Inkscape is a FREE 2D vector graphics program available for MAC or PC. For someone on a low, (or no), budget, it could be a good alternative to CorelDraw or Freehand.

The interface is easy to learn, and if you used any other popular graphics program you will find an amazing number of similarities.

You can download it, along with an impressive collection of clipart images at:

Anyone familiar with CorelDraw should feel right at home with the Inkscape interface. Although not quite as powerful as CorelDraw, the price was right.

One feature that I really appreciate is the full text preview. You can preview fonts in actual size before selecting. Although you can do this in Corel, there are some professional programs that you can't preview.

Highlight the text, select Text on the Menu bar and choose Text and Font...

In this tutorial I will demonstrate several Inkscape features by tracing a car from a blueprint. There are several sites that have downloadable blueprints. I found a Porsche 911 and saved the image to the hard drive. Go to File --> Import and place the image on the canvas. To re-size the image select it, then hold down the Shift key while dragging one of the corner handles.

Create a new layer by going to Layer --> Add Layer. Select Layers... to activate the Layers panel.

The Layers panel allows you to:
  • lock
  • turn off
  • add or delete a layer
  • move a layer back or forward
  • change the opacity

Usage is quite simple -  the Arrows move the layers up and down, the + and - signs add and delete. The lock and the eyeball are straightforward as well.

The Bezier Curve tool can be used to trace the outline of the car blueprint. As long as you start a line segment on the node end of another line, the line segments will be connected. The current line segment appears in Red with the previous ones appearing in Green.

I turned the opacity down to 22% on the blueprint layer to make it easier to see my tracing line segments. It also helps to lock any layer that you are not currently working on. Just remember to unlock them if you want to edit them.

If you make a mistake select the node with the Edit Paths by Nodes Tool (F2 is the shortcut).

You can delete nodes by selecting with the Edit Paths by Nodes Tool and selecting the - sign.

Add nodes by placing the Edit Paths by Nodes Tool where you want to place a new node and hit the + sign.

Here is the completed tracing of the body of the Porsche.  I turned the opacity of the blueprint down to 12% so that the outline is more visible.

The next step will be to smooth out the line segments.

Use the Edit Paths by Nodes Tool again to begin smoothing out the line segments. Select a node and choose one of the Node Tools. I used the "smooth" and "symmetric" tools.  Once you select a node you will see Handles on each of the nodes.  These Handles allow you to manipulate and stretch the shape of the line segments. You can also move a node from it's current position.