An Inkscape tutorial for the absolute beginner.
This tutorial shows how to create a cute Japanese style Kokeshi doll.
Open Inkscape. The main window may look a bit daunting, but we'll tell about all the tools you need to create this vector illustration.
Before we start
If you are totally new to Inkscape, I'd like to recommend that you also have a look at the Quick Start section in the Tavmjong's Inkscape: Guide to a Vector Drawing Program, and especially the chapter Anatomy of the Inkscape window. In this tutorial the same words are used to designate Inkscape tools and dialogs and if you need further information on how to use a tool or what it's capabilities are, you can easily find your way around in the manual.
Size of the drawing
Inkscape is a vector editing program. Vectors are scalable. It does not matter how small or how large you draw the objects. However, if you use the keyboard for navigation, then some settings are relevant. By default Inkscape is set to a step size of 2 pixels for movement with the arrow keys. If you draw seriously large objects, then moving them around with the arrow keys at the default step setting is not easy. You can modify the default settings in Inkscape preferences which is opened in the menu File > Inkscape Preferences (shortcut: Shift+Ctrl+P).
For your reference: The default step settings of Inkscape were used. The illustration was originally created on an A4 size paper (default document) and the total figure took up about 25% of the paper height, the initial ellipse took up about 20% of the paper height. But as said before... it does not really matter as everything is scalable.
Basic Shape for the Kokeshi Doll
Select the Ellipse Tool from the tool box at the left side of the Inkscape window. This tool is used to draw circles, ellipses and arcs.
With the Ellipse Tool selected, click anywhere on the canvas and hold the left mouse button down, drag the mouse to draw an ellipse. As long as the Ellipse Tool is active, and an ellipse is selected, you'll see some handles that allow resizing (the squares) and arc conversion (the little circle).
If your drawing does not look like this, and you do not know how to correct it:
Ellipse is not shown in full (opens in new window)
The colour of the ellipse is totally different (opens in new window)
The colour of the outline (stroke) is different or not there at all (opens in new window)
Now, in the same manner, select the Rectangle Tool and draw a rectangle over the bottom part of the ellipse.
Path operation to create the Basic Shape
To make the basic shape for the kokeshi doll, we use a path operation to cut the bottom part of the ellipse.
- Use the select tool and select both objects. To select multiple objects: drag an selection window around both objects, or select one object and then hold down the Shift-key to add another object to the selection.
- Select Path > Difference from the main menu. Alternatively you can use the shortcut Ctrl+- (hold down the Ctrl-key and then press the - key). This will create a difference from both paths (the bottom object minus the top object).
The resulting object will be used for 2 shapes: the main body as well as the hair. So we need to create a duplicate.
- Select Edit > Duplicate from the main menu (shortcut Ctrl+D). The duplicate will be created EXACTLY on top of the original (same centre point).
- Move the top object by pressing the Arrow-key Up until both objects are separated. Alternatively: drag the object upwards with the mouse whilst pressing the Ctrl-key to constraint vertical movement.
You should now have the following drawing:
Next we need to modify the shape for the body a bit.
The Node Tool is used to modify paths. When we used the Path Operation on the ellipse earlier, the ellipse object was converted to a path automatically for us.
- Select the Node Tool and make sure that the lower object on screen is selected. You should see 5 markers that indicate nodes.
Note that the ones at the top and bottom of the path show as a diamond, whilst the middle ones show as a square. This is an indication for the type of node. The diamond nodes are corner nodes, and allow sharp corners / peaks in paths. The square ones are smooth nodes and make the path more flowing. There are other type of nodes "symmetric" and "auto-smooth". It is very easy to switch between the different types of nodes, and we will make use of that.
- Select the 2 nodes in the middle (drag a selection window - or select a node and add node(s) to selection with shift + click, similar as selecting multiple objects before).
- Click on the "auto-smooth nodes" button on the Node Tool - Tool Control bar at the top of the screen. Now the shape looks pretty close to the desired body shape we're after.
- With the nodes still selected use the Arrow-keys to nudge the nodes a bit upwards, see picture below.
- Then select the bottom nodes and move them a bit closer to each other (scale inwards) by hitting the < key on the keyboard a few times, see picture below. The shape of the body is now exactly as needed.
There are many options to edit or 'sculpt' a path using the Node Tool and if you are new to Inkscape I'll advise you to read "Editing Paths" in Inkscape: Guide to a Vector Drawing Program by Tavmjong Bah.
Now for the hair. The shape is basically OK, but it is a bit too high.
- Select the object with the Selection Tool and use the scaling handle at the top-centre to scale the height of the object down.
- Use the Rectangle Tool to draw a rectangle on top of the hair shape, and make the width smaller than the width of the bottom of the hair shape.
The shapes must be alligned before the next step.
- Open the "Allign and Distribute" dialog with the button in the top toolbar or use the shortcut Shift+Ctrl+A.
As the hair object is already exactly alligned with the body, it is easiest to move just the rectangle.
- Select first the rectangle - it probably is still selected - and then add the hair shape to the selection: hold down the Shift-key and click on the hair shape.
- In the "Allign and Distribute" dialog, set the "Relative to" drop down box to "Last Selected".
- Click on the button to center the objects horizontally.
- Use Path > Difference (shortcut: Ctrl+-) again to cut out the square from the hair shape.
Your drawing should now look like this:
Further tweaking of the hair shape
The hair shape can be improved a bit by using the Node Tool:
- Select the 2 nodes in the middle with the Node Tool and move them a bit upwards with the Arrow-keys.
- Select the 2 outer nodes at the bottom with the Node Tool, and move them a bit closer to each other by hitting the < key.
Time for the face.
- Draw a slightly squashed ellipse with the Ellipse Tool .
- Allign the ellipse horizontally with the centre of the hair by using the "Allign and Distribute" dialog . This is similar as before: select the ellipse, add the hair shape to the selection as last object and allign the centres by pressing "Allign Centers Horizontally" .
- The face object needs to be behind the hair. Move the object behind the hair by pressing the Page Down-key. This changes the z-order (the stacking) of vector objects on a layer.
- Move the hair object vertically if needed, it should cover most of the face.
Kokeshi dolls come with many different looks. Eyes open, eyes closed, winking or not, stars or not and so on. The details on the face give the dolls their character. It is simple to create an open eye with beautiful lashes. We use a simple circle and combine that with a bezier curve that has a pattern along its path, in this case a triangle.
Note: do not worry about the size of the eye yet. We scale it after we complete drawing. The advantage of a vector program is that the graphics are scaleable at all times without loss of quality.
- Find an empty space on the canvas.
- Select the Bezier Tool . Set the mode to "Create regular Bezier path" (it is probably set like that) and set the shape to "Triangle In" on the tool controls. The settings should look like this:
- Find an empty space on the canvas.
- Click on the canvas and hold the mouse button down whilst moving in the direction where you want the curve to go. This sets the control handle for the Bezier path (direction). In this case the mouse was moved to the right.
- Release the mouse button and move the mouse a bit upwards, a preview of the curve is shown in red.
- When the curve looks good, click again to fix the node. The curve is shown in green.
- As we are happy with this curve, we finish it by hitting enter on the keyboard (or click with the right mouse button).
Under the hood Inkscape applied a pattern to a path, all in one step. This is great, but when you start scaling or rotating them, some unexpected effects may occur. For that reason,we convert the object to a path. This will apply the path effects permanently.
- Use Path > Object to Path from the main menu.
- Draw a small circle next to the eyelash with the Ellipse Tool . Hold down the Ctrl-key to scale symmetrically.
- Zoom in (Ctrl + mouse wheel) if you need a better view. The parts for the eye should look like this.
- Move the eye-lash on top of the circle.
- Rotate the eye-lash if needed: click on the object untill the rotation handles appear, then drag the appropriate one to rotate the object.
- Duplicate the eye-lash (Ctrl+D). Remember that the duplicate is created exactly on top of the original, so move/rotate again
- Repeat these steps for a 3rd eye-lash.
- Select all eye-lashes and the circle (use the selection methods as explained before) and then select Path > Union (shortcut: Ctrl++) to union the 4 objects into a single one.
- Set the fill to black: click with the left mouse button on the black swatch in the colour palette at the bottom of the screen.
- Remove the stroke (outline), if any, by holding down the Shift-key while clicking on the X in the colour palette. This will make the eye a bit sharper.
Now let's put some sparkles in that eye.
- Draw 2 small vertical ellipses on top of the eye and fill them with white.
- Select the 3 objects (eye + 2 sparkles), and duplicate (Ctrl+D) them.
- The duplicates are automatically selected, use the arrow keys to move them to the the side so you can see both eyes.
- Now select ONLY the eye (click elsewhere on the canvas to deselect all, then click on the black eye object), the sparkles should stay where they are.
- Flip the object horizontally by clicking on this button in the tool control bar.
- Use the arrow keys to move the eye-object horizontally so that the sparkles are over it again.
Note: sparkles are to come from the same light source, so while there is a right and a left eye, the sparkles appear at the same side of an eye, and in the same order.
- Group each eye with its sparkles: select the 3 objects and use Object > Group from the main menu (shortcut: Ctrl+G).
- Select the 2 grouped eye objects and move them over the face. Use the scaling handles to resize if needed, and move them closer or further apart as needed.
- When the eyes are at the desired location, group them (Ctrl+G).
- Open the allign dialog if it's closed by clicking . Align the eyes with the centre of the face by using . Remember: select the eyes first, then add the face to the selection as that is the object you want to allign with (Last Selected).
Note: as you can see I make use of multiple groupings, one for an individual eye object (eye + sparkles) and then for the competed set of eyes. This allows easy movement, rotation and alignment.
There are again many ways to draw the mouth of a Kokeshi doll. From a simple horizontal line, a circle or ellipse, moon shape or even heart shape, everything is possible. For this tutorial we create the mouth by using a pie shape.
- Select the Ellipse Tool and draw a small circle, if you see no outline: make sure that a colour for the stroke is assigned (Shift + click on a colour in the palette).
- With the circle selected, change the settings at the top of the screen for start to 45 and end to 135. This should result in a nice pie shape.
- Duplicate the pie shape (Ctrl+D), and use the arrow key to move the duplicate a bit upwards.
- Select both shapes and again use Path > Difference (shortcut: Ctrl+-) from the main menu. This results in a nice shape for the mouth.
- Move it into place and center it horizontally with the face (use the align tools like before).
- Set the fill to a red colour and remove the stroke colour.
- Scale the mouth to your likings, hold down the Shift-key to scale from the centre point.
An optional step, but it makes the dolls soooooo cute.
- Draw 2 simple circles or ellipses left and right and slightly below the mouth. Reset the tool if it's not a full circle by using .
- Make sure they are horizontally alligned, then group them and allign them horizontally with the face.
- Apply a pink colour.
- Open the "Fill and Stroke" dialog by pressing on the command bar (shortcut: Shift+Ctrl+F), and set "Blur" to 3-5% (to your liking).
- Select the hair and set the fill to black.
- Select the face and set it to an offwhite, beige, yellowish or pinkish colour.
- Select the body and select a colour to your likings for the kimono.
Remember: set a fill for a selected object by a single click with the left mouse button on a colour in the palette at the bottom. Set a colour for the stroke (outline) by holding the Shift-key down and then clicking on a colour. Remove fill or stroke in a similar way by clicking on the X at the beginning of the palette.
- Sleeves of the kimono are easily formed by quartered circles.
- Draw a circle, set the start to 0 and the end to 90.
- Place the shape on top of the body, rotate the segment to your likings.
- Give the sleeve a fill matching the kimono.
- Duplicate the sleeve (Ctrl+D) and flip horizontally.
- Move the sleeve to its location with the arrow keys.
Use the allign tools if needed to create symmetry. For example, allign the inner sides of the sleeves with the inner sides of the blush shapes by selecting both shapes and allign right sides and allign left sides respectively. You may need to temporarily ungroup the blush (use Shift+Ctrl+G), like below. Regroup after that (Ctrl+G).
- Create a small circle or ellipse for a bun on the top of the head. Remember: the Ctrl-key scales uniformly.
A lotus flower made out of ellipses is used to decorate the sleeves.
- Draw a small horizontal ellipse.
- Duplicate the shape, and scale it down a bit: hold down the Shift-key and the Ctrl-key, to scale uniformly from center. I squashed the ellipse a bit horrizontally before rotating it.
- Rotate the ellipse 30 degrees (hold down the Ctrl-key to force rotation in steps).
- Repeat these steps (with the original ellipse, as that scales easier), scale to a smaller size and rotate 60 degrees.
- Select the 2 rotated elipses and allign them with the left edge of the original one. Remember: select the objects to allign first, the object you want to allign with as last (Last Selected). Use the Allign and Distribute dialog (which is probably still open) and allign with the left edge using this button.
- Nudge them a bit vertically with the arrow keys so it appears they start at the middle of the original object.
- Duplicate the 2 rotated ellipses.
- Flip them vertically and nudge them in place.
- Draw a vertical ellipse for the bottom of the lotus.
- Give the lotus a fill and strokes to your liking.
- Group the lotus object (Ctrl+G) and place it on the sleeve.
- Duplicate (Ctrl+D) and flip horizontally for the other side.
Draw some circles as decoration on the hair, and draw a few for decoration of the kimono too. Flowers, swirls and dots are great to decorate the dolls. Check out my Japanese flower design tutorial to see how beautiful flower objects can be created.
The collar of the kimono is formed by 2 simple Bezier paths with the shape set to "Ellipse". Draw from the right side of the neck to the left sleeve and then a smaller one from the left side till it crosses the first path.
Change both objects to path (Path > Object to Path) to apply the path effect permanently. Scale and rotate if needed to move them to the best location. Give the objects a matching fill and stroke colour. Use the Page Down key until the object moves behind the sleeve and face.
The Kokeshi dolls are traditionally made of wood, and often finished with a shining laquer. To make the vector drawing a bit more lively, you can create 2 bean shapes that present some highlights.
Create an ellipse. Convert to path via Path > Object to Path. Select the outer node and nudge it a bit inwards.
Fill with white, remove stroke and place it at an appropriate place. Take note on how the sparkles for the eyes were placed, use the same direction. There are probably some other places that would look good with a highlight, but I think this is fine.
That's all folks. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Feedback is appreciated - please let me know if you had any difficulties following this tutorial.
Please do not claim this design as your own. Read our .