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This tutorial demonstrates the basics of using Inkscape. If you have opened it from the Inkscape
menu, it is a regular Inkscape document that you can view, edit, or copy from. You can
also save a copy to a location of your choice.

The Basic Tutorial covers canvas navigation, managing documents, shape tool basics, selection techniques,
transforming objects with selector, grouping, setting fill and stroke, alignment, and stacking order. For more
advanced topics, check out the other tutorials in the menu.

Panning the canvas

There are many ways to pan (scroll) the document canvas. Try
Ctrl+arrow keys to scroll by keyboard.
(Try this now to scroll this document down.) You can also drag the canvas by the middle mouse button. Or, you
can use the scrollbars (press Ctrl+B to
show or hide them). The wheel on your mouse also works for
scrolling vertically; press Shift and move the wheel to scroll horizontally.

Zooming in or out

The easiest way to zoom is by pressing - and + (or =) keys.
You can also use Ctrl+middle
to zoom in,
to zoom out, or rotate the mouse
wheel with Ctrl. Or, you can
click in the zoom entry field (in the bottom right region of the document window, labelled “Z”), type a
precise zoom value in %, and press Enter. We also have the Zoom tool (in the toolbar on left)
which lets you to zoom into an area by dragging around it.

Inkscape also keeps a history of the zoom levels you’ve used in this work session. Press the `
key to go back to the previous zoom, or
Shift+` to go forward.

Inkscape tools

The vertical toolbar on the left shows Inkscape’s drawing and editing tools. Depending on your screen
resolution, the Commands bar with general command buttons, such as “Save” and
“Print”, can be found either in the top part of the window, right below the menu, or on the right side of
the window. Right above the white Canvas Area, there’s the Tool Controls
bar with controls that are specific to each tool. The status bar at the
bottom of the window will display useful hints and messages as you work.

Many operations are available through keyboard shortcuts. Open
to see the
complete list of available shortcuts.

Creating and managing documents

To create a new empty document, use
or press
Ctrl+N. To create a new document from
one of Inkscape’s many templates, use or press

To open an existing SVG document, use

(Ctrl+O). To save, use

(Ctrl+S), or

to save under a new name. (While Inkscape comes with its Autosave feature enabled, it is still recommended that
you follow the best practice to “save early, save often“.)

Inkscape uses the SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) format for its files. SVG is an open standard widely supported
by graphic software. SVG files are based on XML and can be edited with any text or XML editor (apart from
Inkscape, that is). Besides SVG, Inkscape can import and export many other file formats. You can find lists of
the supported file formats in the and dialogs.

Inkscape opens a separate document window for each document. You can navigate among them using your window
manager (e.g. by Alt+Tab), or you can use
the Inkscape shortcut, Ctrl+Tab, which
will cycle through all open document windows. (Create a new document now and switch between it and this document
for practice.) Note: Inkscape treats these windows like tabs in a web browser, this means the
Ctrl+Tab shortcut only works with
documents running in the same process. If you open multiple files from a file browser or launch more than one
Inkscape process from an icon it may not work.

Creating shapes

Time for some nice shapes! Click on the Rectangle tool in the toolbar on the left (or press R)
and click-and-drag, either in a new empty document or right here:

As you can see, default rectangles come up with a blue fill and a black
stroke (outline), and fully opaque. We’ll see how to change that below. With other tools,
you can also create ellipses, stars, and spirals:

These tools are collectively known as shape tools. Each shape you create displays one or
more handles; try dragging them to see how the shape responds. The Tool Controls bar for
a shape tool is another way to tweak a shape; these controls affect the currently selected shapes (i.e. those
that display the handles) and set the default that will apply to newly created shapes.

To undo your last action, press
Ctrl+Z. (Or, if you change your mind
again, you can redo the undone action by

Moving, scaling, rotating

The most frequently used Inkscape tool is the Selector. Click the topmost button (with
the arrow) on the toolbar, or press S, F1 or toggle the tool using
Space. Now you can select any object on the canvas. Click on the rectangle below.

You will see eight arrow-shaped handles appear around the object. Now you can:

  • Move the object by dragging it. (Press Ctrl to
    restrict movement to horizontal and vertical.)

  • Scale the object by dragging any handle. (Press
    Ctrl to preserve the original height/width ratio.)

Now click the rectangle again. The handles change. Now you can:

  • Rotate the object by dragging the corner handles. (Press
    Ctrl to restrict rotation to 15 degree steps. Drag the cross mark to
    position the center of rotation.)

  • Skew (shear) the object by dragging non-corner handles. (Press
    Ctrl to restrict skewing to 15 degree steps.)

While using the Selector, you can also use the numeric entry fields in the Tool Controls bar (above the canvas)
to set exact values for coordinates (X and Y) and size (W and H) of the selection.

Transforming by keys

One of the features that set Inkscape apart from most other vector editors is its emphasis on keyboard
accessibility. There’s hardly any command or action that is impossible to do from keyboard, and transforming
objects is no exception.

You can use the keyboard to move (arrow keys), scale (<<> and
> keys), and rotate ([ and ] keys) objects. Default moves
and scales are by 2 px; with Shift, you move by 10 times that.
Ctrl+> and
Ctrl+<<> scale up or down to 200% or
50% of the original, respectively. Default rotates are by 15 degrees; with
Ctrl, you rotate by 90 degrees.

However, perhaps the most useful are pixel-size transformations, invoked by using
Alt with the transform keys. For example,
Alt+arrows will move the selection by 1
screen pixel (i.e. a pixel on your monitor). This means that if you zoom in, you can move
objects with very high precision, if you’re using Alt with your keyboard shortcut. In reverse,
when you zoom out, precision will be lower when you use the Alt key. Using different zoom
levels, you can vary the amount of precision that you need for your current task.

Similarly, Alt+> and
Alt+<<> scale the selection so that its
visible size changes by one screen pixel, and
Alt+[ and
Alt+] rotate it so that its
farthest-from-center point moves by one screen pixel.

Note: Linux users may not get the expected results with the
Alt+arrow and a few other key combinations
if their Window Manager catches those key events before they reach the Inkscape application (and uses it to do
things like switching workspaces instead). One solution would be to change the Window Manager’s configuration

Multiple selections

You can select any number of objects simultaneously by
them. Or, you can drag around the objects you need to select; this
is called rubberband selection. (Selector creates rubberband when dragging from an empty
space; however, if you press Shift before starting to drag, Inkscape will
always create the rubberband.) By holding down Alt, you can turn the Selector
tool into a pencil that you can use to draw on the objects you want to select. Practice by selecting all three
of the shapes below:

Now, use rubberband (by drag or
to select the two ellipses but not the rectangle:

Each individual object within a selection displays a selection cue — by default, a
dashed rectangular frame. These cues make it easy to see at once what is selected and what is not. For example,
if you select both the two ellipses and the rectangle, without the cues you would have a hard time guessing
whether the ellipses are selected or not.

Shift+clicking on
a selected object excludes it from the selection. Select all three objects above, then use
Shift+click to
exclude both ellipses from the selection leaving only the rectangle selected.

Pressing Esc deselects all selected objects.
Ctrl+A selects all objects in the
current layer (if you did not create any layers, this is the same as all objects in the document). The default
behavior of the Ctrl+A shortcut can be
adjusted in the preferences.


Several objects can be combined into a group. A group behaves as a single object when you
drag or transform it. Below, the three objects on the left are independent; the same three objects on the right
are grouped. Try to drag the group.

To create a group, select one or more objects and press
Ctrl+G. To ungroup one or more groups,
select them and press Ctrl+U. These
actions are also accessible by right click, the
menu, or the Commands bar. Groups themselves may be grouped, just like any other
objects; such nested groups may go down to arbitrary depth. However,
Ctrl+U only ungroups the topmost level
of grouping in a selection; you’ll need to press
Ctrl+U repeatedly if you want to
completely ungroup a deep group-in-group (or use

You don’t necessarily have to ungroup, however, if you want to edit an object within a group. Just
Ctrl+click that
object and it will be selected and editable alone, or
several objects (inside or outside any groups) for multiple selection regardless of grouping.

You can also double-click on a group, to enter it and access all the
objects inside without ungrouping. Double-click on any empty canvas area
to leave the group again.

Try to move or transform the individual shapes in the group (above right) without ungrouping it, then deselect
and select the group normally to see that it still remains grouped.

Fill and stroke

Probably the simplest way to paint an object some color is to select an object, and click a
swatch (color field) in the palette below the canvas to paint it (change its fill color).

Alternatively, you can open the Swatches dialog from the menu (or press
select the palette that you want to use after clicking on the little menu icon in its bottom right corner,
select an object, and click any swatch to fill the object (change its fill color).

More powerful is the Fill and Stroke dialog from the menu (or press
Select the shape below and open the Fill and Stroke dialog.

You will see that the dialog has three tabs: Fill, Stroke paint, and Stroke style. The Fill tab lets you edit
the fill (interior) of the selected object(s). Using the buttons just below the tab, you can select types of
fill, including no fill (the button with the X), flat color fill, as well as linear or radial gradients. For the
above shape, the flat fill button will be activated.

Further below, you see the color picker. You can choose between different types of color
pickers in the dropdown menu on the right side above the color picker: RGB, CMYK, HSL, and more. You can also
turn on an additional Wheel picker for some of these, where you can rotate a triangle to choose a hue on the
wheel, and then select a shade of that hue within the triangle. All color pickers contain a slider labelled
“A“ to set the alpha (opacity) of the selected color.

Whenever you select an object, the color picker is updated to display its current fill and stroke (for multiple
selected objects, the dialog shows their average color). Play with these samples or create
your own:

Using the Stroke paint tab, you can remove the stroke (outline) of the object, or assign
any color or transparency to it:

The last tab, Stroke style, lets you set the width and other parameters of the stroke:

Finally, instead of a flat color, you can use gradients for fills and/or strokes:

When you switch from flat color to gradient, the newly created gradient uses the previous flat color, going from
opaque to transparent. The Fill and Stroke dialog will change to show the Gradient editor. Switch to the
Gradient tool (G) to drag the gradient handles
— the controls connected by lines that define the direction and length of the gradient. When any of the
gradient handles is selected (highlighted blue), the Gradient Editor displays the color
of that handle and allows you to change it.

Yet another convenient way to change the color of an object is by using the Dropper tool (D).
Just click anywhere in the drawing with that tool, and the color you
clicked on will be assigned to the selected object’s fill
(Shift+click will
assign the stroke color).

Duplication, alignment, distribution

One of the most common operations is duplicating an object
(Ctrl+D). The duplicate is placed
exactly on top of the original and is selected, so you can drag it away by mouse or
by arrow keys. For practice, try to add copies of this black square in a line next to each

Chances are, your copies of the square are placed more or less randomly. This is where the
is useful. Select all the squares
(Shift+click or
drag a rubberband), open the dialog and press the “Center on horizontal axis” button, then the “Distribute
horizontally with even horizontal gaps” button (read the button tooltips). The objects are now neatly aligned
and distributed with equal spaces in between. Here are some other alignment and distribution examples:


The term z-order refers to the stacking order of objects in a drawing, i.e. to which
objects are on top of other objects, and cover them, so the bottom objects are not (completely) visible. The two
commands in the menu, (the
Home key) and (the End key), will
move your selected objects to the very top or very bottom of the current layer’s z-order. Two more commands,
(PgUp) and
(PgDn), will sink or emerge the selection one step only, i.e. move it past
one non-selected object in z-order (only objects that overlap the selection count, based on their respective
bounding boxes).

Practice using these commands by reversing the z-order of the objects below, so that the leftmost ellipse is on
top and the rightmost one is at the bottom:

A very useful selection shortcut is the Tab key. If nothing is selected, it selects the
bottommost object; otherwise it selects the object above the selected object(s) in z-order.
Shift+Tab works in reverse, starting from
the topmost object and proceeding downwards. Since the objects you create are added to the top of the stack,
pressing Shift+Tab with nothing selected
will conveniently select the object you created last. Practice the Tab and
Shift+Tab keys on the stack of ellipses

Selecting under and dragging selected

What to do if the object you need is hidden behind another object? You may still see the bottom object if the
top one is (partially) transparent, but clicking on it will select the top object, not the one you need.

This is what
Alt+click is for.
First Alt+click
selects the top object, just like the regular click. However, the next
Alt+click at the
same point will select the object below the top one; the next one, the object still lower,
etc. Thus, several
Alt+clicks in a row
will cycle, top-to-bottom, through the entire z-order stack of objects at the click point. When the bottom
object is reached, next
Alt+click will,
naturally, again select the topmost object.

[If you are on Linux, you might find that
Alt+click does not
work properly. Instead, it might be moving the whole Inkscape window. This is because your window manager has
reserved Alt+click
for a different action. The way to fix this is to find the Window Behavior configuration for your window
manager, and either turn it off, or map it to use the Meta key (aka Windows
key), so Inkscape and other applications may use the Alt key freely.]

This is nice, but once you selected an under-the-surface object, what can you do with it? You can use keys to
transform it, and you can drag the selection handles. However, dragging the object itself will reset the
selection to the top object again (this is how click-and-drag is designed to work — it selects the (top)
object under the cursor first, then drags the selection). To tell Inkscape to drag what is selected
, without selecting anything else, use
Alt+drag. This
will move the current selection, no matter where you drag your mouse.

Practice Alt+click
and Alt+drag on
the two brown shapes under the green transparent rectangle:

Selecting similar objects

Inkscape can select other objects that are similar to the object that is currently selected. For example, if you
want to select all the blue squares below, first select one of the blue squares, and use
from the menu (right-click on the
canvas). All objects with the same blue fill color are now selected.

In addition to selecting by fill color, you can select multiple similar objects by stroke color, stroke style,
fill & stroke, and object type. If these are not enough choices for your use case, try using the


This concludes the Basic tutorial. There’s much more than that to Inkscape, but with the techniques described
here, you will already be able to create simple yet useful graphics. To learn more, we recommend going through
the “Inkscape: Advanced” tutorial and the other tutorials in

Header / footer design: Esteban Capella — 2019