s a philo­sophy that stands in stark con­trast to the closed world of pro­pri­et­ary soft­ware where formats and fea­ture lists are handed down from on high.

If you ever do any­thing arty (or design‑y) on your com­puter, you really should check it out. There’s a screen­shot to the left, just in case you care to see what it looks like (click through for a big­ger ver­sion). At that price you can’t go wrong.

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4 Responses to Tooling Around: Inkscape

  1. […] pre­vi­ously talked about anoth­er image hand­ling pro­gram, Inkscape; so why do I need both? Well, GIMP is what’s know as a ‘ras­ter’ graph­ics pro­grams, […]

  2. […] I’ve blogged about two pro­grams that I use in my design­ing; Inkscape and The GIMP. (Incidentally, is it just me or does Inkscape and the Gimp sound like a 80’s TV […]

  3. […] I drew the lines in Inkscape first so that I had an ‘ink’ […]

  4. […] Once you’re done with you pic­ture you can export is in a vari­ety of formats – I was pleased to see SVG on the list, because that means I could import into my vec­tor tool of choice, Inkscape. […]

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