An open-source vector-based application like Inkscape can be exciting when creating your illustrations and graphics, especially when the learning curve for acquainting yourself with certain functions isn’t steep. Inkscape extensions require some intimacy with programming languages and reading code, but basic functions are as easy as a few simple steps.
The great thing about applications like Inkscape is that there are typically multiple ways to execute a single function. Having options allows you to choose what’s easiest to remember and perform. A good example of this is filling a shape with an image. Keep reading to find out how you can accomplish this in Inkscape.
If you have a letter or shape and would like to fill it with an image, there are multiple ways you can accomplish this. You can convert the bitmap image into a pattern and fill your shape with this pattern, or you can crop the image to the shape. Both avenues will provide the same results; it’s just a matter of preference.
1. Turn Your Image Into a Pattern
If you would like to go the route of turning your bitmap image into a pattern that will appear on the pattern list for you to use to fill a shape, then there are just a few simple steps to execute. This method is especially helpful if you need to fill multiple shapes for a single design.
- Open your bitmap image in Inkscape
- Select the image and navigate to Objects > Pattern > Object to Pattern
- If you look at the Fill and stroke panel to the right of your canvas, you will see under Fill the pattern with a new name, i.e., ‘Pattern2379.’
- Now select a shape from the left-hand panel or use the text tool if the shape you desire is a letter.
You can change the font (if it’s a letter) and expand your shape to the desired size and modify the stroke and outline color of the shape to your desire. To continue:
- With the shape selected, go to Path > Object to Path
- Now in the Fill tab, select the pattern you previously created of your image.
- The Fill Pattern dialog box will inform you to use the Node tool to adjust position, scale, and rotation.
- Select the Node tool in the left-hand panel. You’ll see a circle, square, and X appear
- Use the square to move the points of the tool in toward the shape. You should see your pattern get smaller and smaller within the shape.
- The ‘X’ changes the position of the pattern within the shape.
- The circle rotates the pattern within the shape.
Now your image is ready to export, or you can continue to use this pattern with other letters and shapes within the same canvas.
2. Crop Your Image to the Shape
This method of filling a shape with your image has fewer steps but does require precision to get the image exactly how you want it within the shape before cropping it. It may be a trial and error test, but once you get the hang of cropping images to fill shapes, the process will go a lot faster.
- Open a blank canvas in Inkscape
- Navigate to Fill > Import to get your image onto the canvas
- You can get your shape from the left-hand panel or use the text tool if the shape you desire is a letter.
Now you can change the font (if it’s a letter) and expand the shape to the desired size or modify the stroke and outline color of your shape to your desire. To continue:
- Select the shape and move it over the image
- Make the shape transparent to adjust.
- Position the shape to the correct placement over the image
- Once you have it placed, select to fill the shape with color again
- Drag the cursor to select both the image and the shape
- Navigate to Object > Clip > Set
- You can also right-click the selection to set the clip
Your image is ready to export, or you can repeat this process for a different letter or shape within the same canvas.
Getting the image you will be using to fill your shape may not be as simple as importing a ready image. Sometimes you have to make or manipulate the image you’re going to use before adding the shape you will fill. Creating your image could involve different elements. One thing you might want to do is overlay one or more images. Here are a few easy steps to overlay images in Inkscape:
- Open a blank canvas in Inkscape
- Navigate to Fill > Import to get your base image onto the canvas
- Once your image is on the canvas and expanded and set up the way you want, go back to Fill > Import to get your secondary image onto the canvas.
- Make sure your secondary image has a transparent background if you want them to overlay seamlessly.
- Position the secondary image on the base image in the placement you desire.
- You can use the fill bounded areas to change the color of the secondary image if needed.
Now that your two images overlap one another seamlessly, you can continue adding additional images until you’re satisfied and then move toward cutting your image into a shape or turning the images into a pattern to fill the shape.
A set of helpful tools to merge two or more objects in Inkscape are the Union or Combine commands, which come in handy if you want to create a unique shape before you fill it with your image.
Let’s say you have two overlapping circles and would like to make them into one solid shape with no intersection lines. All you have to do is select the overlapping circles and navigate to Path > Union or Path > Combine. Both commands will merge the two intersecting shapes and leave you with one solid shape.
Now that you know how to fill a shape with an image or cut out an image with a shape and how to create more unique shapes for this task, you can play around with your design in Inkscape.