Inkscape tutorial: Sketch and Hatch

vsd_tut_simple_hearts_doodle_thumbMost of the tutorials on this site are quite lengthy as they are targeted at the beginning Inkscape artist and show how to go from a blank canvas to a complete illustration.

I was finalizing some simple illustrations for use on e-cards and I figured that I might as well explain some simple tricks with great effects in Inkscape. All still in a Valentines theme, but I am sure you can find your own use for it!

Techniques demonstrated: Spiro Curves, Live Path Effects Sketch and Hatching, Visualize Nodes.

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

Open Inkscape and start with a default document.

I made the drawing on an A4 size paper, but as we draw in a vector editing program, size does not matter. The heart in the final design ended up being about 1/3 page width in size.


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).


Basic Shape: Heart

For this tutorial I use a simple heart shape, drawn with the Bezier tool in Spiro mode. Spiro is great for smooth flowing curves, and if you are not yet familiar with the concept then check out my Spiro Swirls tutorial too as it explains all the basics.


Draw the perfect heart

The fastest way to draw a perfect heart shape with Spiro is this:

  • Select the bezier tool vsd_bezier_tool.
  • Set the drawing mode to Spiro, apply no shape.


The Bezier tool is used to draw paths, with either smooth nodes or cusp (sharp) nodes. In this case I make no effort to draw smooth nodes, as Spiro will take care of that later.

  • Just click with the cursor on the canvas, following roughly the shape of a heart.
  • Finish the path by either a click with the right mouse cursor, or hit enter on the keyboard.
  • Select the Node Tool vsd_node_tool.
  • Select the 2 most left nodes by either:
  1. dragging a selection window (rubberband) around them, or
  2. select one node, hold down the Shift-key and add the other node to the selection.
  • Open the Align and Distribution dialog vsd_align_distribute_dialog (Shift + Ctrl + A)

While using the Node Tool vsd_node_tool, this dialog provides some options to quickly align nodes.


  • Press the "align selected nodes vertically" button vsd_align_nodes_vertically.

Your drawing should look like this:

  • Still with the Node Tool vsd_node_toolselected:
  • Select all nodes: Ctrl+A, or draw a selection window (rubberband) around them:
  • Press the Auto-smooth nodes button vsd_auto_smooth_nodes on the Node Tool - Tool Control bar.

Now the Spiro effect kicks in. Your drawing should show a perfect flowing half of a heart shape:

Spiro is great, but upon editing and transforming paths, sometimes unexpected things happen.

  • Apply the Spiro effect permanently to the path by selecting Path > Object to Path from the menu (or by clicking this button vsd_object_to_path on the Node Tool - Tool Control bar):


To heal a broken heart

  • Use the Select tool vsd_select_tool.
  • Duplicate the path: Ctrl+D (or Edit > Duplicate from the menu). The duplicate will be exactly on top of the original.
  • Flip the duplicate horizontally vsd_flip_horizontally.


  • Select both objects.
  • Open the Align and Distribute dialog vsd_align_distribute_dialog (Shift+Ctrl+A) if you closed it.
  • Align the outer edges of the object such that you end up with a heart 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 a heart Wink.

Your drawing should look like this


Follow one path

The heart is now made up from 2 individual paths. See the notification in the status bar:

  • Make sure both paths are selected.
  • Use Path > Combine from the menu (Ctrl+K).
  • Check the statusbar - now the heart is a single path:

The path is still open, there are 2 subpaths.

  • Select the Node Tool vsd_node_tool.
  • Select the 2 nodes at the bottom of the heart (draw a selection window - rubberband)


  • Check the status bar: 2 nodes in 2 subpaths are selected.
  • Join the selected endnodes by clicking this button vsd_join_endnodes.
  • Repeat for the 2 nodes the top centre.

Now the heart exists of a single continuous path.


  • Simplify the shape by using Path > Simplify.


Note : Simplify reduces the number of nodes in a path, and can often be used without any significant loss of details. If you do not like the results, just undo (Ctrl+Z). Less nodes means less complexity. It is a good habit to simplify paths where possible.

You now have a perfect heart shape, that is a single path and can be filled with any color.
With some practice you should be able to draw shapes like this within seconds.
Now is a good time to save your work.

Live Path Effects

Live Path Effects (LPE) are AWESOME! And you used them already but just may not be aware of it. The Spiro effect that we used earlier, was actually an LPE, but Inkscape dealt with it "under the hood". Check out the Spiro Swirl tutorial if you want to know more about that.

Note: Live Path Effects sometimes behave unexpected. Know that you can apply a path effect permanently to a path by selecting Path > Object to Path from the menu (as we did before).
Save your work often while working with LPEs.


Design 1: Heart doodles.

  • Make a duplicate of the heart (Ctrl+D) for further use later.
  • Move it aside with the Select Tool vsd_select_tool.



  • Select the heart.
  • Open the Path Effect Editor from the menu Path > Path Effect Editor (Shift+Ctrl+7).
  • Select "Hatches (rough)" from the drop down list and press the Add button.


The heart shape is filled with a basic hatching pattern and the outline has disappeared. It does not look too recognizable:


The Path Effect Editor provides a large number of options to modify the hatching, but it is much easier to directly modify the hatching on screen.

  • Select the hatching with the Node Tool vsd_node_tool.

Now the path outline is shown, the hatches are shown in green and we have some controls to adjust the hatching (as here shown within the green ellipse).

Four control nodes are shown, which are used to modify the spacing, direction and amount of bend of the hatches. You can move them with the Node tool.

  • The circle nodes are reference points.  
  • The 2 diamond nodes unfortunately look the same but have very different functions. The notifications in the status bar are useful to recognize them (but don't ask me why it is not written in laymen's English):
  1. Bend node. Hover over it and the notification area reads "Relative position to a reference point defines global bending direction and amount". In plain English: it determines the amount of bend of the hatches. Further away from the reference nodes = more bending. Move it to the other side of reference nodes = inverse the bend direction.
  2. Scale/Direction node. Hover over it and the notification area reads "Defines hatches frequency and direction". In plain English: the number of hatches per area and the rotation based on the reference nodes. Further away from the reference nodes = less hatches. Move it around the reference nodes to rotate the hatching.


  • Experiment with the hatching, you'll get the idea. Your heart shape should fill out nicely.

Mine looks like this:

  • Use the Select tool vsd_select_tool and set the stroke colour to red: hold the Shift-key down and click on a red colour swatch in the colour palette at the bottom of the screen.
  • Save your work.



  • Select the duplicate heart.
  • Make a duplicate (Ctrl + D) for design 2 and move it aside.
  • Open the Path Effect Editor from the menu Path > Path Effect Editor (Shift+Ctrl+7) if it is not already open.
  • Select "Sketch" from the drop down list and press the Add button.


The effect is applied immediately:


Again a wealth of settings are presented to manipulate the sketch result:


Feel free to experiment with the settings.
I just lowered the number of strokes to 2 and kept everything else default:


  • Use the Select tool vsd_select_tool and set the stroke colour to red: hold the Shift-key down and click on a red colour swatch in the colour palette at the bottom of the screen.



  • Make a duplicate of the heart with the sketch path effect applied (Ctrl + D) and move it aside for design 2 again.
  • Move one of the sketched hearts over the hatched heart design. Your drawing should look like this:


  • Save your work.

That's pretty nice for a few minutes work.

Design 2: Connect the Dots

  • Select the heart shape path (not the sketched one) that was put aside earlier.
  • Select Extensions > Visualise Path > Number Nodes from the menu.


  • Use a font size and dot size to your likings.
  • Tick the "Live Preview" checkbox to preview the effect and press the Apply button when you are happy with the result.
  • Move the duplicate sketched path over the numbered path.


Wow.. and that should have taken less than a minute :D

  • Add some romantic text "You found the path to my heart!" to make the design suitable for a nice greeting card for someone special.


  • Save your work.

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



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



+2 # Guest 2010-02-13 14:03
Another really short simple sweet tutorial -- the LPE tools in Inkscape have been loads of fun to play with. I'm really looking forward to trying the spray tool in .48 too!
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+2 # syllie 2010-02-13 14:15
Hi John,

Nice to see you checked this one out too!

The Spray Tool in 0.48 is awesome (I am toying with the developers version on Ubuntu) and works quite similar to the hose tools that other vector editors feature. Sure will be another option for cool tutorials and designs.

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+2 # Guest 2010-02-15 17:11
I'm SO happy I have found your wonderful site! :lol:
You are doing a great job. :-*
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+1 # syllie 2010-02-16 08:07
Hi Mahalo,

I am glad you like the site, and it is good to see you as a returning visitor too :-)

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+2 # Guest 2010-03-09 07:02
Hey, that was a nice job.

Congratulations !

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+2 # Guest 2010-04-01 21:51
Hi. I am new to INKSCAPE and your tutorials are SOO helpful. I don't know what half of the buttons do but I have learned alot by these. Thank you!
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+2 # syllie 2010-04-02 13:20
Hi Jada,

Inkscape is an awesome vector editor but I know it can be a bit hard in the beginning. I am glad you find the tutorials helpful. Thanks for your feedback.

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+2 # Guest 2010-07-06 15:51

I dont know what to say.. Is fucking awesome!! :D
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+1 # Guest 2010-07-12 06:33
I am new at Inkscape and am trying really had to learn how to use it. I just wanted you to know how much I am learning from you! Thanks!!!
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+1 # Guest 2010-07-29 14:31
a very nice and simple tutorial. :P
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+1 # Guest 2010-08-05 03:28
I am an inkscape beginner and wanted to tell you how great your tutorials are. The program that I used before was very simple and inkscape looked very intimidating to me at first. Now I feel extremely comfortable using almost all of the effects and tools that inkscape has to offer. Thanks so much!
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+1 # syllie 2010-08-13 17:23
Hi Amy,

I am glad you find the site helpful and that it helped you to overcome the steep learning curve. Inkscape is awesome and only getting better. Keep your eyes out for the upcoming release of 0.48 - it can happen any day now.
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+1 # ruya 2010-10-10 05:22
Im trying to self-learn digital design and I find tutorials so wordy that I get lost. :o The format of the spiro tutorial was very easy to understand as u get to see where u are clicking what and the effect created from it. please consider doing more in that format or better still, converting some of ur tutes into that format.
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+1 # eMPee584 2010-10-27 10:10
:eek: :o
Wow that is powerful!.. inkscape path effects are not all that hard to use - if someone shows you how.. thank you very much for that cool tutorial! now on to some more exp3rimenting 8)
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+1 # Daniel 2011-02-24 14:17
Very simple designs! You honor the name of your web site. Thanks for making our lifes easier. Specially for the people, like me, who has no previous experience in this domain.

Keep up the good work!
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0 # laurianne 2012-01-28 11:30
Thanks so much for this informative tutorial. It is very helpful.
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0 # syllie 2012-01-28 12:14
Thanks for the feedback Laurianne!

I just checked out your website and I like the stuff you create using Inkscape. I hope to see more!

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0 # John 2012-04-26 11:48

Thanks very much!!! I just showed this to my kid and great experience!!!
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0 # Giodina 2012-06-05 01:48
:D Great tutorial! And very very simple... wow!!! Thank you very much!!! ;)
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0 # naphelge 2012-09-16 10:45
I am just, like todya, trying out inkscape for the forst time, and this is my first tut other than a basics tut at

The tut was really straightforward and simple. But when I save the image as a .png the result looks pixelly. I have been a long-time GIMP user asn thought I would try vectoring cause I wanna create a set of icons that scale without pixelling.

Any ideas what I might be doing wrong? I am too often guilty of glossing over details, so I have tried the tut twice now, but ended up with the same pixelly result when viewing the resulting png file.

any help would be appreciated.

and thanks for the the tut as it beats reading manuals!
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0 # syllie 2012-09-17 09:56
Hi naphelge,

I am glad you were able to do this tutorial with ease.

Regarding exporting to png and losing definition... there is something very important to keep in mind...

VECTORS scale (to any size), BITMAPS (including png) do not.

So when you try to save an image to .png you basically force the vector to become an image, and it will pixelate. Now of course vectors are in their native format not that useful as icon and that is where a new type of design comes in.

If you have a look at any set of icons, you'll notice that they look different at different sizes. A large icon, say from 64x64 upwards will have more details and perhaps shading applied than a small one. An icon of 16x16 will be flat and very stylized only.

Inkscape helps you with designing for all those different formats and purposes tho. Under the menu View you'll find "Icon Preview", which opens up in the sidebar. This allows you to look at your design (or selection on screen) at different icon sizes. This way you know what you'll end up with when you would export your design.

Also please have a look at this awesome tutorial that deals with icon design in Inkscape.

I hope this helps!

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0 # Sherri 2013-05-31 04:53
Thank you so much so simple to follow.
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0 # Kristine 2013-06-11 18:27
Great tutorial! Able to follow very easily! Thank you very much!
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We are very proud that the Spiro Swirls Tutorial for Inkscape has gained such popularity.

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