Inkscape Tutorial: Floral Motif

vsd_tut_floral_motif_200x150I was working on the Paisley Motif tutorial and right at the last step I decided to add a floral motif to it.

And there it happened again, my short and easy tutorial became a lot longer! So I decided on a spin-off again.

This tutorial is short and sweet and only focusses on creating a simple decorative flower ornament that can be used in many designs, including the paisley motif.

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).


Design of a Floral Motif

Traditionally the paisley motif features floral designs in the centre. These designs can have many shapes from beautiful flowers, lush guirlandes to abstract motifs. A lot of the paisley motifs cut into woodblocks and then used to stencil the motif on fabric or paper. The motif we create here could have been used for that.


Size of the Motif

The size of the motif is really not important. I made this one for decorating a paisley motif, so in its use it will be very small. But I created it using a large part of the default document. In the end it was taking up about 25% of the paper, and then I scaled it further down to suit my design.

Let's start.

  • Open Inkscape with the default document.
  • Select the bezier tool vsd_bezier_tool with the default settings:


The bezier tool is one of the most important tools in Inkscape, but most beginners find it a bit hard to master it.

  • So lets use an eay way out - 4 simple clicks on the canvas to create an approximate triangle:

vsd_tut_floral_bezier1Click on the canvas and  move the mouse cursor to the left and a bit upwards.

vsd_tut_floral_bezier2Click again to form the top left sharp corner, then move the mouse to the bottom right.

vsd_tut_floral_bezier3Click to form the bottom right corner and move the cursor to the start point.

vsd_tut_floral_bezier4Click at the start point and finish by pressing the Enter-key on the keyboard OR click with the right mouse button at the starting point.


  • With the triangle still selected, select the Node Tool vsd_node_tool.


  • With the Node Tool, nudge the lower connecting line a bit upwards. Just hover over the line, click and drag it upwards:


  • Repeat for the top connecting line:


  • Select the 2 outer nodes by dragging a selection window (rubberband) around them, or select one node, hold down the Shift-key and then click on the other:


  • Open the Align and Distribute dialog vsd_align_distribute_dialog (Ctrl+Shift+A) and align the nodes vertically vsd_align_nodes_vertically
  • Use the Select Tool vsd_select_tool
  • Give the shape a black fill by clicking on the black swatch in the colour palette at the bottom of the screen.
  • Remove the stroke (outline) by holding down the Shift-key and then click on the X in the colour paletter at the bottom of the screen.


  • Duplicate the shape via menu Edit > Duplicate (Shortcut: Ctrl+D). The duplicate is created exactly on top of the original.
  • Flip the duplicate horizontally by pressing this button vsd_flip_horizontally:


  • Select both shapes.
  • Open the the Align and Distribute dialog vsd_align_distribute_dialog (Ctrl+Shift+A) if you closed it.
  • Align the outer edges of the object such that you end up with below shape. The selection order determines whether "Align left edge of object to anchor right edge" vsd_align_edge_right or "Align right edge of object to anchor left edge" vsd_align_edge_left has to be used. Just try the other if you do not end up with below shape Smile.


  • Use Path > Union from the menu. This unions both objects into one.
  • Make a duplicate again: use menu Edit > Duplicate (Ctrl+D). Remember that the duplicate is created on top of the original.
  • Move the duplicate with the mouse or arrow keys above the initial shape. Hold down the Ctrl-key to constraint vertical movement if you use the mouse.


  • Hold down the Shift-key and squash the duplicate shape horizontally by dragging the middle handles. The Shift-key ensures it resizes from the centre:


  • Make a duplicate from the resized shape only. Menu Edit > Duplicate (Ctrl+D).
  • Move it down such that it overlaps with the original shape. Hold down the Ctrl-key to constraint vertical movment:


  • Select the 2 bottom objects.


  • Use Path > Union from the menu. This creates one path from both objects:


  • I decide to stretch the object a bit further vertically, by dragging the bottom centre handle:


  • Select the 2 objects and combine them (Ctrl+K). This makes them into 1 path, exisisting of 2 subpaths:


  • Make a duplicate via menu Edit > Duplicate (Ctrl+D) and flip it vertically pressing this button vsd_flip_vertically:


  • Use the mouse or the arrow keys to move the duplicate downwards. Hold down the Ctrl-key to constraint vertical movment if you use the mouse.


  • Select both objects and group them via menu Object > Group (Ctrl+G).


  • Make a duplicate via menu Edit > Duplicate (Ctrl+D).
  • Rotate the duplicate group over 90 degrees by pressing this button vsd_rotate_90_cw:


  • Group the total design via menu Object > Group (Ctrl+G).


Note: if you completed the floral design tutorial, you'll know that creating a rotated design like this might as well be done with cloned tiles. There are many ways to create certain effects in Inkscape. I just try to show different techniques in the various tutorials. There is no right or wrong, just experiment and find the way that suits you best.


  • Save your work.


For the preview pictures I added a simple rectangle to the background, and gave that a radial fill with turquoise.

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



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



+3 # Guest 2010-02-22 16:45
Love the tutorial as always! I really like the fact that you go into some detail about using Beziers. Nice work.
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+2 # syllie 2010-02-22 20:20
Hi John,

I am very pleased to see that you are a returning guest. To my opinion the Bezier tool is the 2nd most important tool in Inkscape, only topped by the node editing tool.

For new users it is hard to master, and I try to work some small tricks and advices in the tutorials to overcome that initial steep learning curve.

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0 # Guest 2010-02-22 18:14
Great tutorials. I have been following your site for a while now and find your tutorials easy to follow and well explained. I use inkscape with an electronic paper cutting machine (Black Cat) to make cards, scrapbook elements and many other craft applications. I would like to add a link to your site on our forum.
Once again thanks for the great work.

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+1 # syllie 2010-02-22 20:21
Hi Jo,

We are glad to see returning visitors, and do our best to add new stuff to the site each week.

Linking to the site is highly appreciated, so thanks for that. And please leave suggestions for tutorials if you have any.

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0 # Guest 2010-03-13 02:18
Very good tutorials, just one note I had to select all before path union...
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+1 # syllie 2010-03-13 17:14
Hi Crystal,

I am glad you like the tutorials. I just reread all steps above and they seem to be complete. Could you tell me exactly where you ran into troubles?

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+1 # Guest 2010-03-13 04:24
I'd have to say these tutorials are of the clearest, precise on the web! Thank you :-)
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+1 # syllie 2010-03-13 17:18
Thanks :)

I just checked out your website .. cool freebies!

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0 # Guest 2010-04-03 16:47
You wrote:
"With the Node Tool, nudge the lower connecting line a bit upwards. Just hover over the line, click and drag it upwards:"

I selected the node tool, but nudging does nothing. I use inkscape 0.47
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-2 # Guest 2010-04-03 16:50
...and the only time I get the hand icon is when I turn on "Show the outline of the path"
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-2 # Guest 2010-04-03 17:01
i think i figured it out. i had spiro mode on the bezier tool.
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0 # syllie 2010-04-03 21:23
Hi Crius,

I am glad that you sorted it out. Spiro indeed would prevent you to do quick modifications like this.

Just so you know:
  • If you have a path effect (like spiro) accidentally enabled on a path, you can remove it through the menu Path > Remove Path Effect, or select the effect in Path > Path Effect Editor and then press the - button (minus).
  • If you can achieve a path that is almost to your likings by using a Path Effect like spiro, then don't let that stop you. You can easily convert a Path + Path Effect into a normal path via Path > Object to Path. After this step you can modify the resulting path with the node tool as described.

I hope this gives some further insight.

Cheers, Syllie
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-2 # Guest 2010-04-08 08:53
Hi, Syllie,

Thanks for the "remove Path effect" tip. Now, I don't have to completely redo a line. :D
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0 # Guest 2010-04-22 12:21
Didn't you know that you can also make this motif into a pattern too? All I did was duplicate the selection (Ctrl+D) and move it up, down, left, right, etc.
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+1 # syllie 2010-04-22 22:42
Hi Lisa,

Duplicating is a way to make a pattern, but Inkscape has much more powerfull tools for that.

One of best options is "cloning" and I use that technique in the tutorial verysimpledesig and of course pattern creation is the main focus of the tutorial verysimpledesig

If you simply want to create many copies of a single design on a page: drag with the mouse and hit the space bar at desired locations. This is called "stamping" and is a very quick method.

Thanks for providing feedback.

Cheers, Syllie
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0 # Guest 2010-04-26 12:13
great tut! thanks for all the help :)
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0 # Guest 2010-06-28 21:50
Such a nice tutorial, really simple, yet very useful. Thank you so much for all the wonderful tutorials.
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0 # Guest 2010-07-26 15:01
Very nice and simple tutorial. I really liked it. :roll:
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0 # Guest 2010-08-11 17:29
:lol: Hi Syllie,
Very nice and simple tutorial.
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0 # Steve 2010-10-02 16:01
Nice tutorial. Well written and illustrated. I feel like I finally get the pen tool.
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0 # Tracy 2011-06-25 21:38
Absoulutely stoked with this tutorial. I am just learning inkscape and find myself getting better with every tut. Keep up the good tut'z because you are really good at it! :)
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0 # Cilly Mutter 2011-06-30 23:42
Hallo Syllie
Deze tutorial heb ik met heel veel plezier gemaakt, hij was erg goed uitgelegd en makkelijk te volgen.
Maar één ding is me niet duidelijk:
Je gebruikt Path - Union en Object - Group.
Bij allebei lijkt hetzelfde te gebeuren.
Kan je uitleggen waaron je soms voor het één kiest en soms voor het ander.
Alvast bedankt
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+1 # syllie 2011-07-04 16:25
Hoi Cilly,

Je hebt gelijk.. het LIJKT alsof hetzelfde gebeurd, maar dat is niet zo.

Met Path/Union worden 2 paden gecombineerd tot 1 pad en daarna kun je de afzonderlijke paden niet meer bewerken. Met Object/Group blijven beide objecten in tact, en kun je ze later nog verder bewerken. Maar het voordeel van een groep is dat je ze in 1 keer kunt verplaatsen, bewerken, omkleuren etc.

Bijvoorbeeld: neem 2 vierkanten en laat deze gedeeltelijk overlappen. Gebruik dan Path > Union en schakel dan over naar de Node Tool. Je zult zien dat er geen vierkanten meer te onderscheiden zijn, slechts de omtrek van de overlappende vormen bestaat (1 pad).

Als je dit doet met Group/Union, dan kun je met de node tool de afzonderlijke vierkanten selecteren en bewerken.

Wist je dat als je dubbelklikt op een groep, dat je de groep "opent". Dan kun je de individuele objecten los van elkaar bewerken. Dat je op zo'n moment "in een groep" werkt kun je zien in de statusbar. In plaats van "Layer 1" vind je daar "#g". De indicatie #g staat voor "je werkt nu in deze groep". Via de drop-down selectie kun je ook zien hoeveel lagen "diep" je nu werkt (want groepen kunnen bestaan binnen andere groepen). Je keert terug naar de normale laag door opnieuw "Layer 1" te selecteren.


Q: Please explain difference between Path > Union and Object > Group as the result seems to be same.

A: The result seems to be the same, but is actually very different.

Path > Union combines 2 individual paths into 1 path. The original objects no longer exist after this operation.

Object > Group groups 2 individual objects into one group so it can be easily transformed as if it was one (move, scale, rotate, recolour etc).

Try it for yourself: draw 2 rectangles and let them partially overlap. Use Path > Union and inspect the result with the node tool: only the outline of the newly created path exists.

Now group 2 rectangles: the node tool allows editing of the original objects.

Know that you can work within a group easily, by double clicking on a grouped object. The status bar indicates now that you are working in "#g" where the indicator #g means an open group. You can now easily edit individual items within the group. Also the indicator can be used to see how many levels deep an object exists (as groups can exist within groups). Return to normal editing by selecting "Layer 1" from the drop down selection.

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0 # Cilly Mutter 2011-07-08 00:11
Thanks for this excellent explanation!

Dank je wel voor deze uitstekende uitleg, Syllie. Ik heb het uitgeprobeerd en snap het helemaal. Ik vind het heerlijk dat ik je dit soort vragen kan stellen. Ik heb 5 lessen Adobe Illustrator gehad, 5 lessen van 2 uur en moest het toen maar kennen.......niet dus.
Nu heb ik in Inkscape een prima vervanger gevonden en een veel betere teacher!!
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0 # Theo Casinova 2011-10-01 23:10
Heel erg bedankt. Ik heb net als Cilly Mutter dagen lang koppijn gehad van het werken met Adobe. Ik vond het allemaal maar lastig te begrijpen. Sinds kort is Inkscape mijn nummer een en deze tutorial vindt ik erg handig. Schrijf er nog zo een paar zou ik zeggen.


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+1 # syllie 2011-10-02 07:29
Hoi Theo,
Leuk om the horen.
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0 # ralph bacolod 2012-12-08 05:52
:lol: cool! learned something new today!
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0 # Denise 2013-02-04 00:24
this is the best tutorial ever!!! :D i've been searching and searching and searching for tutorials and this is the best one. it's easy to understand and really simple. thanks.

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0 # Hicham 2014-09-29 18:01
Thanks for this great tuto !
The best i found on the web...
Thanks again :-)
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0 # a2warik 2014-10-12 12:33
very well taught. thank you
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