Inkscape Tutorial: Valentine Wallpaper

vsd_tut_valentine_200This is the second tutorial in a series on how to create abstract artwork in Inkscape.

The main focus of this tutorial is to create a cool looking path and use Inkscape's cool features to generate complex shapes from them. One of the examples posted in the original tutorial request on the Inkscape forums basically existed of interpolated lines, and that will be the main feature used in this tutorial.

As Valentine is upcoming I thought that would be a good theme.

The tutorial is suitable for the beginning Inkscape artist but some knowledge of the interface is assumed.


Abstract Wallpaper: Part 2 - Valentine

As Valentine day is upcoming, I decided it would make a nice theme for this design. A very simple design, where the dynamics come from beautiful heart shapes that cover the canvas. Warm reds are chosen as it is the colour of love. Of course you can do a similar design with any shape you like.


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).

Do not worry about the size of the objects you draw. As we work with vectors, everthing is scalable without loss of quality. Some people feel lost without an indication of drawing size tho, so for your information the path I draw took up about 1/2 the page.

Let's start: Open Inkscape with the default document.


Finding the path

The Bezier Tool is one of the most important tools in Inkscape, but can be a bit daunting to handle if you have no experience with path tools in graphic editors.

Path Basics

Skip if you are already familiar with path editing.

A path is defined by nodes. The Bezier Tool vsd_bezier_tool is used draw these nodes.
A node can be sharp (cusp, corner) or smooth.

  • A sharp node  is created by a simple click on the canvas with the bezier tool.  
  • A smooth node is created by clicking and holding the mouse button down while moving in the desired direction.

As soon as the mouse button is released, the fixed part of the path is indicated in green.
Between the last fixed point and the mouse pointer the path is not fixed and shown indicative as a red line.
To end a path: click with the right mouse button or press enter on the keyboard.


Creating the Heart path

Select the Bezier Tool vsd_bezier_tool. We use the default settings.

The shape we are after in this case is a basic heart shape, but as a single flowing line:



Click for Step-by-step Instructions Step 2 Step 3 Step 4 to create this path. Do not worry if the path is not smooth in all points, we'll fix that later.

Refining the path

As you can see this initial shape does not look so attractive yet. The node tool vsd_node_tool is used for further refining of paths in Inkscape.

  • Select the node tool vsd_node_tool and move the nodes one by one such that the path is more flowing.
  • In the status bar at the bottom of the page hints are given on editing nodes.
  • You can change the node type:
    1. A node can be made cusp (corner) vsd_node_cusp (Shift+C): its two handles can move independently at any angle to each other
    2. A node can be made smooth vsd_node_smooth (Shift+S), which means its handles are always on the same straight line;
    3. A node can be made symmetric vsd_node_symmetric (Shift+Y), which is the same as smooth, but the handles also have the same length.
  • You can also change the length and direction of the handles to further improve the path.
  • See below picture which indicates the type of nodes I used in the refined path, and where the control handles are.
  • Note: this is just a guideline, experiment with the type of nodes until you have a path that resembles a heart and looks cool - creative freedom should be your motto!


Now would be a good time to Save your work.

Creating the heart shape

Beside lines this design also uses a heart shape with different fills. This heart shape follows the shape of the path we just created, so it make sense to base it upon the path.

  • Create a duplicate of the path (Ctrl+D). The duplicate is created exactly on top of the original and it may appear that nothing has happened.
  • Use the Node Tool vsd_node_tool to select the 2 nodes that are nearest to the bottom of the heart, as indicated below. You can select the nodes either by:
    1. drawing a selection window (rubber band) around them, or
    2. select one node, then hold down the Shift-key and click on the other node to add it to the selection.
Have a look at the status bar at the bottom of the screen: 2 nodes of a path are selected.
  • Now we break the path into subpaths by clicking this button in the Node Tool - Tool Control bar vsd_break_path

Again look at the status bar: now 2 nodes from subpaths are selected.


The subpaths are part of the same path. If you hover with the node tool over any area of the path the whole outline of the path is highligted (if the highlight option vsd_path_highlight is on)
  • Make the subpaths individual paths by using Path > Break Apart (shortcut: Shift+Ctrl+K) from the menu.

If you now hover with the node tool over any area, the individual paths will be highlighted.

Only the heart shape is needed.

  • Use the select tool vsd_select_tool
  • Select the 2 outer paths:
    1. use a selection window (rubberband), or
    2. select one path, hold down shift and select the other.
  • Press the Delete-key to delete the selected paths. Remember that we have a duplicate of the orignal path exactly under the modified one - so it may appear nothing happened.
  • Use the Node Tool vsd_node_tool again and select the heart shape. Make sure you have the shortest path :D
  • Select the 2 endnodes (the same ones where we made the break before).
  • Join the 2 endnodes with a new segment by clicking on this button vsd_join_endnodes_segment in the Node Tool - Tool Control bar.
  • If you end up with a funky shape: click this button vsd_node_straight to make it a straight line.


Now our previously open path is closed and is a heart shape that can be filled.

  • Click with the left mouse button on a nice shade of red in the colour palette at the bottom of the screen. I used a very bright red here, but changed that later to a warmer colour. Pick any red you like :D

Depending on your fill rule settings one of these things may have happened: the small heart at top is filled or it is not.


Currently the path intersects with itself, if the small heart shape at top is filled too:

  • Open the Fill and Stroke Dialog vsd_fill_stroke_dialog (Shift+Ctrl+F).
  • Change the fill rule settings to "path self-intersections create holes" by clicking this button: vsd_fill_rule


Note: The result of this tutorial is an exported bitmap for use as a wallpaper. I therefore do not care too much about intersecting paths here. But know that Inkscapes provides powerful path operations that can help clean up of vector drawings when it is needed. In this case by using Path > Union with just the intersecting path selected. All intersections will be removed and if needed individual subpaths for each section are created. But as said, it is not relevant for this tutorial.


  • Remove the stroke color from the heart shape by holding the Shift-key down and clicking on the X in the colour palette. Your drawing should now look like this:
  • Make a duplicate of the filled heart shape (Ctrl+D) and use the select tool vsd_select_tool to move it aside as we use that (much) later.
  • Save your work.


The lines in this design change from red to white. As I work on a white background, I decide to first create the background rectangle, with its color set temporarily to a dull gray.

Note: you can change the colour of the canvas in Inkscape too, but as I am naturally lazy and need a rectangle later anyways I did not bother. But it is good to know that the color of the canvas can be set in the Document Properties window (Shift+Ctrl+D) on the General tab.
  • Use the Rectangle Tool vsd_rectangle_tool to draw a simple rectangle on your screen. The rectangle should be large enough to easily fit your heart shape and path. The ratio for width and height should be suitable for your final design. See below note.
Note: We work in a vector tool, all objects can be scaled to any size without quality loss. That means that you do NOT have to draw life-size. Your drawing can be exported to any desired dimension. But if you do not use the proper ratio between width and height for the background rectangle, the output will be distorted.
Example: a drawing that has a width of 40 and a height of 30 (ratio 4:3) will export properly for any of the 4:3 monitor resolutions, a drawing with the dimensions 50x30 will not. I am just lazy and set the size of the rectangle to actually match my monitor resolution.
Typical wallpaper design aspect ratios
Aspect ratio Typical monitor resolutions
4:3 640x480
16:9 852x480
16:10 1440x900


  • As this design is for a wallpaper on my system, and I have a widescreen monitor with a 16:9 aspect ratio, I used a rectangle of 1600 px by 900 px.
  • Set the colour of the background rectangle to gray (remember: click with the left mouse button on a swatch in the colour palette at the bottom of the screen)
  • With the rectangle selected, press the End-key. This will make the rectangle the bottom object. Your drawing should look like this:


Creating the line pattern

Creating funky lines in Inkscape is very easy and there are many path operations available that assist us with that. In this tutorial I make use of the Interpolation function.

  • Use the select tool vsd_select_tool to select the path we created earlier.
  • Duplicate the path by using Edit > Duplicate from the menu (shortcut: Ctrl+D).
  • Click on the duplicate path with the select tool until the rotation handles appear.
  • Rotate the duplicate path a bit. I rotated for about -20 deg, keep an eye on the status bar at the bottom of the screen for this information.
  • Set the stroke color for the rotated path to white: hold down the Shift-key and click on the white swatch in the colour palette.
  • Set the stroke color for the path that follows the heart shape to red. Your drawing should look like this:


  • Select both paths either by:
  1. drawing a selection window (rubber band) around them, or
  2. select one path, then hold down the Shift-key and click on the other path to add it to the selection.
  • Open the Interpolation dialog from the menu: Extensions > Generate from Path > Interpolate
  • Tick the box "Live Preview".

I used the following settings:


As I no longer need the paths for further editing after this interpolation, I removed the tick for "Duplicate endpaths". If you want to preserve the paths in a design, then you should tick this box.
Interpolate style ensures a smooth transition between the applied colours. This works also for stroke weight (line thickness).
Interpolate is very powerful and almost essential for creating abstract line art wallpapers so experiment with it!

  • When you are happy with the result, click apply and close the Interpolate dialog.
  • Select both the heart and the group of interpolated lines.
    Group the objects (Ctrl+G).
  • Save your work.


Aligning the design

  • Add the rectangle to the selection: with the grouped heart object selected, hold down shift and then click on the rectangle. Selection other matters!
  • Open the Align and distribute dialog vsd_align_distribute_dialog (Shift+Ctrl+A) .
  • Make sure the drop down is set to "Last Selected" and align objects for centre vsd_align_center and middle vsd_align_middle.

Your drawing should look like this:


Adding more hearts

  • Select the grouped heart object only
  • Duplicate it by using Edit > Duplicate from the menu (Ctrl+D). Remember the duplicate is created exactly on top of the original.
  • Use the selection handles to scale the duplicate down. Hold the Ctrl-key down to scale uniformly.
  • Move it to the left lower side of the big heart object.
  • Duplicate the small heart and move this 2nd heart to the right. Click on the object untill the rotation handles appear, rotate the object a bit.

Your drawing should look like this:


Gradient Fill for the background

  • Select the background rectangle. Give it a nice red fill.
  • With the rectangle still selected, open the Fill and Stroke dialog vsd_fill_stroke_dialog (Shift+Ctrl+F).
  • Create a radial gradient fill from red to white by pressing this button vsd_fill_radial_gradient.

The gradient tool vsd_gradient_tool can be used to set colours, or to determine the location, radius and angle for gradients.

  • To reverse the gradient: select the gradient tool vsd_gradient_tool, click on the object with the gradient fill and then use the hotkey combination Shift+R.
  • The centre of the gradient is indicated with a square marker. It looks white, but it is actually transparent. Make it solid white by selecting the square marker and then clicking on the white in the color palette with the left mouse button.


Your drawing should look like this:


  • Save your work.


Decorate the background with the extra heart shape

Now it is time to make use of the extra heart shape copy you have made earlier and put aside.

  • Use the select tool vsd_select_tool, select the extra heart shape.
  • Move it on top of your design, and center it approximately.
  • Set the fill colour to white, and do not use a stroke colour.
  • Set the opacity slider in the Fill and Stroke vsd_fill_stroke_dialog dialog to about 15%.
  • Scale the heart object such that it is larger than the whole design, it extends over the rectangle. Hold down the Shift-key and the Ctrl-key to scale from the centre and uniformly.
  • We want this object to be the 2nd from the bottom, it should be exactly on top of the rectangle and below all other objects.
  • Press the End-key to make it the bottom object, then press the Page Up-key once to bring it up one step.

Your drawing should look like this:



Adding another heart in the background

  • Make a duplicate of the heart object in the background (Ctrl+D).
  • Scale it a bit smaller, hold down the Shift-key and the Ctrl-key to scale from centre and uniformly.
  • Set the opacity slider in the Fill and Stroke vsd_fill_stroke_dialog dialog to about 30%.
  • Set the blur slider to about 5%.
  • We want this object to be the 3nd from the bottom, it should be exactly on top of the other heart and below all other objects.
  • Press the End-key to make it the bottom object, then press the Page Up-key twice (2x) to bring it up two steps.

Your drawing should look like this:


  • Save your work.


Final touch ups on the design

At this point I decide that I am not too happy with the very bright red that I assigned to the hearts.

Changing the colour of the fancy hearts

Skip this step if you are happy with the colour of your hearts.

The fancy hearts are the grouped heart shapes and lines. Fortunately Inkscape makes it very easy to edit objects within groups:

  • Double-click one of the small grouped heart objects.
  • In the statusbar a layer indication with beginning with "#g" will be displayed. You now work in the group.
  • Use the select tool to select the red filled heart shape within the group. Keep an eye on the status bar, it tells you exactly what object you are working on.
  • Click on a warmer (darker) colour red.
  • Repeat for the other small heart. With the heart shape selected, you can use the eyedropper to copy the color from the other heart.
  • Repeat for the large heart.


Use a filter on the large fancy heart

I decide also to use a filter on the filled shape of the large fancy heart only.

If you skipped the previous step: double click the grouped object.

Check the status bar and make sure you work within the group.

Select the filled heart shape only.

  • With the heart shape still selected, use from the menu Filters > Morphology > Parallel Hollow.

Your drawing should look like this:



Use a filter on the large heart in the background

  • Ensure you are no longer working in a group: set the Layer Indication at the bottom to "Layer 1"
  • Select the largest white heart in the background.
  • Use from the menu Filters > Scatter > Cubes

Your drawing should look like this:


At this point I am quite pleased with the design, but feel free to apply other filter effects to the objects. Experimenting is half the fun!

NOTE: use of filters slows Inkscape down, zooming in on filters slows Inkscape down further. I apply filters if possible in the last steps. And I set the display mode to Edit > Display Mode > No Filters when I am done setting them. This setting has NO impact on exporting the bitmap, the filters are applied on export.


Clipping the image

When you are happy with the results it is time to clip the design to the final format. This is quite simple.

  • Select the rectangle in the background.
  • Duplicate via the menu Edit > Duplicate (shortcut Ctrl+D). The duplicate appears exactly on top.
  • Drag a selection window around all objects (everything is selected).
  • Use Object > Clip > Set from the menu to clip all objects to the size of the rectangle.



Save your work and mission accomplished.

That's all folks, I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Feedback is appreciated.



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

The wallpaper can be downloaded in png format in diverse sizes here: Abstract Wallpaper - Valentine



+5 # Guest 2010-03-04 02:26

i like it
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
+3 # Guest 2010-07-06 16:40
:cry: :cry: :cry: AWESOME!!!!!!
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
+2 # neyaaaaaaa 2010-11-12 10:15
kerrreeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeenn bgd gambarnyaaaa..
I like it ....
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # Vira 2012-01-27 16:44

i got stuck!! i drew the heart shape but the part where you select the two bottom nodes to create 2 or 3 subpaths did not happen for me. :sad: I did see the note about the bottom 2 of # nodes selected but when i clicked the break nodes button, nothing happened and the bottom did not say 2 or 3 subpaths selected. i know the duplicate is below. help!! please!
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
+1 # syllie 2012-01-28 12:30
Hi Vira - and welcome back :D

Sorry to hear you got stuck. These are the days I regret not applying proper numbering to my tutorials...

From your comment I know that you were able to create a duplicate of the heart. So lets start with that.

The duplicate sits directly on top of the original, but there is nothing that prevents you to move it out of the way for a little while so you can focus on breaking that extra one into 3 subpaths. Because that is what we are trying to do: cut the heart exactly at the bottom where you want to close the shape.

1. Use the NODE tool
2. Select the 2 nodes where you want to cut the path (you could select one, hold down shift and then select the other). They should turn blue to indicate that they are selected.
3. Break the path at the selected nodes by using this button on the NODE tool control bar . When you hover over the button it should say "break path at selected nodes" in the tooltip.
4. After this step the path still LOOKS like a single path, but the path is actually made up of 3 subpaths. They are COMBINED.
5. To make this combined path into 3 separate paths, use from the menu Path > Break Apart (Shift + Ctrl + K).
6. Now you should be able to delete the 2 endparts that are no longer needed and join the 2 new ENDPOINTS into one node with this button so you can fill the heart shape. (See also my infographic for you in the floral design tutorial.)

From here you should be able to pick up the tutorial again. Let me know if you need further help please.

Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # Vira 2012-01-28 16:03
Hello Syllie, Yes I am back again, I feel like such a goofball!! I left a step out although you did explain it correctly in your tutorial. :oops: I did it!! thank you, thank you for your patience!! I do not know how i missed that part where you go to Path > Break Apart (Shift + Ctrl + K). so so sorry. Numbering had nothing to do with it on your part, it's just me not reading correctly and carefully! You have been of great help and I truly appreciate your fast response! I will be back of course. Your tuts have helped me tremendously in learning Inkscape.

thank you,
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # Blanco111 2012-06-18 13:24
I got through this tutorial, but there were some places where I got stuck. For instance, what does this mean?: "Create a radial gradient fill from blue to white by pressing this button" Blue? I learned a lot. Thanks.
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # syllie 2012-07-09 12:00
Hi Blanco..

That should obviously be red :D
I remember copying those few lines from the "Abstract Wallpaper" tut. Thanks for pointing it out.

Reply | Reply with quote | Quote


Folks! We are very excited to annouce the launch of our new site - Very Simple Designs.

The main focus of Very Simple Designs is to provide digital resources that can be used for print and web design. While we fill the site to the brim with our professionally created vector stock, patterns and textures as well as brushes for Photoshop and Paintshop Pro, we offer everything free for personal use.