This is a basic guide on using the Inkscape Path Operations. After writing a lot of intermediate tutorials on creating vector art, I found that I extensively use the path operations. Many questions were asked on how one can get a specific shape in other tutorials, and the answer would be obvious if you have a in depth understanding of these operations.
Path operations are performed between two shapes. All the path operations can be found in the Path menu. Depending on the order of the shapes, and the operation performed, you can get various derived shapes. The different operations we will look at in depth are the following.
- Cut Path
I use the Union, Difference and Intersection a lot, and the knowledge of these three operations should be sufficient for most of what you want to get. For completeness, I will discuss the other three operations too. To apply all these operations, you select two shapes, and then choose the operation required from the Path menu.
Hot key: [Ctrl] + [+]
It combines two shapes into one shape. Even if the two shapes are not overlapping, it makes it into a single path object. You can use it in vector illustrations, when you create it part wise, and then want to combine them to give uniform effects like gradients.
Hot key: [Ctrl] + [-]
The Difference operation punches out one shape from the other. The one that is on the top is used as the stencil to cut out the shape from the lower shape. Observe how the same operation is performed on the above shapes, when their order is swapped.
You can use this operations to punch out shapes from larger shapes to give them details. Note that for this operation to take effect the shapes must be overlapping.
Hot key: [Ctrl] + [*]
The third of the most used operation, the Intersection operation chops off any part of the shapes that are not overlapping each other. Use this operation to put in shapes of shadows that follow the exact boundary of the original shape, by intersecting the shadow shape with a copy of the original shape.
Hot key: [Ctrl] + [^]
This operation result is opposite to that of the Intersection operation.
Hot key: [Ctrl] + [/]
This operation breaks the lower shape into two shapes based on the overlapping shape.
Note that the order of the shapes overlapping each other effects which shape is broken into two.
Hot key: [Ctrl] + [Alt] + [/]
The Cut Path operation is similar to the Division operation, except that the resulting paths are kept open and not close – making the fill color in consequential.
Like the Division operation, the order of the shapes effects the result.
I have not yet found much use for the last three operations. For the first three operations, I can give practical examples of why I would use it. But if you do know of any practical use of the last three Path Operations, do let me know.
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