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MikeTrice

Introduction to using Inkscape to produce cutting files

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I have started this thread following comments from various people that they have difficulty getting into CAD, but would like to be able to produce artwork capable of being used with craft cutters such as the Silhoutte machines introduced so ably by JCL here: http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/79025-a-guide-to-using-the-silhouette-cameo-cutter/

 

So what is Inkscape?

It is intended to be a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator. Very simply it is a vector drawing program which is easier to get familiar with than typical CAD programs.

 

What is a vector drawing?

Forgive me if I am being really basic here, but there are fundamentally two types of computer images: raster and vector. Raster images are things like phtotgraphic images (or bitmaps) that when enlarged become blocky, whereas a vector image is made up of geometric definitions that can be zoomed in on without losing quality.

 

Where can I get Inkscape?

Inkscape can be downloaded from here:http://www.inkscape.org/en/. I will not cover the download and installation of Inkscape here, I am assuming this will be intuitive enough.

Edited by MikeTrice
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Where can I get Inkscape?

Inkscape can be downloaded from here:http://www.inkscape.org/en/. I will not cover the download and installation of Inkscape here, I am assuming this will be intuitive enough.

Perhaps you need to warn users that Norton classifies this program as

"Slightly Unstable

With typical use this program crashes on average once or twice a month."

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When you open Inkscape for the first time you will get a screen like this:

post-3717-0-99235900-1388853345_thumb.jpg

 

Depending on your screen size, you may or may not see all the drawing area. To change the magnification of the view click "view" on the top menu, then "Zoom" and finally "Page":

post-3717-0-82068200-1388853439_thumb.jpg

 

This will result in more of the drawing being visible:

post-3717-0-77620000-1388853511_thumb.jpg

 

Before going any further it is worth changing the document properties to something more useful to our drawing. Click on "File" then "Document Properties":

post-3717-0-36964400-1388853583_thumb.jpg

 

The Document Properties window appears:

post-3717-0-47437700-1388853617_thumb.jpg

 

Change the paper size, the default units and page orientation to suit your preferences, in this instance I have gone into Landscape and use Millimeters as the unit of measurement:

post-3717-0-06591000-1388853687_thumb.jpg

 

Strangely there are no buttons on the Document Properties window so just click on the "X" to close it.

 

To draw a rectangle select the Rectangle tool on the left toolbar, click the mouse button down in the drawing area and drag the mouse to the right and down and let go of the mouse button. All being well you should have a rectangle on the screen:

post-3717-0-45264200-1388853933_thumb.jpg

 

You may find when you do this the colours might be different than shown but we can change that in a minute.

 

Click on the Pointer in the left hand toolbar and note the appearance of the rectangle changes to show sizing handles and the rectangle's dimensions are shown on the top toolbar in our prefered unit of measurement: Millimeters.

post-3717-0-57379600-1388854108_thumb.jpg

 

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  Perhaps you need to warn users that Norton classifies this program as

"Slightly Unstable

With typical use this program crashes on average once or twice a month."

 

Good point Kenton - mind you, that's how I classify Norton ;)

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To resize the rectangle you can either enter the correct measurements in the W or H entry boxes or resize by grabbing one of the handles and dragging it to a new position. In this instance I have clicked on the right hand lower handle with the mouse and held the left button down:

post-3717-0-06874300-1388854347_thumb.jpg

 

Now drag the selected handle to a new position and release the mouse button. Notice while you do this that the display on the top toolbar shows the new size as you move the mouse:

post-3717-0-00849000-1388854424_thumb.jpg

 

To change the colour and fill characteristics of the rectangle make sure it is selected (the resizing handles are visible - if not just click on it) then select "Object" from the top menu followed by "Fill and Stroke":

post-3717-0-56584900-1388854546_thumb.jpg

 

The object's Fill and Stroke properties window opens:

post-3717-0-17332800-1388854600_thumb.jpg

 

Note that there are three tabs on the property window: "Fill", "Stroke paint" and "Stroke style".

 

On the Fill option click on the "X" to turn off the object fill:

post-3717-0-43121200-1388854714_thumb.jpg

 

The "Stroke paint" tab lets you set the outline colour or even turn off the outline:

post-3717-0-95524000-1388854787_thumb.jpg

 

Finally "Stroke style" lets the outline characteristics be changed such as line thickness:

post-3717-0-41721300-1388854848_thumb.jpg

 

With the object "Fill and Style" screen open not all of our rectange is visible, so using the arrows and/or scroll bar the drawing was repositioned:

post-3717-0-62737600-1388855053_thumb.jpg

 

To zoom in on part of the screen click on the magnifying glass in the left hand toolbar, then draw a rectangle with the mouse where you want to zoom in to (use the same action used for drawing the rectangle):

post-3717-0-12203400-1388855092_thumb.jpg

 

The screen will now show the zoomed image:

post-3717-0-56217100-1388855127_thumb.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

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To restore the previous view of the rectangle click on "View" on the top menu, then "Zoom" and chose the appropriate entry, in this case "Previous Zoom" but you could also choose "Drawing" or "Page":

post-3717-0-16733900-1388855319_thumb.jpg

 

This results in:

post-3717-0-78179400-1388855351_thumb.jpg

 

To save your work of art for a later session, choose "File" on the top menu, then "Save as":

post-3717-0-87871700-1388855408_thumb.jpg

 

The save dialogue is the standard windows dialogue so choose a location and give your drawing a name. Note that the default file format is "SVG" which is a standard internet vector graphics format NOT a unique Inkscape format:

post-3717-0-64424600-1388855579.jpg

 

To exit Inkscape just choose "File" then "Close":

post-3717-0-01461900-1388855622_thumb.jpg

 

If you try to exit from Inkscape but have not saved your file you will get this dialogue asking you to confirm what you wnat to do with the unsaved file:

post-3717-0-18861900-1388855709_thumb.jpg

 

So far I have deliberately given VERY basic instructions on how use Inkscape and will continue to do so for a few more topics, however as the topics progress it will be possible to assume that the user will have got into the habit of selecting objects and drawing with the mouse.

 

Any questions so far feel free to ask.

 

Next section will be on some of the other drawing tools.

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With typical use this program crashes on average once or twice a month."

Generally I have found it to be very stable, but having said that a partuclar drawing the other day did crash on a number of occasions and might be related to when I have imported a large bitmap, so I always save on a regular basis. Inkscape also creates backups when it fails.

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Mike, interesting so far and fairly basic* - is there an ultimate goal for the end of the tutorial? Or is it just a simple get to know user guide that will leave us up to our own imagination.

 

Like a lot of software that is reasonably well produced I'm finding use as pretty intuitive and am probably well ahead of you. But what can I do with it when proficient? What, for example, do you use it for?

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I was being flippant earlier. The Inkscape program is definitely more stable that it was even six months ago, though there are still some glitches in there. The program is free because it has been written by a community of programmers who are doing it for fun. To insure against problems if it crashes, I tend to save my files a lot, and from time to time I'll change the file name so that I have a line in the sand. This is because once in a while the program might crash while saving a file and corrupt it.

 

By changing the file name, I mean howldenfullbrake1.svg, howldenfullbrake2.svg, howldenfullbrake3.svg etc. If the howldenfullbrake3.svg file corrupts for any reason, or if you realise you are going down the wrong route when producing your drawing, then you can go back to howldenfullbrake2.svg instead of starting again from the beginning.

 

This might sound alarming, and it's really not meant to be. The issue has only happened to me once in all the time I've been using the program.

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This topic is worth a look for things that mechanical cutters can do.

http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/79025-a-guide-to-using-the-silhouette-cameo-cutter/page-15

 

Yes, that's fine. But my interests lie in the potential of the software and what it can do/has been used for - besides producing files for that. For example has Inkscape the potential of replacing TurboCAD for CAD drawings?

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Mike, interesting so far and fairly basic* - is there an ultimate goal for the end of the tutorial? Or is it just a simple get to know user guide that will leave us up to our own imagination.

 

Like a lot of software that is reasonably well produced I'm finding use as pretty intuitive and am probably well ahead of you. But what can I do with it when proficient? What, for example, do you use it for?

My purpose is to give sufficient information to allow it to be used to produce artwork capable of being sent to a cutter to encourage people to have a go that might be put of by lack of drawing skills as a nmber of people on the Silhouette thread have commented.

 

Personally I have used it to produce artwork for full size replica transfers to be made but this goes way beyond this simple tutorial:

post-3717-0-77848600-1388859430.jpg

 

I also used it to emulate the correct livery for the NRM Dynamometer Car, e.g. with lining:

post-3717-0-16065400-1388859615_thumb.jpg

 

So basically you can use it for most graphics.

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 Yes, that's fine. But my interests lie in the potential of the software and what it can do/has been used for - besides producing files for that. For example has Inkscape the potential of replacing TurboCAD for CAD drawings?

I would say, possibly. I would not call Inkscape a CAD program and it probably lacks the precision of a full CAD application. It is more of a well featured 2D Graphics program and I find myself using it more and more in place of traditional CAD. It certainly has a simpler learning curve.

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To draw a circle or ellipse select the "Circle" tool on the left hand toolbar, click in the drawing area with the mouse and drag the mouse down and to the right then release the mouse button:

post-3717-0-50206200-1388866463_thumb.jpg

 

Note in the above the piece of text on the bottom status bar that tells you that holding the Ctrl key down when dragging will contrain the drawn circle to a circle or certain ellipse settings.

 

Selecting the Pointer tool shows the ellipse with sizing handles:

post-3717-0-54699700-1388866570_thumb.jpg

 

To draw a straight line select the "Bezier and line" tool in the left hand tool bar (we will deal with Bezier curves in a later session). The behaviour of the line drawing is slightly different in that you click the mouse button down and release it to start the line, move the mouse to the second position and click it again to mark the end of the line (dragging it will result in a Bezier curve that we will not go into now):

post-3717-0-83967100-1388866785_thumb.jpg

 

Continuing to click the mouse at various points will extend the line as shown:

post-3717-0-98352000-1388866842_thumb.jpg

 

To indicate that you have finished drawing the line, hit the Enter/Carriage Return key:

post-3717-0-73440200-1388866904_thumb.jpg

 

Selecting the Pointer tool will show resizing handles on the drawn line segments:

post-3717-0-79351800-1388866956_thumb.jpg

 

Earlier in the thread I mentioned that to select an object, you just click on it. To select multiple objects click on the Pointer tool in the left hand toolbar and click the mouse to the top and left of the first object you want and drag the rectangle to the bottom right of the last object:

post-3717-0-70692200-1388867097_thumb.jpg

 

On releasing the mouse button all objects within the bounding box will be selected:

post-3717-0-74240300-1388867166_thumb.jpg

 

Note that the status bar at the bottom confirms that 3 objects have been selected.

 

With all three objects selected you can now click on one of the sizing handles and drag the mouse to resize all 3 objects concurrently:

post-3717-0-96692200-1388867289_thumb.jpg

 

When selecting and manipulating multiple objects it is often more convenient to have them permanently treated as a single object. To do this first select the objects then click on "Object" and then "Group":

post-3717-0-43437100-1388867374_thumb.jpg

 

Note the change in appearance and confirmation in the bottom status bar that you now have a group of 3 objects:

post-3717-0-92047700-1388867432_thumb.jpg

 

To move the selected group, click on a line within it with the left mouse button and drag the mouse to a new position, the grouped objects will follow:

post-3717-0-51523800-1388867504_thumb.jpg

 

To separate the group back into its component objects, select it then click on "Object" and "Ungroup":

post-3717-0-76814500-1388867563_thumb.jpg

 

We are back to 3 separate objects which is confirmed by the lower status bar:

post-3717-0-33947900-1388867620_thumb.jpg

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Supposing we want to change the shape of the line segments created earlier. First we have to select it:

post-3717-0-45786400-1388869515_thumb.jpg

 

Now click on the "Edit path by node" button in the toolbar and notice how the appearance of the lines changes to display end points for each line segment:

post-3717-0-45377400-1388869599_thumb.jpg

 

To move a node select it by clicking on it:

post-3717-0-29821800-1388869631_thumb.jpg

 

Now drag the node with the mouse to a new position:

post-3717-0-11079800-1388869659_thumb.jpg

 

To move multiple points at the same time either drag the mouse around the nodes to select them, or select each one in turn keeping the Shift key pressed.

post-3717-0-71262600-1388869808_thumb.jpg

 

Note the change in appearance of the selected nodes:

post-3717-0-89921500-1388869841_thumb.jpg

 

Once selected click on one of them and drag them to a new position:

post-3717-0-92287500-1388869870_thumb.jpg

 

When going back into Pointer mode the revised line segments display with their sizing handles again:

post-3717-0-65904600-1388869921_thumb.jpg

 

Now select the rectangle (for convenience I have zoomed into it using the Magnifying glass in the left hand toolbar):

post-3717-0-48785900-1388870004_thumb.jpg

 

Select the "Edit path by nodes" button again and note how the node points display:

post-3717-0-59289300-1388870056_thumb.jpg

 

The top right hand node displays as a circle. Click on it and drag it downwards and watch what happens:

post-3717-0-18699300-1388870124_thumb.jpg

 

Reverting to normal view results in our rectangle (now with rounded corners) displaying thus:

post-3717-0-86537200-1388870180_thumb.jpg

 

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 Yes, that's fine. But my interests lie in the potential of the software and what it can do/has been used for - besides producing files for that. For example has Inkscape the potential of replacing TurboCAD for CAD drawings?

 

It's a vector graphics program. If you don't understand what that means you have no use for it.

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It's a vector graphics program. If you don't understand what that means you have no use for it.

Thanks Bill, that's really informative and helpful :sarcastic:

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Some notes on resizing before moving on to some practical artwork.

 

Here I have two rectangles with rounded corners each with a 5mm border. The top rectangle has been selected to reveal the sizing handles:

post-3717-0-76885600-1388935701_thumb.jpg

 

Note also the highlighted Padlock and corner icons on the top toolbar. They have an impact on the resizing behaviour.

 

Here the Padlock has been clicked on and the bottom right hand corner dragged to a new position. With the Padlock engages the width and height stay in proportion to each other or in other words the aspect ratio is locked:

post-3717-0-61584400-1388935875_thumb.jpg

 

When the Padlock is NOt set the same effect can be achieved by keeping the Ctrl key pressed whilst resizing.

 

Here the Padlock is still set, as is the first corner icon button. When resizing the rectangle this time the border thickness enlarges in proportion:

post-3717-0-70884600-1388935965_thumb.jpg

 

Here the second corner icon button is set. When resizing the rectangle the curvature of corner enlarges in proportion however in this instance the border thickness remains set at 5mm:

post-3717-0-62083800-1388936430_thumb.jpg

 

Although the corner icons have been shown in isolation that can also be used in combination.

 

Clicking on a selected object a second time the resizing handles change to become rotation handles:

post-3717-0-01080400-1388936674_thumb.jpg

 

Dragging one of the corner handles rotates the object about its centre point:

post-3717-0-40032900-1388936711_thumb.jpg

 

On completion of the rotation it will appear thus:

post-3717-0-96872100-1388936744_thumb.jpg

 

Click on it again to restore the resizing handles and see how it behaves with resizing now!

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Thanks Mike

I'm one of the people on the cutting thread that doesn't know one end of a CAD system from the other so I'm finding this very useful.

Keep it up

 

John Pendlebury

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I was intending (hoping) to use Sketchup for drawing preparation as I've used it a fair bit in the past, but this looks much better.  Also being 2D there isn't any risk of slipping out of the axis.  I really appreciate this tutorial, thank you Mike.

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OK, if you have followed me so far, and hopefully had a play with the software, you should be in a position, even with limited knowledge, of starting to use Inkscape for something practical. At the beginning of this topic I mentioned Jason's (JCL) thread on using the Silhouette cutting machine to produce card and styrene cutouts: http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/79025-a-guide-to-using-the-silhouette-cameo-cutter/

 

As part of his thread he goes through the steps to produce cutting artwork for a simple coal hut. I though it might be interesting to do exactly the same but using Inkscape rather than the Silhouette Studio software Jason used. Jason's starting point was this image which shows the coal hut from a reasonable side elevation:

post-3717-0-17376700-1388942456.jpg

 

So let us open up a new instance of Inkscape, set the Document Properties to "Landscape" and Millimeters (see earlier sessions in this thread).

 

We are going to use a feature that Inkscape has, but Silhouette Studio lacks: layers.

 

So let us start and select "Layer" from the top menu, then "Layers..." at the bottom of the drop down:

post-3717-0-34299300-1388942710_thumb.jpg

 

The Layers window appears on the right. By default you get a single layer called "Layer1":

post-3717-0-52586100-1388942797_thumb.jpg

 

To the left of the layer name are two icons representing layer visibility and whether the layer is locked or not. I will go into these later.

 

First of all clcik on the layer name "Layer1". It will now allow you to edit it:

post-3717-0-89618700-1388942910_thumb.jpg

 

Here I have renamed it "Bitmap" and hit the Enter/Carriage Return key. Now click on the "+" icon to add a new layer:

post-3717-0-05174400-1388942979_thumb.jpg

 

In the Layer dialogue give our new layer a name. In this instance I have called it "Guides":

post-3717-0-86911500-1388943081_thumb.jpg

 

The new layer now appears in the "Layers" window on the right:

post-3717-0-91644700-1388943178_thumb.jpg

 

You can just make out that the new layer "Guides" is the currently selected layer (by the background shading) or by looking at the information in the status bar at the bottom:

post-3717-0-72570000-1388943264_thumb.jpg

 

Ensuring that "guides" is selected now draw a rectangle. This should have no fill, a border colour of "ff0000ff" (red) and a style width of 0.1mm:

post-3717-0-06510500-1388943450_thumb.jpg

 

Jason has assumed that the Coal Hut is 6'6" high which works out (in 4mm) at 26mm so I have resized the rectangle to be 30mm wide by 26mm high. Once this has been set, I have clicked on the Padlock icon to lock the "guides" layer. This means that I can no longer select or accidentally change the rectangle:

post-3717-0-92804100-1388943669_thumb.jpg

 

Now ensure that the "Bitmap" layer has been selected:

post-3717-0-76876500-1388943718_thumb.jpg

 

Now the fun starts. Click on "File" on the main menu, then "Import":

post-3717-0-41934200-1388943776_thumb.jpg

 

Now navigate to and select the image we are going to import (Inkscape supports a wide range of recognised file formats):

post-3717-0-58771300-1388943855_thumb.jpg

 

Click on "Open". The next dialogue gives you the option of embedding the image in the Inkscape file, or simply linking to it. Embedding the image increases the size of the Inkscape file, however it means that if the original image is deleted, the Inkscape embedded image is not impacted. I tend to keep images Embedded:

post-3717-0-66686800-1388943992_thumb.jpg

 

Here is the imported image displayed on the screen complete with sizing handles:

post-3717-0-83825800-1388944047_thumb.jpg

 

Now I have reduced the size of the imported image but ensure the Padlock on the top toolbar is set to maintain the aspect ratio, or

by keeping the Ctrl key pressed whilst manipulating the bottom right hand resizing handle with the mouse (refer to earlier lessons):

post-3717-0-25661800-1388944233_thumb.jpg

 

You will now need to move the bitmap by dragging it across the screen (as demonstrated earlier) and constant resizing until the height is set correctly against the dimensional rectangle. For illustrate this I have zoomed into the image:

post-3717-0-70252800-1388944404_thumb.jpg

 

Here I have zoomed to the "Drawing" and set the Padlock on the "Bitmap" layer:

post-3717-0-32585700-1388944508_thumb.jpg

 

What I have not done until now is describe what a Layer is. Think of a layer as a series of transparent drawing surfaces that can be stacked over each other, much as a series of overhead transparencies might be stacked up together. The beauty of Layers is that they can be reordered or their visibility turned on or off. Here the "Bitmap" layer's visibility has been turned off:

post-3717-0-31770300-1388944658_thumb.jpg

 

Conversely the "Bitmap" layer has had its visibility set back on, and the "Guides" layer turned off:

post-3717-0-55055000-1388944715_thumb.jpg

 

So that is a good point to stop. Save your work so far, we will go further during a later session.

 

For Kenton and other's benefit I use this technique a lot especially to rescale scanned drawings (and photos) to 4mm or other scale then printing them off for easy reference. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Just to reiterate using Inkscape to rescale drawings here is a copy of the LNER Diagram 86 imported into Inkscape and rescaled to 4mm scale. The Prototype is 32'0" x 12'6 over the body and roof so a sizing rectangle of 128mm x 50mm has been created. This rectangle via the "Dimensions" layer would have its visibility property turned off for printing:

post-3717-0-23836300-1388947138_thumb.jpg

 

This could easily be used as a basis for a cutting file

Edited by MikeTrice

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This is very interesting and is really making me to think about have a go and even getting a cutter.

 

Thank you for this topic

 

Richard

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Thanks Richard. To all of you who have given your support so far, it makes it all worthwhile.

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