Apr 27 2009
Inkscape provides many of the must-have vector illustration tools needed for logo creation and just about anything else you have in mind. For many designers, Inkscape is the lynch-pin in their escape from commercial software. Still in its pre-1.0 release (.43 to be exact), this application is on its way to becoming the Gimp of vector art.
Inscape on OS X relies on the X11 windowing system to run. The creators have file associations working with the Finder, but the overall interface does leave a bit to be desired (ironic for an illustrating application). Unlike other X11-based applications, Inkscape has no problem accessing your OS X fonts.
Every designer’s first concern (and rightly so) is to make sure a tool has the equivalent functions to the alternative. Illustrator is a very old application, and for practicality’s sake I am not going to to a feature-to-feature rundown. I can say that Inkscape supports Bezier drawing, shape tools and has a very smooth path editing tool. Object layering, grouping and complex path modifications are also included.
There are several important features of Illustrator lacking that will likely disqualify Inkscape for some of you. Those mostly relate to color management (PMS color, color management for print). And, as of yet Inkscape does not support Illustrator formats (except through this modification). Inkscape does its work in the open SVG format, but is capable of exporting EPS and Postscript files.
Inkscape has a built-in tracing engine and nice calligraphy tool. Tile Clones and Stamping also generate interesting illustrating effects. All these tools are well documented in the help files. After the initial shock of not having a million floating pallets on your desktop, you begin to realize how few tools you really use and need.
One of the most powerful benefits of Inkscape isn’t in the code at all. Its in the community. The Inkscape Wiki is packed with useful documentation including a Illustrator conversion guide. Also, once you make the leap to SVG you’ll find the Open Clip Art Library a great free source for clip art and design starting points.
Its clear there are a lot of exciting things ahead for this project. While the tool isn’t perfect, the more I’ve used it the more I’ve found I like it. So, Mac Design Pros, give it a whirl.