Inkscape

Inkscape is a rich and robust vector illustration programme. It can create and edit svg and eps (among others) files, and is both powerful and intuitive.

Strengths [Weaknesses]

Powerful

Inkscape is a professional-grade illustration programme for vector-based imaging, and can be used for layout and graphic design. It has been used for icon design, game assets, printed matter, and much more.

Intuitive

In spite of being a complex and professional design application, Inkscape is actually very intuitive. The initial learning curve has more to do with an illustrator's adjustment to drawing with vectors than with the tools.

Vector

By drawing with vectors, you are drawing independent of resolution, meaning that your art can losslessly be scaled up or down infinitely (not really infinitely, but theoretically).

Weaknesses [Strengths]

Vectors

If you are a freehand illustrator and have never worked with vector tools before, Inkscape (and any vector illustration programme) will be frustrating.

Install

Inkscape is part of the default Slackermedia queu file. If you did not install it, do so from http://slackbuilds.org.

Usage

Krita and Mypaint are bitmap applications. This is pretty standard for material emulation programmes, but it can be restrictive as it does not scale well. Vector drawings are infinitely scalable since the shapes that you draw in them are rendered, not mapped. Every time you load a vector image, or zoom in or out of it, every line and node is recalculated and re-drawn. While vector drawings are not the best way to digitally paint if you are seeking the most realistic experience possible, but it's essential for iconography, font design, or designing for several different mediums of different sizes.

Using vectors for drawing is a substantially different process than “the usual” digital painting that you might be used to. It tends to “feel” more calculated, but luckily Inkscape has ways to do all of those bothersome calculations after the fact if you prefer. You may never get comfortable with raw vector drawing, but Inkscape can also be used to trace hand-drawn images to “vectorise” them, so there still may be a use case for you.

There are many tools in Inkscape but the most common ones are the Draw Bezier tool, Draw Freehand tool, and the Edit Paths tool. These are located along the left side of the Inkscape window.

Your method is entirely up to you. One common drawing method is to do a rough trace of your image with the Bezier tool shift b and then go in with an Edit Path (F2) tool and adjust the lines that you have drawn, providing them with curves and adjustments as needed.

Another useful method is to use the Draw Freehand (F6) tool to draw or trace wih either your mouse or tablet. This produces paths with far too many nodes, because Inkscape takes constant samples as you draw. Once your paths are finished, press ctrl L to Simplify Paths. This removes redundant nodes, having the effect of smoothing your lines and dramatically lessening the number of calculations that your computer must do in order to render your drawing.

Of course, the standard principles for fills and strokes apply. These are all accessed via the Fill and Stroke pallette (ctrl shift f). Like any vector illustration application, you can set colours for fill and strokes, and even apply stroke styles and effects.

Tracing

Some people prefer to draw on paper and then scan their art in for tracing. If you want to do this, you don't need an expensive scanner. In fact, a quick webcam snapshot is fine.

To import a sketch, launch Inkscape and select FileImport and bring in the scan. When bringing in an image to trace, you are free to either embed or link; generally, it's safe to link. This way, when you're done tracing, you can delete the image and save on file size. The down side to linking is that if the picture for some reason moves or is deleted before you've finished tracing, the image will disappear from Inkscape.

Documentation

Inkscape is available for all platforms and is quite popular, so documentation and tutorials online are prevalent. There are a hundred quintessential tutorials online at http://screencasters.heathenx.org; these are highly recommended.

There are several books on Inkscape available for purchase from online bookstores.

The more you use it, the more powerful it becomes, and if you do any graphic work at all, you'll probably find it a lynchpin of your workflow.

See Also
MyPaint
Krita
GIMP

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