Inkscape Tutorial: Fancy Borders

vsd_pattern_borders_200x150When I started with the Paisley Motif tutorial I thought I should at least show how to create some basic patterns that can be used in these designs.

I started to write and before I knew I ended up with a very long tutorial. And it is so simple! So I decided to break the tutorial into 2 parts: one about creating a basic patterns library, and one on creating a paisley motif. You are now viewing the first one.

While this tutorial is actually a tutorial about creating a basic pattern library, it will also show you how to create some fancy borders and edges.

I assume little Inkscape knowledge, and the tutorial should be easy to follow for a beginning Inkscape artist.


Before we start

Inkscape remembers by default the last settings of a tool. Therefore objects you draw may differ from the screenshots in this tutorial. Help on how to correct the most common settings can be found on this page: Inkscape Beginner Tips (opens in a new window).

 

Creating pattern elements: building a library

For this tutorial we keep things quite simple and I'll show how to create a few simple elements, but please experiment and find your own interesting shapes.

 

Size of the elements

As we work with vectors, sizes do not really matter. Everything is scalable to any size without loss of quality.
I know however that these elements will be used for decorating other designs (paisley), so I draw them relatively small. I will give size indications, but feel free to differ :D

Upon completion of this tutorial you'll have a basic library with 13 symbols. The set is available for download at the bottom of this article too.

vsd_tut_border_patterns


Let's start.

  • Open Inkscape and start with a default document.

 

Circles

Basic element in all designs. Very easy to use for dotted patterns, strings of beads, buttons and more.


Circle 1

  • Use the Ellipse Tool vsd_ellipse_tool, and draw a small circle on the canvas. Hold down the Ctrl-key and keep an eye on the statusbar at the bottom of the screen: a ratio of 1:1 results in a circle. The one I made is about 15x15 px.
  • Give it a black fill: click with the left mouse button on the black swatch in the colour palette at the bottom of the screen.
  • Remove the stroke: hold the Shift-key down and click with the left mouse button on the X in the colour palette.

vsd_tut_border_circle1

Circle 2

  • Make a duplicate of Circle 1: select Edit > Duplicate from the menu (Ctrl+D).
  • The duplicate is created on top of the original. Move it to its own spot with the mouse.
  • Give the duplicate a black stroke (outline): hold down the Shift-key and click with the left mouse button on the black swatch in the colour palette.
  • Set the Stroke width to 2px: click with the right mouse button on the number next to the stroke colour in the left lower corner of the screen. Select 2 from the list.
vsd_fill_stroke_display
  • Remove the fill: click with the left mouse button on the X in the colour palette.
  • Set the size to exactly 15x15 px, use the input options for W and H at the top of the screen.
  • vsd_tut_border_circle_size
  • Note: setting this size exactly makes life a bit easier later on, when we use this circle as element for Triangle 6.

vsd_tut_border_circle2

 

Triangle variations

Inkscape does not have the triangle as a primitive shape, but it has several methods to create one. I normally start with a rectangle and remove one of the nodes.
In this case I use the render option as it creates the shape I want in one step.

Triangle 1

  • Select Extensions > Render > Triangle from the menu.
  • Set the Mode dropdown selection to "From three sides".
  • Set the lenght of the individual sides. I used 30px for the length of side a, b and c.

vsd_tut_border_create_triangle

  • Press the Apply button. An equilateral triangle is created.
  • Close the dialog.

vsd_tut_border_triangle1

Triangle 2

  • Create a duplicate of Triangle 1: select Edit > Duplicate from the menu (Ctrl+D).
  • The duplicate is created exactly on top of the original, move it aside with the Select tool.
  • Give the duplicate a black fill: click with the left mouse button on the black swatch in the colour palette.

vsd_tut_border_triangle2

Triangle 3

  • Create a duplicate of Triangle 2 (Ctrl+D) and move it aside.
  • Use the Ellipse Tool vsd_ellipse_tool to create a small circle on top of the duplicate. Hold down the Ctrl-key to draw a circle with ratio 1:1. Mine was about 12x12px.
  • Give the circle a white fill and remove the stroke (like before).
  • Open the Align and Distribute dialog vsd_align_distribute_dialog (Shift+Ctrl+A). Align the triangle and the circle at the centre vsd_align_center.
  • The vertical position should be eyeballed, but about the middle of the black triangle:

vsd_tut_border_triangle3_elements

  • Select both the triangle and circle objects and use Path > Difference (Ctrl+-) from the menu.

vsd_tut_border_triangle3

Triangle 4

  • Create a duplicate of Triangle 3 (Ctrl+D) and move it aside.
  • Use the Node Tool vsd_node_tool.
  • Select the top node of the duplicate, and click on the Auto-Smooth button vsd_auto_smooth_nodes from the Node Tool - Tool Control bar.

The pattern should look like this:
vsd_tut_border_triangle4

Triangle 5

  • Use the Select Tool vsd_select_tool.
  • Create a duplicate of Triangle 1 (Ctrl+D) and move it aside.
  • Use the Node Tool vsd_node_tool.
  • Select the 2 nodes at the bottom of the duplicate: draw a selection window (rubberband) around them.

vsd_tut_border_triangle5_delete_segment

  • Remove the segment between those 2 nodes by pressing this button vsd_delete_segment in the Node Tool - Tool Control bar.
  • This path will be used as skeleton path for triangle 6, but it is useful as pattern in itself.

vsd_tut_border_triangle5

Triangle 6

  • Use the Select Tool vsd_select_tool.
  • Select Circle 2, the small circle that has no fill.
  • Press the Home-key to make the circle the top most object in the layer (z-order).
  • Hold down the Shift-key and add the Triangle 5 as skeleton path to the selection.
vsd_tut_border_triangle6_elements
  • Select from the menu Extension > Generate from Path > Scatter.
  • Use the following settings:

vsd_tut_border_triangle6_scatter_settings
Which results in this if the Live Preview checkbox is ticked:

vsd_tut_border_triangle6_scatter

  • Click on Apply and close the dialog.
  • The generated pattern exists as a group of objects. Move them aside so they are separate from the skeleton path (Triangle 5).
  • With the group selected use Object > Ungroup from the menu (Shift+Ctrl+G).

vsd_tut_border_triangle6_ungroup

  • Ensure the now ungrouped objects (5 circles) are selected.
  • Use Path > Stroke to Path (Ctrl+Alt+C) from the menu. This turns the outline of the circles into a vector object.
  • With these objects still selected: use Path > Combine (Ctrl+K) from the menu. This turns the outline shapes into a single path.

vsd_tut_border_triangle6

Triangle 7

  • Make a duplicate from both Triangle 3 and Triangle 6.
  • Select both duplicates.

vsd_tut_border_triangle7_elements

  • Use the Align and Distribute dialog vsd_align_distribute_dialog (Shift+Ctrl+A) to align these 2 objects at the centre vsd_align_center and at the bottom vsd_align_bottom.
  • Use Path > Combine (Ctrl+K) from the menu to create a fancy triangle.

vsd_tut_border_triangle7

 

Leaves

Leaves are part of many designs and stylish leaf patterns are easy to create.

Leaf 1

  • Use the Ellipse Tool vsd_ellipse_tool to draw a horizontally orientated ellipse.
  • Select Path > Objec to Path from the menu.
  • Use the Node Tool vsd_node_tool.
  • Select the horizontal outer nodes, and make them cusp (corner) vsd_node_cusp.
  • If one of the nodes does not turn into a sharp corner, then this is due to the length of the control handles. Select that node with the node tool and hold down the ,-key (comma).
  • With the nodes still selected, move them out a bit further (Shift+>).
  • Make the top and bottom node Auto-Smooth vsd_auto_smooth_nodes.
  • Remove the fill, and set the stroke to black, width 2.

vsd_tut_border_leaf1

Leaf 2:

  • Make a duplicate of Leaf 1: select Edit > Duplicate from the menu (Ctrl+D).
  • Give the leaf a black fill, remove the stroke.

vsd_tut_border_leaf2

Leaf 3 and 4

  • As alternative, follow the the steps for leaf 1, but just make one horizontal node cusp.

vsd_tut_border_leaf34

  • Save your work.


The file you just saved is a library file which can be used in many Inkscape designs. As I said at the beginning of this tutorial, the patterns are quite simple. You can experiment and add new elements to the file at all times, so over time you build up a nice collection.

 

Making use of the patterns for fancy border designs

Creating fancy borders with Inkscape is about the easiest thing to do as there are a few powerful extensions that makes life extremely easy.

Basic ingredients: a path and a pattern.

  • Open a new Inkscape document.
  • Import the pattern library file we created in the first part of this tutorial through File > Import. This way you can make use of the patterns without modifying the file itself.
  • The contents of the file are imported as group: use Object > Ungroup (Shift+Ctrl+G) to ungroup the patterns.

 

  • Use the bezier tool vsd_bezier_tool to draw a simple path. It does not matter what your path looks like, it could even be a straight line.

vsd_tut_border_path

This path will be used as skeleton path in all examples below.

Example 1: Beaded String

  • Select the open circle symbol from the pattern symbols.
  • Press the Home-key to make the pattern the topmost object of the Layer.

The extensions Scatter and Pattern along Path assume that the topmost object in a selection is the pattern. Pressing the Home-key with the pattern object selected ensures this at all times.

  • Add the skeleton path to the selection: with the pattern selected, hold down the Shift-key and click on the path.
  • Use from the menu Extensions > Generate from Path > Scatter.
  • Use the following settings in the Scatter Dialog:
vsd_tut_border_scatter_beads
  • Tick the preview checkbox to see how the pattern will be scattered along the path.
  • Press the Apply button. Close the dialog.
The following pattern is created:
vsd_tut_border_circles

The Scatter extension creates a group of patterns that follows the path.
The Scatter extension does not deform the object that is used as pattern.
The skeleton path has been moved aside for the bottom border. As the pattern is created on top of the skeleton path it is necessary to move the pattern below the path first: select the pattern and press the End-key. Now the path can be selected and moved.

 

Example 2: Chain-Stitch Embroidery

As easy as the previous one, but we use the Extension "Pattern along Path here":

  • Select the open leaf pattern.
  • Press the Home-key to bring it to top.
  • Add the skeleton path to the selection.
  • Open Extensions > Generate from Path > Pattern along Path.
  • Use the following settings in the dialog:

vsd_tut_border_chain_stitch

The negative value for the "space between copies" ensures the overlap of the pattern.

  • Preview the effect and press Apply. Close the dialog.

vsd_tut_border_leaf

The Scatter extension creates a new path from the pattern, this is a main difference from the Scatter extension.
Pattern along Path will deform the pattern if that is needed to trace the skeleton path.
The skeleton path has been moved aside for the bottom border.

 

Example 3: A Lace Border

Very easy with the fancy triangle that is part of the library.

  • Select the fancy triangle (triangle 7) pattern.
  • Press the Home-key to bring it to top.
  • Add the skeleton path to the selection.
  • Open Extensions > Generate from Path > Pattern along Path.
  • Use the following settings in the dialog:

vsd_tut_border_lace1

The negative value for "Space between copies" ensures a snug (and slightly overlapping) fit of the pattern along the path. The value for Normal offset moves the pattern a bit off-centre from the path. In this case so much that the bottom of the pattern sits on top of the path.

  • Check the preview and press apply. Close the dialog.
vsd_tut_border_fancy_triangle

The 2nd variant requires a bit of extra work, but is extremely easy to make, as it is basically adding another pattern to the original skeleton path:

  • Select the open circle pattern.
  • Press the Home-key to bring it to top.
  • The generated lace path is on top of the skeleton path, send it to the back by selecting the generated path and then pressing the End-key.
  • Select the skeleton path.
  • Add the closed circle to the selection: with the skeleton path selected, hold down the Shift-key and click on the closed circle pattern.
  • Open Extensions > Generate from Path > Pattern along Path.
  • Use the following settings in the dialog:

vsd_tut_border_lace2

The value for Normal offset moves the pattern a bit off-centre from the path. In this case so much that the top of the circle pattern aligns with the skeleton path.

  • Check the preview and press the Apply button. Close the dialog.
  • Bring the skeleton path to front: this is done easiest by selecting the generated circles path that is on top of it and send it to the back by pressing the End-key.
  • Select the skeleton path and set the stroke width to 6px: select the number next to the stroke settings in the left bottom corner of the screen with the right mouse button. Select 6 px from the list.

Example 4: FloraL Branches

Very easy with the closed leaf pattern that is part of the library.

  • Select the closed leaf pattern.
  • Press the Home-key to bring it to top.
  • Add the skeleton path to the selection.
  • Open Extensions > Generate from Path > Pattern along Path.
  • Use the following settings in the dialog:
vsd_tut_border_floral1

The value for "Space between copies" ensures an evenly spaced copy of the pattern along the path.
The value for Normal offset moves the pattern a bit off-centre from the path. In this case so much that the pattern is completely isolated from the path.
The value for "Pattern is vertical" ensures that the pattern is rotated over 90 degrees. Otherwise we would have a similar effect as created in example 2: chain stitch.

  • Check the preview: one half of the floral pattern is created.
  • Click on Apply and close the dialog.
  • Select the skeleton path.
  • Select from the menu Path > Reverse. This reverses the direction of the path, and that affects how a pattern is rendered along it.
  • Add the same closed leaf pattern to the selection: with the path selected, hold down the Shift-key and click on the leaf pattern.
  • Open Extensions > Generate from Path > Pattern along Path.
  • Use the following settings in the dialog:
vsd_tut_border_floral2

The settings are the same as before, except for Tangential offset. This determines the offset along the path, and by giving this the same value as the space between copies the pattern will be generated exactly between the patterns from the previous run.
As the path direction is reversed, the pattern will be created at the opposite site of the path.

  • Preview the effect and press Apply. Close the dialog.
  • Select the path and set the stroke width to 6px.
vsd_tut_border_leaves

Closing remarks

The extensions Pattern along Path and Scatter need a pattern and a skeleton path to work.

The pattern can exist of a path, groups of paths, shapes or clones.

The path however, must be exactly that: a path. That means that any Inkscape primitive shape such as an ellipse, rectangle or star first needs to be converted to a path: menu Path > Object to Path.

 

That's all folks. As usual: feedback is as always highly appreciated.

 

Downloads

Please do not claim this design as your own. Read our TOU.

 

Comments 

 
0 # Guest 2010-02-18 15:56
Thank you sooo much! I've been trying to find an easy tutorial on how to make designs with Inkscape. Now I can make my own designs (instead of buying them from photo stock sites). :D
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0 # admin 2010-02-18 19:57
Hi DDT,

It sure is a lot more fun to create your own designs. And Inkscape is awesome. We try to write most tutorials at beginner level, so browse around and see if there is more to your likings.

The paisley tutorial is finished and about to be published too, it uses many of above elements.

Cheers,
Syllie
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0 # Guest 2010-04-21 00:02
Hi there!
Just love all of your tutorials, i find the the step by step approach extremely helpful to understand inkscape better and they inspire me a lot. Some of the more easy understandable tuts on the net i could find!! Keep up the good work!
Thank you and cheers to Oz!
Lucy
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0 # Guest 2010-04-27 15:53
:-) Thanks a lot for tutorials on this site, I tried "fancy borders" and "cherry blossom floral" and was very pleased with results.
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-3 # Guest 2010-07-22 04:04
Hey, there! I can not seem to get the process of Scatter shown in Example 6 above to work properly. I have tried over and over again and just can't seem to get the scatter effect to work. It stays the same when I hit apply. Any thoughts or ideas of what may be the problem? (I love these tutorials, by the way- you all are amazing!)
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0 # Guest 2010-08-11 02:15
Nice tutorials, thank you.

For a triangle I use the polygon button and choose 3 corners from the selection box alongside on the tool bar. Holding down Ctrl at the same time to manipulate the figure enables a true horizontal base to be obtained.
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0 # syllie 2010-08-13 17:21
Hi Anna,

That is indeed another way of making triangles in Inkscape. There are many ways to create the same result and I believe that makes this program so powerful. One can use what one likes best or what works best in any given situation.
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0 # ananda 2011-02-02 11:32
thank you so much Syllie!
you make it so much fun to learn inkscape. i'm in love with this software because of your excellent tutorials! :-)
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0 # syllie 2011-02-03 05:26
Hi Ananda,

Thank you for your feedback - and thanks for buying me lunch :D Much appreciated!

Cheers,
Syllie
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0 # Liesl 2011-02-04 15:31
Syllie,
Thanks for creating this wonderful tutorial. I'm using an HP Mini, which doesn't appear to have a home-key. Is there an alternative way to make an object "the topmost object in the layer (z-order). Thanks!
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0 # syllie 2011-02-04 16:26
Hi Liesl,

Keyboard short-cuts sure make life easy, but most (if not all) of the commands are also available through the menu. In this case: Object > Raise to Top :)

It may be good to know that the most of the keyboard shortcuts are customizable by editing an configuration file. Read more about that here

I hope this helps!

Cheers,
Syllie
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0 # Liesl 2011-02-06 14:55
Thanks Syllie! I'm loving this, so fun!
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0 # Sidney 2011-05-30 05:38
Thank you so much!
Nice work!
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+1 # JayT 2011-10-09 04:48
I just found out about inkscape yesterday, and luckily for me I found your tutorial. I am not an artist or anything but through your step by step tutorial, I have been able to create the fancy border. I thank you so so much, for being generous with your knowledge for a beginner like me. I really appreciate your work. Thanks. You are Awesome!!
Jay
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0 # Kim 2011-11-21 08:21
Hi
Just recently discovered Inkscape and your tutorials are the best I've found so far - they're fantastic!
I'm struggling with Triangle 6 - how do you add Triangle 5 as a skeleton path to the selection?
Thanks in advance
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0 # syllie 2011-11-22 14:44
Hi Kim,

Order is important for that step. First bring the little circle to the top (by pressing Home) and then - with this circle still selected, hold down the shift key and click on the Triangle (on the line) to add it to the selection.

If this step is too hard to do for you, you could also try a "rubberband selection". Basically click with the mouse at a boundary corner and then drag diagonally to the opposite corner. The bounding box should encapsulate both objects.

I hope this helps.
Cheers,
Syllie
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0 # Carl 2011-11-24 02:55
Hi,

These tutorials are great, thank you! When I try to do these patterns along shapes like circles and spirals, the shape gets applied to the pattern instead of the correct way round. I set the pattern symbol to the top but I can't make it work.

Is there a trick to using the default shapes in Inkscape to get patterns applied?
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0 # syllie 2011-12-06 10:36
Hi Carl,

If you read the tutorial very carefully, you'll see that I always talk about applying a shape or object to "paths". All these extensions work only on path objects, so you cannot use it directly with the default Inkscape primitives. That is very easily overcome tho by using the option Path > Object to Path first, and then apply the pattern along PATH effect.

I hope this helps,
Cheers,
Syllie
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0 # Hero 2011-12-19 22:59
Thank master you give me a usefull tutor! :lol: 8)
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0 # Teresa J 2012-02-19 15:01
:-) I enjoy your tutorials because they explain not just how but what the actions of each step mean. Some tutorials simply take you through the steps but do not explain enough to be able to use the techniques separate from the tutorial later. Thanks you so much for taking the time to do this and sharing.
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0 # francisgan9 2012-03-01 15:56
Thank you very much
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0 # Lilly 2012-06-05 20:08
Beautifully presented and explained for absolute beginners. Thank you SO MUCH!
I started taking my first baby steps with Inkscape a few days ago, and this is EXACTLY what I wanted to learn!!!!
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0 # Adnan 2013-01-04 05:08
Simply Awsome!
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0 # Dakota 2013-02-02 01:26
simple and easy :-|
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+1 # Farrukh 2013-03-03 18:43
Awesome Tutorial. You have made it so easy to learn...

Thanks a lot.. :-)
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0 # Patricia 2013-03-10 06:00
Excellent! I totally agree with Theresa J ... as a newbie to Inkscape it really helps to understand the 'how and why' of each step. I have learned so much more than just creating the patterns. Love your tutorials ... they are the best! Thank you so much for sharing. :-)
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0 # Indigo 2013-04-10 04:17
This is fantastic, thanks so much. You have a great teaching style and never leave anything out or assume knowledge. Plus your tutorials are fun!
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0 # Ken 2013-04-30 01:35
Good work. Your tutorial made the process of creating an intricate pattern easy. Now for the next tutorial which is to use the pattern in a Paisley Motif.
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0 # william 2013-05-13 22:43
This is so cool, as a newbie Inkscaper I no longer have to bang my head against the desk wondering "why did this not work". In a very short time I have created some patterns and got them to follow paths, awsome, now for the paisley tutorial :lol:
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0 # Jodee 2013-09-13 00:15
I recieved an error message when attempting to use the render extension for the first triangle. Any suggestions? Mac user, I am not sure what I need to download but the error message I received is below. Great tutorial!

The fantastic lxml wrapper for libxml2 is required by inkex.py and therefore this extension. Please download and install the latest version from cheeseshop.python.org/.../lxml, or install it through your package manager by a command like: sudo apt-get install python-lxml
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0 # syllie 2013-09-16 17:23
Hi Jodee,

It looks like you bumped into a known bug with Inkscape on Mac. Not sure what version of Inkscape you are using (and not really sure if my feedback is helpful as I am NOT a Mac user) - but I found this bug report which seems directly related. Please read also the last comment, as it seems that someone that was able to get things going, came back with 'now it does not work'. I am sorry that I cannot provide you more help with this.

Cheers,
Syllie
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0 # smws 2014-01-20 03:39
Thank you so much for this tutorial, you are so generous and dedicated. You have a great teaching style!
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