Inkscape Vector Graphics

inkscapeInkscape is an award winning freeware vector-based drawing program gaining popularity with professional users and hobbyists alike for its intuitive user interface, continued improvements and useful site with forums for discussion and testing of the latest Beta versions. Vector based drawing programs are more popular with graphic designers and artists than with photographers, because of the file type used (SVG). These give clean images when blown up to huge sizes; whereas raster based editors like Gimp and Photoshop, who are dependant on pixels, small squares of color, lose definition when enlarged to many times the size of the original.

Programs with many options to create and edit original art and or design logos and art for web sites have come a long way since the early days of Adobe products. Inkscape has sufficient options for the professional artist, with more than 90 “extensions” offered and a new version, 0.47 pre, released to Beta testers in July, 2009. This fixes some of the bugs experienced by users of the last stable version, 0.46. Similar to Xara X, CorelDraw or Illustrator, Inkscape uses Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) files, offering the artist a myriad of possibilities such as layers, cloning, multi-line text, charts and graphs, maps, markers, alpha blending, gradients, and logos, just to name a few.

Inkscape’s enthusiastic users particularly like the,” Import from Open Clip Art Library” function which adds a library of online images using keyword-based enquiries. Some of the images are not in SVG format, a problem with filters that should be fixed in the next version. Importing huge amounts of fonts may stretch the capabilities of your system, so if this is an aspect of your work, be prepared for some loss of speed in working in this area, as fonts are only organized on an alphabetical basis. Support of multi-line texting is very good, with the option of placing every letter in a word in exactly the right place.

Inkscape has the advantage over Illustrator in some areas, including features like one-click paint bucket fill, color painting over objects, editing gradients with handles on-canvas, and editing the SVG source directly. Illustrator is still ahead in the area of color management for print, gradient meshes, PMS color and multiple strokes and fills for one object. But it is a freeware program, and improving all the time.

Those who find Inkscape more difficult to use are probably trying to work on projects better suited to a raster editor, like Gimp, but a full design would need more than Gimp can offer, so many designers switch between several editors to get the best of all possible worlds by utilizing the strengths of each one.

Creating entire web pages with Inkscape is still rather problematic, even though SVG is gaining popularity, because of the use of older browsers. Firefox, Opera and more advanced browsers support SVG, but artists are often forced to convert the files to PNG, which defeats the purpose of having a better definition image.

While Inkscape does not offer all the whistles and bells of other vector based programs, it also does not suffer from the resource-hogging problems of programs like Illustrator. It can even be used with Linux. More features and fewer bugs are coming in every version, the promised 1.0 may not be too far away, and to be able to participate in the development of this fine program is rather an honor, if users have the time and knowledge to contribute.

System requirements for Inkscape are Windows Me, NT, or XP and Vista. Mac users need the OS X version 10.3 (Panther). Linux enthusiasts will find it runs smoothly on their operating system.

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