Inkscape Tutorial: Paisley Motif

vsd_tut_paisley_200x150Paisley designs are immensely popular and widely used in fabric design, stationery designs and the like.

I was working on a stationery design and decided that I might as well write a tutorial on how to create paisley patterns with Inkscape.

Inkscape provides a few nifty tools which make it very easy to create these designs, and it takes only a few minutes to create your own if you follow these steps.

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).

 

Decorative Patterns

When I started with this tutorial, I also included all steps to create a basic library with symbols for decorating paisley motifs. While it is not hard at all, the length of the tutorial greatly increased. I decided to split the tutorial into 3 parts:

Part 1: create basic patterns and use them to make fancy borders.

Part 2: create a floral motif for the centre design

Part 3: create a paisley motif - which you are reading now.

The result files of part 1 and part 2 are available for download at the bottom of the article, so there is no need to create these items yourself before trying this tutorial. But I recommend that you make these elements yourself and then come back to do this tutorial :D.

 

Paisley Base Shape

  • Open a new Inkscape Document.


Size of the work does not really matter. For those that feel lost without any indication: the initial path for the paisley motif covers about 20% of the page.

If you have done other tutorials on this site, you must have noticed how much I appreciate the Spiro curves that are available in Inkscape since version 0.47. This tutorial is not an exception, we use Spiro to create the smooth flowing teardrop shape that is typical to Paisley Patterns.

The Bezier Tool is one of the most important tools in any vector editing program, but new artists find it hard to master this tool. To draw the teardrop shape with the Bezier Tool "old school" style, would require quite some practicing and path and node tweaking for the inexperienced user. Not today tho, Spiro to the rescue!

I use the same trick as demonstrated for drawing the perfect heart shape for the Sketch and Hatch tutorial, and let Spiro do the hard work.

  • Select the Bezier Tool vsd_bezier_tool.
  • Set the Mode to "Spiro" and shape to none:

vsd_bezier_tool_settings_spiro

  • Simply click with the mouse on the canvas to create the shape below. If you make a mistake, press the Backspace-key to undo the last click.
  • As you can see I started at tip of the (wannabe) curl and just clicked at the sharp corner points with the mouse, until I reached the starting point again.

vsd_tut_paisley_draw_beziervsd_tut_paisley_draw_bezier2

  • Finish the curve by clicking at the start point and then hit enter, or simply use the right mouse button to click at the start point.
  • Use the Node tool vsd_node_tool.
  • Select all the nodes, except for the one that will be the tip of the curl - as that is the ONLY node that will not be smooth.
  • The quickest way to do this:
  1. Draw a selection window (rubberband) around all the nodes or use the shortcut Ctrl+A. This get everything selected.
  2. Hold down the Shift-key and click on the node at the tip to de-select it.

vsd_tut_paisley_nodes_selected_pre_smooth

  • Press the Auto-Smooth button on the Node Tool - Tool Control bar vsd_auto_smooth_nodes.
All the nodes except for the tip are smoothed and Spiro kicks in. Your drawing should look similar to this:

vsd_tut_paisley_spiro

Note: the Spiro Path is shown in black. The red path indicates the path without Spiro applied. That path would need a lot of work! If you do not see the red path: toggle the path highlight option on in the Node Tool - Tool Control Bar vsd_path_highlight.

 

The shape is already useful for a Paisley pattern, but it could use a bit more refining.

  • Use the Node Tool vsd_node_tool to move some nodes. I only moved 3 nodes, as indicated below (the old positions are indicated in red).
vsd_tut_paisley_spiro_moved_nodes
  • Tweak with the Node Tool until you like your shape.

Your drawing should now look similar to this:
vsd_tut_paisley_base_shape

Currently the live path effect "Spiro Spline" is still applied to the path.

  • Select Path > Object to Path (Shift+Ctrl+C) from the menu. This will apply the Spiro Spline effect permanently to the path, and ensures no unexpected things occur during the next steps.
  • Save your work.



Creating more paths

Paisley patterns basically exist of a few to a lot of concentric teadrop shaped paths, where the path shape modifies when it grows or shrink. The Path Offset commands are very useful to achieve this effect.
The design in this tutorial will exist of a total of 5 paths, 2 smaller than the base shape, and 2 larger. I will use the simplest method for Offset Paths, but discuss an alternative later.

Step 1

  • Make a duplicate of the base path: select Edit > Duplicate from the menu (Ctrl+D). The duplicate is created exactly on top of the original.
  • Select Path > Inset. The shortcut Ctrl+( has the same effect (though on my system Ctrl+9 does the same trick).
  • Repeat Path > Inset a few times, until there is sufficient distance between the original path and the modified duplicate. For my design I used 10 repeats (20px).
Note: the offset is done in steps, which are set through Inkscape Preferences. The default step size is 2px. Of course you can change these settings if you want bigger steps at once.

Your drawing should look similar to this:
vsd_tut_paisley_1st_inner_path

Step 2

  • Duplicate the modified path: select Edit > Duplicate from the menu (Ctrl+D). Remember that the duplicate is created on top of the original.
  • Apply Path > Inset or Ctrl+( again multiple times. I used 10 steps in my design.

Note how the path is greatly simplified and now only shows the simple tear shape. The curl is gone completely.
Your drawing should look similar to this:
vsd_tut_paisley_2nd_inner_path

Step 3

  • Select the outer path again (the base shape).
  • Make a duplicate: select Edit > Duplicate from the menu (Ctrl+D).
  • Select Path > Outset. The shortcut Ctrl+) has the same effect (tho on my system Ctrl+0 does the same trick).
  • Repeat this several times until there is sufficient distance between the original path and this larger path. For my design I used 10 repeats (20px).
Note: there is no need to keep the distances between the paths the same, variation makes interesting designs. I am just lazy so I repeat the command again 10 times.

Your drawing should look similar to this:
vsd_tut_paisley_1st_outer_path

Step 4

  • Duplicate the outer path: select Edit > Duplicate from the menu (Ctrl+D).
  • Apply Path > Outset or Ctrl+) again multiple times. I used 15 steps in my design.

Note how the path is greatly simplified and now only shows a basic outline. The curl is gone completely.

I used a larger distance for this last path as I want to decorate it with a lacy pattern, that needs a bit more space.

Your drawing should look similar to this:
vsd_tut_paisley_2nd_outer_path

  • Save your work.

That was not too hard aye?

Decorating the Paisley Motif

If you have a look at existing Paisley designs, you'll find that many different elements are used to create the decorative pattern. Historic documents show that traditionally the centre area was decorated with a floral design.

  • Import your pattern library file via the menu File > Import. This way you can make use of the patterns without modifying the pattern file itself. If you did not create your own pattern file, download a simple set at the bottom of this article.
  • The contents of the file are imported as group.
  • Select the group and press the Home-key. This makes the pattern group the top-most object of your layer.
  • Use Object > Ungroup (Shift+Ctrl+G) to ungroup the patterns.


Feel free to asign any pattern to any path in the paisley motif.

Below you'll find a recipe on how to recreate my design exactly, but please experiment and make your own designs.

And please note: how a pattern is rendered and how well it fits to a path depends on BOTH the path as well as the pattern. Sometimes it is enough to resize one or the other just a bit to have a much better border. No easy way out here: trial and error.

Save your work often.

Outer Path: a Lacy Border

  • Select the fancy triangle from the group of patterns vsd_select_tool.
  • Resize it if needed. It needs to be so small that it can easily fit between 2 lines of the paisley design, when it is repeated on the path. Have a look at the result picture below.
  • Press the Home-key to make it the top most pattern in your drawing.
  • Hold down the Shift-key and add the outer paisley path to the selection.
  • Open Extensions > Generate from Path > Pattern along Path from the menu.
  • Use the default settings and tick the live preview checkbox to see how the pattern would be rendered:

vsd_tut_paisley_lace_pattern_settings1
That does not look too good!
The location needs to be corrected and currently there are 2 problems:

  1. The pattern does not have a nice smooth outline
  2. At the sharp corner the pattern is completely deformed

vsd_tut_lace_path_mess

The first problem is an easy one to correct as we will cheat a bit. While the pattern creates a bit of a rough outline, there is also the very smooth flowing skeleton path below it.
So if we shift the pattern a bit until the outline matches exactly the size of the path, we could give the path a thicker stroke setting and problem solved.
The setting that is responsible for shrinking or enlarging the patterned path is the Normal Offset setting. It is a bit trial and error, but the live preview is of great use here of course.

  • Change the Normal Offset to a value that renders your pattern exactly on the path (a value of 10px was good for my design).
vsd_tut_paisley_lace_path_corrected_normal

I find the 2nd problem a bit harder, as normally it takes a few tries to find the best starting point for the pattern.
The Tangential Offset basically rotates the pattern along the path, with the starting point offset by the given value.
The current starting point results in a very unelegant deformation of the pattern, with some trial and error that can be fixed.

  • Change the Tangential Offset to a value that renders your pattern nicely at the corner (a value of 4px worked for me).
vsd_tut_paisley_lace_path_corrected
  • These settings corrected both problems for my design. You may need to tweak a bit further and find values that work for you.
vsd_tut_paisley_lace_pattern_settings2
Note: you can put negative values in for the offset, it moves the pattern in the opposite direction. Don't put crazy values in the boxes tho as the script that does this hard work for us may decide it cannot solve your instructions and print an error message on the screen.
Note: Sometimes the Generate from Path scripts loose focus, and whatever value you update, it will not update the preview. If that happens, just close the dialog and reopen it. The values you last put in are remembered.

vsd_tut_paisley_lace_path_correct

  • If you are happy with the preview result: press the Apply button and close the dialog.
  • Save your work.
  • Select the patterned path vsd_select_tool.
  • Press the End-key. This makes the path the bottom object in your design.
  • Zoom in if needed (scroll wheel) and select the outer paisley path again (the skeleton path, the one we used to generate the fancy path earlier).
Check the notification area in the status bar at the bottom of the screen. If it reads that you selected a path with thousands of nodes, you have the wrong one :D
  • Increase the stroke width until you see a nice smooth outline:
  1. Click with the right mouse button on the number next to the stroke colour display at the left bottom corner of the screen.
  2. For my design a setting of 4 was enough.
vsd_tut_paisley_strokesetting

Your drawing should look similar to this:

vsd_tut_paisley_lace_path_correct_stroke

The 2nd Path: a Beaded Border

  • Select the filled circle pattern from the group of patterns vsd_select_tool.
  • Resize if needed. It needs to be so small that it can easily fit between 2 lines of the paisley design and not overlap with generated patterns, when it is repeated on the path. Have a look at the result image below.
  • Press the Home-key to make it the topmost object in your drawing.
  • Hold down the Shift-key and add the 2nd paisley path from the outside to the selection.
  • Open Extensions > Generate from Path > Scatter from the menu.

There are 2 main differences between the Pattern along Path and Scatter extensions.

  1. Pattern along Path results in a path where Scatter results in a group of pattern objects.
  2. Pattern along Path will deform the pattern to make it fit better to the skeleton path, Scatter does not deform.

 

  • Use the default settings and tick the live preview checkbox to see how the pattern would be rendered:

vsd_tut_paisley_beads_pattern_settings1
A small problem there:
vsd_tut_paisley_beads_path_mess

  • This can easily be solved by ticking the "Stretch spaces to fit skeleton length" checkbox.
vsd_tut_paisley_beads_pattern_settings2
  • Check the preview, press the Apply button and close the dialog.
vsd_tut_paisley_beads_path
  • Save your work.

 

The 3rd Path: a Simple Border

The designs can be very rich, but sometimes a point of rest is needed.

  • Select the 3rd paisley path (the base path we started with).
  • Click with the right mouse button on the number next to the stroke colour display at the left bottom corner of the screen.
  • Select a larger value for the stroke width, just like we did before, I used 6px.

vsd_tut_paisley_stroke_path

The 4th Path: a Leaf Border

I never promised life would be really easy aye?
Of course you can select a simple pattern when the curves are a bit complicated, but I figured I would show also how to correct things when they don't turn out good in the first place.

  • Select the open leaf pattern from the group of patterns.
  • Resize if needed. It needs to be so small that it can easily fit between 2 lines of the paisley design, when it is repeated on the path.
  • Press the Home-key to make it the topmost object in your drawing.
  • Hold down the Shift-key and add the 4th paisley path from the outside to the selection.
  • Open Extensions > Generate from Path > Pattern along Path from the menu.
  • Reset all values and tick the Live Preview checkbox for an initial run.
vsd_tut_paisley_lace_pattern_settings1
vsd_tut_paisley_leaf_path_mess

That does not look too good. Two problems:

  1. The pattern intersects with itself.
  2. If we delete one pattern element, the path will loose continuity.


Let's start with the 2nd problem: some trial and error with the Tangential Offset.

  • A value of 5px for the Tangential Offset works for my design, the path will show continuity if I remove the overlapping pattern.

vsd_tut_paisley_leaf_pattern_settings2

vsd_tut_paisley_leaf_path_mess2

  • Zoom in very closely so you can work easily on the problem area.
  • Select the node tool.

The Pattern along Path creates a new path from the pattern, but it does that by creating subpaths and then combining them.
That means that it is quite easy to remove such a subpath with the Node Tool.

  • First select a node on the subpath that needs to be removed by clicking on it. For me that is the node at the bottom of the leaf:
vsd_tut_paisley_leaf_path_select_node
  • Press the !-key (Shift+1) on the keyboard. This INVERSES the selection of nodes on a subpath: we had only one node selected, the bottom one. Now ALL the other nodes of that subpath are selected, but the bottom one is deselected.
vsd_tut_paisley_leaf_path_select_node_inverse
  • Hold down the Shift-key and re-select the bottom node again. Now ALL nodes of that pesky subpath are selected.
vsd_tut_paisley_leaf_path_select_all_nodes
  • Press the Delete-key to remove the subpath.
vsd_tut_paisley_leaf_path_subpath_deleted

Problem solved.

Zoom out to inspect your work.
I decide that I like the skeleton path exactly where it is: through the center of the leaves. Feel free to remove it tho.

vsd_tut_paisley_leaf_pattern_corrected
  • Save your work.



The 5th Path: Centre Design

  • Select the path and 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.

vsd_tut_paisley_centre_path
Done! .. or not..?

Finalizing the Design

Of course you can stop here if you are happy with the design. But traditionally the paisly motif features floral designs in the centre.

  • Import the floral motif design result with File > Import.
  • Give the floral design a white colour.
  • Move it on top of the paisley design.
  • Scale and rotate if necessary to make it fill out the centre area nicely.

vsd_tut_paisley_complete_design

  • Save your work.


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.

If you download the floral motif for use in this tutorial, you need to delete the background rectangle and resize the design:

  • Select the design. The status bar will show that a group of 2 obects is selected.
  • Use Object > Ungroup from the menu (Shift+Ctrl+G)
  • Select the rectangle only, and press delete.
  • Resize the remaining floral motif to a size suitable for the centre object in the paisley design.

 

 

Comments 

 
+4 # Guest 2010-03-25 02:06
Thank you so much for this tutorial!
I had some vague idea on how to make a paisley but I drew it by hand and then drew over it with bezier tool... and I didn't like the result very much! Thanks to you I found out a simpler way :lol:
I am off creating my card with my own paisleys!wohoo!
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+2 # syllie 2010-03-25 12:56
Hi Laura,

It sounds like this tutorial explained some great features in Inkscape and opened new doors for you. I am glad you liked the tutorial.

Handdrawn paisley motifs have their charm tho and I thought I would just add another option for you to consider: If you create a basic paisley shape as demonstrated above - you could use the calligraphic brush and trace it to create your own unique effects.

To trace it:
  • Select the paisley path first with the select tool
  • Use the calligraphic brush, hold down the CTRL-key and move towards the paisley path.
  • A gray circle will indicate the distance between the guide path (the paisley) and the calligraphic path. As soon as you draw the circle will turn green. If you move too far away from the path it will turn red and break free. You can continue your tracing by repeating above steps.

Note: slow movements work best.

Read more about this feature here:Inkscape Guide to a Vector Drawing Program: Calligraphy-Hatchings

Cheers,
Syllie
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+2 # Guest 2010-04-02 18:37
Another fantastic tutorial from you! :roll:

I love your blog! And thanks for your job letting us new beginners share your digi world! :lol:
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+1 # syllie 2010-04-02 22:06
Hi Mahalo, welcome back!

I think I hit the jackpot with the new job as it leaves me quality time and indeed that goes to this site *grins*,

I am following your blog and it is cool to recognize visitors to mine now. Thank you for your feedback.

Cheers,
Syllie
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-1 # Guest 2010-05-02 16:43
I liked "cherry blossom" and "paisley motif" tutorials very much, tried that and was pleased with results. I am glad that I had found your site. Please, keep adding tutorials like this.
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+2 # Guest 2010-05-20 23:09
Thank you for sharing this tutorial. Your site is a fabulous resource!
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+2 # Guest 2010-07-28 15:05
hi,
I have found this site recently and likes your tutorials very much. I am happy the way things are explained here.
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-1 # helmikuu 2010-09-14 05:34
Wow very beautiful! Thank you for this tutorial. I really like this.
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-2 # skrez 2010-12-18 09:16
really adore it.

thanks for this awesome piece of work!
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+2 # Marina 2011-01-03 23:53
Beautiful tutorial! You are very kind to share it with us! I'm italian, and Inkscape tutorials in my language are few.
In this way I learn Inkscape and I learn English. No Bad!
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-2 # Paul Sober 2011-01-05 14:56
totally jazzed about this one. Just startig out with inkscape and having a blast. This program is fricken cool.
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-2 # Kris 2011-01-27 05:47
This is where I got lost:
"Select the fancy triangle from the group of patterns vsd_select_tool ."
I use Inkscape all the time for simple projects but there are so many functions of this program to explore! That's why I'm checking out the tutorials to learn new creative techniques I can use.
Can anyone help me figure this out. I was able to import the patterns but I really don't get what to do next! I'll probably figure this out by the time anyone sees this post!
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+2 # Kris 2011-01-27 07:33
Okay I figured out how to do the Pattern Along Path but I was never able to tweak the settings to get a perfect connection! I settled for close enough!
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0 # syllie 2011-01-29 14:54
Hi Kris,

I'm glad you figured it out! You're right Inkscape has a lot of functions and some people never explore the fancy functions in the lower menu's. It is cool to try them out tho and see how far their functionality reaches.

And yea sometimes it takes a bit of tweaking to get it perfect - or in your case.. good enough. Also note that I made this tut with version 0.47 and that there have been significant changes (with some degradations) in the node tool for Inkscape 0.48. I will revisit this tutorial when the bug fix version 0.48.1 has been released.

Thanks for your feedback.

Cheers,
Syllie
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0 # Greg 2011-01-27 09:48
Very informative -- I'm a complete noob with Inkscape, but I got up and running quickly with this clever, simple and useful toot.

Thanks!!!!
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-2 # syllie 2011-01-29 14:58
Hi Greg!

Thanks for your feedback. I am always happy to read that the tutorials help to get someone started with Inkscape - it is an awesome program for an awesome price :D

Cheers,
Syllie
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+1 # papasue 2011-05-02 02:01
Every time I do one of your tuts I learn a bunch more techniques for using Inkscape over and above making the design.

I do wish the "security" code was easier to see as I spend more time trying to see it and enter it than I do on the tut :sad:

thanks
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+1 # syllie 2011-05-02 16:07
Hi PapaSue,

I am glad you are enjoying the tutorials and I am sorry to hear you have difficulties posting feedback because of the captcha.

It is a necessary means, as the site receives too much spam otherwise. I just wanted to let you know that all comments are moderated, so they won't appear until I have manually approved them.

So far I have seen 2x comments from you on two tutorials, so you posted successfully. Sorry for the inconvenience and I am really happy with your feedback!

Cheers,
Syllie
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-1 # Stu 2011-06-06 16:01
This was a wonderful tutorial. Very informative. Thanks for your time.
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-1 # Tekki 2011-08-03 04:24
Wow! This tutorial made me love inkscape. I though inkskape is very difficult, now I know that I can use it with ease and hand down. Thanks! :)
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-1 # Colleen 2011-10-23 04:07
Fantastic! I made my own paisley design after doing this tut and have learnt a little more :lol: Thanks!
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+1 # Kadin 2012-01-13 15:08
:lol: Excellent tutorial,I love this!
thanks for sharing
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+2 # Teresa J 2012-02-20 12:07
This was a very well done tutorial. I thank you for sharing with us. :lol:
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+1 # Carolyn Coughran 2012-07-04 11:47
A beautiful paisley design and the instructions are so easy to follow. I created a few paisley designs before I found this tutorial and I like your method of drawing the basic shape, it is much easier than the method I used.
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+1 # stan 2012-07-13 22:17
Hi just installed inkscape, and read this tutorial which is excellent, i had no problems following the instructions... however i downloaded the moiffs and patterns hoping to use them at some stage,, but i dont know which file to store them in inkscape, would be grateful of some advice, best regards stan
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+1 # syllie 2012-07-17 15:08
Hi Stan,

I think you must have missed just a small step in the tut above. Just below the Section Title "Decorating the Paisley Motif" it is explained how to use the downloaded files.

Inkscape files are .svg files, and you can import those within other Inkscape documents. So you just download them on an accessible location on your harddrive and from there import them into your working document. Re-read that section carefully and see if this makes sense now?

Cheers,
Syllie
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-1 # Lena Misquitta 2012-10-25 22:58
Thank you for the detailed tutorial. Thanks for sharing.
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0 # peach chee 2013-03-02 22:47
awesome tutorial!!! thankx for taking the time and the effort to do this for noobs... God bless you sir
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+1 # Meer 2013-04-14 12:22
Thanks for sharing
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0 # Ken 2013-04-30 03:18
Nice series of tutorials. Just the right amount of detail.
:-)
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0 # fabio 2013-08-07 05:16
looks really useful =) well done :roll:
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0 # لمياء 2013-11-04 14:32
I'm late I know...BUT I did it
thaaaaanx dear
u r in my vaforites :
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