Inkscape: How to Outline a Design

By FPL_Staff

Before following this tutorial you should be comfortable enough with Inkscape to:

  1. Draw and edit a path
  2. Adjust Fill and Stroke settings

Tracing a design in Inkscape is simple, but what if you want to outline something clearly? Tracing all the way around one side and then the other can be time-consuming, especially if it is a complicated design—and your lines will usually end up uneven. As I worked on a complicated design, I kept thinking “there has to be a faster way.”

For example, the pink path below is slightly off, and the space between the path varies. If you are working with a detailed design, those lines can show up looking sloppy or even hand-drawn (which they are, in a way...) I knew I wanted my design as precise as possible and I spent a lot of time tweaking my lines to try and make them even.

Then I found it! The Stroke-to-Path tool. This little button can save you the hassle I experienced and produce cleaner path lines. The steps are quite easy:

  1. Draw your path
  2. Edit stroke width
  3. Use the Stroke-to-Path button

Draw your Path. Below you can see the green path and node handles; use these to tweak your path until it is exactly centered within the design you want to outline.

Edit stroke width. Under Object --> Fill and Stroke… you will find this menu. Adjust the Width of your Stroke Style so that it matches your object. In my case, the width was 35px.


Note: you may wish to adjust the thickened path to make sure it looks exactly like you want your finished outline.

Use the Stroke-to-Path button. After choosing the Edit Paths tool, click the Stroke-to-Path button.

When you hover over a button, Inkscape will tell you what that button does.

Now you will see that the path has changed; it is outlining the stroke you created. You can now edit the fill as stroke as you desire.

For comparison, you can see the difference between a hand-traced path and a Stroke-to-Path.

Using this tool, especially with a more complicated design, will save tons of time and create more precise outlines. Happy designing!

Don’t have Inkscape on your home computer yet? Download it for free, opens a new window.