Friday, March 14, 2014

Tutorial: How to create a logo in Inkscape

1. Introduction

For the digital part of designing a logo, it's absolutely crucial that you are using appropriate software. A professional logo file needs to be resolution independent - from the same file you should be able to create a logo on a pencil as well as a huge billboard logo.
Bitmap editors like Photoshop or The Gimp (Photoshop's nearest relative in open source) are not the right tools, due to their dependency on size and resolution. A professional graphic designer would always choose a vector graphic editor as the weapon of choice, if it comes to logo design.
A vector graphic is a mathematical described graphic object. Unless you use bitmap-like effects (which you shouldn't ;-)) in your vector file, it is infinitely scalable. A vector graphic file is a collection of mathematical expressions, all information resides in the structure 1.
 Information in vector graphic files mostly is stored in XML syntax, as Inkscape's built-in XML editor reveals:
The screenshot shows a vector graphic file in SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) format and it's corresponding mathematical backend.

There are several vector graphic top dogs currently on the market:
  • Adobe Illustrator, commonly regarded as the industrial standard
  • CorelDRAW, a very versatile commercial editor as well
  • Adobe Fireworks, a hybrid editor (bitmap + vector) designed mainly for web design purposes
  • Adobe Flash, fully featured vector editor with focus on creating interactive experiences
  • Inkscape, the free and open source alternative
In this tutorials, I will concentrate on the amazing open source program Inkscape.

2. Five Golden Rules

OK - before entering the real digital design process, let's sit back for a second or two and meditate over: 5 Golden Rules of Logo Design:

1. Start thinking, not drawing!

  • Make a list of keywords representing the company/brand/product.
  • Then reduce your keyword list to the 3 most important values.
  • Even better: Concentrate on just 1 key value.
  • Start the creative drawing process ALWAYS with a pen and paper!

2. Use the right software

  • Use vector graphic software: Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape (Open Source), CorelDRAW
  • Never use Photoshop to design a Logo (due to the limitation of bitmaps)

3. Start always with the logotype

  • If you haven't got an appropriate name for the company/brand/product , well - you need to find it now.
  • Focus on typography – find the right typography for the values you want to express.
  • Remember: Types/Letters/Fonts are telling a story, if you want it or not. As a designer you have to find the right typographic story. The typography has to support the identity of the company/brand/product.

4. Consider to add a graphical sign to Your logotype

  • In developing a graphical object concentrate on the shape and the outlines (contours).
  • In logo design, the fill is only of secondary importance.
  • Do not use more than three different geometric shapes, but you can use several elements built on the same shape (the Toyota-circles, the adidas-rectangles, the Windows-flag).
  • In the beginning work in black/white only.
  • Then invert the shape (change the colors to white/black), in order to get better visual control about shapes and contours.

5. Find the right colors

  • Be careful – colors can be very symbolic (try to make research regarding cultural differences)
  • Do not use more than three different colors.
  • Do not use gradients in a logo.
  • Do not use fancy digital effects (like bevels, drop shadows etc.).
  • Use pure colors, primary colors. Use strong contrasts: Complementary (!), cold/warm, light/dark.
  • If available, use spot colors (ready mixed colors like Pantone or Focoltone).

3. Get Inkscape

You can download Inkscape for Windows, MacOS or Linux from

For Windows, I would recommend downloading the installer version. If you prefer to run Inkscape without installation, you can choose the portable variant.

Note: A 64-bit version of Inkscape you'll find curently under
Just download and install the version of your choice, it's free!

This tutorial as YouTube video:

4. First Run

On first run, Inkscape usually launches in a small window. Re-size the window according to your needs. If you want to save the window's appearance once and for all, check the program's preferences under File->Inkscape Preferences.

In Preferences, look for the section Windows, and check on Remember and use last window's geometry.

5. Changing the document properties

Look for the current document's properties under File->Document Properties.

I am going to develop my logo in a standard A4 landscape format with the default unit mm:

Returning to the interface, I am activating the grid - a very helpful asset while drawing and designing (View->Grid, shortcut: #)

Finally, I am activating Inkscape's color panel, controlling the color of fill and strokes (Object->Fill and Stroke, shortcut: Shift+Ctrl+F).

All is set - we're good to go!

6. The logotype

The company's name is Vcare (= we care).
In my sketches, I decided to catch the V through a shape representing a person with outstretched arms surrounded by a "caring", dynamic circle, while care is set in ordinary text. Here I settled on the typeface Calibri bold, capital (=uppercase) letters.

Vcare logo, initial sketch

1. Adding text

In Inkscape, choose the Text tool (F8): 

Click somewhere on your document and type CARE using uppercase letters. With the cursor still blinking, you can change the text appearance from the menu bar above (clicking into an text object, makes the menu bar appear instantly). I chose Calibri, bold, size: 144 to begin with.

You could change the text color directly from the Fill panel to the right, using the CMYK color sliders for instance - but we keep it all black and white for the moment.
With the Selection tool 
 you can select the text object (like any other object as well), grab it and transform it. You can upscale by grabbing on of the transform icons surrounding the object.
Note: Holding down the ctrl key on your keyboard while transforming is preserving the object's aspect ratio!

2. Adjusting the kerning

A typical design problem in logo design is to control the exact distance between all letters of a logotype, the so-called kerning. Logo design is a very, very precise craft - look carefully at all letters and the distance between them - computer's aren't really that good to create a pleasant overall distribution of types, often you will need manual adjustments!
In our case here, I am going to distance the A from the C, just a bit. I think that the computer-generated, automatic kerning is not satisfying in this particular case.
Click into the text object, place the cursor between C and A, press the alt key together with left or right arrow an your keyboard (this also works in Illustrator, by the way) - you will see that you can move single letters applying a custom kerning. I am distancing the A by 2 steps.

7. Drawing the signet

1. Drawing the V

Indisputable the Pen tool, drawing B├ęzier curves and straight lines, is the most important vector drawing tool. It assures utmost precision and curve fit: 
 (shortcut: Shift+F6).

Introduction to advanced drawing techniques in Inkscape: - copy/paste, node editing, freehand and bezier drawing, path manipulation, booleans, offsets, simplification, and text tool.

Drawing with the pen tool, adding anchor points

The finished shape, both stroke and fill colored in black

2. Adding the "Head"

For the figure's "head", I am going to use one of Inkscape's geometric drawing tools: The circle tool (F5).

Just grab the circle tool and open a elliptical shape until you reached the desired dimension. Drag to create an ellipse, drag the controls to make an arc or segment, click to select.
If you want to reset the Ellipse Tool to draw a full circle (after experimenting with the controls): Click on the reset circle tool button in the Tool Control bar at the top of the screen!
The most frequently used Inkscape tool is the Selector. Click the topmost button (with the arrow) on the toolbar, or press F1 or Space. Now you can select any object on the canvas. You will see eight arrow-shaped handles appear around the object. Now you can:
  • Move the object by dragging it. (Press Ctrl to restrict movement to horizontal and vertical.)
  • Scale the object by dragging any handle. (Press Ctrl to preserve the original height/width ratio.)
Click the object again. The handles are changing. Now you can:
  • Rotate the object by dragging corner handles. (Press Ctrl to restrict rotation to 15 degree steps. Drag the cross mark to position the center of rotation.)
  • Skew (shear) the object by dragging non-corner handles. (Press Ctrl to restrict skewing to 15 degree steps.) - the tutorial demonstrates the basics of using Inkscape. 

3. Drawing the circular form

A complex drawing process: We are going to create a "calligraphic" from by separating 2 circles from each other!
Draw a single, perfect circle (fill: black, no stroke) somewhere on your artboard.

On top of it, draw another, smaller circle (white, no stroke). Tip: You can assign a "swatch" color by clicking on the colored "band" on the bottom of the interface.
Re-size the second circle until you can see the final form appearing:

Select both circles, using the Selector tool + Shift key.

Now choose from the Path-menu: Difference!

The result:

Re-scale the new shape and place it properly around the figure.

4. Final adjustments

In order to create more dynamic in the logotype, I am going to jolt it a bit.
Disable the grid, select the text and perform an asymmetric transformation:

Logo, final result

8. Preparing the file for publishing

1. Saving

First of all: Always ave your current work frequently - or even better in different file versions with appropriate extensions, like logo_00.svg, logo_01.svg etc.!
File->Save as (ctrl+S).
You can save in Inkscape's native *.ink format, but in order to make your file compatible to other applications, it's a better idea to save into the open *.svg (scalable vector graphics) format. For the quality of your file, this would make no difference.

From the same dialog, you can also directly publish as *.pdf!
The file formats SVGEPS (Encapsulated Post Script) and PDF, are professional graphic exchange formats - if you deliver your file to a customer, you should always create versions in the named formats!

2. Converting text

You can't rely on that your customer has the typeface, you created your logo with, available. If you save your file as PDF, in most cases the fonts necessary to display your logo, are embedded in the file (there can be exceptions though, due to copyright restrictions!).
You therefore should always convert all text included in your logo (logotype + slogans tec.) into vector graphic shapes - that would make your file independent from fonts installed on the system!
Select the text object, and than choose from the Path-menu: Object to Path.

Now the text is properly converted into a vector graphic shape and gathered in a group! You can access any object within a group by clicking multiple times. If you want to "ungroup", just choose: Object-> Ungroup.

9. Adding colors

I am keeping my black and white version, and save the file again (File->Save as) as inkscape_logo_colored.svg.
For my Vcare logo, I settled on the color-scale
  • Gray (security, reliability, intelligence, maturity, solid, conservative, practical)
  • Beige pastel shade (human factor, unification, quiet, pleasantness)
  • Turquoise pastel shade (calm, sophistication)
Applying those colors in Inkscape though can be difficult, due to Inkscape's known problems in handling CMYK color (still an unfortunate flaw of the program).
A good idea is to start in RGB (all color information in Inkscape is stored in RGB values), using the Fill and Stroke panel (Shift+ctrl+F), and than "grabbing" CMYK values for print later on.
You can use the color sliders or directly type the values into the boxes.

Here we go! Hope you enjoyed...


  1. Hey, this is an awesome tutorial! I've always been afraid of the middleware that adobe and the like offer.
    Sure, I'm not too great at it but I'm a lot more motivated to get better now than I used to be!

    1. Thanks a lot, Patrick - great to hear I could spread some inspiration!

    2. I agree! just had fun using this tutorial. Looking forward to explore more. Thank you for your time.

  2. Hi Thanks for the tutorial. I need to remove the white background from the LOGO. I have a circular LOGO so I need to remove the white background or add a transparent background to my file. How can I do this in Inkscape ?
    Please help :(

  3. Hi: The trick is to publish in the right bitmap format ;-)! Go to File -> Document Properties and check, if your background's alpha channel is set to 0 (by clicking on the background color banner), should be the default.
    Then go ahead and publish your logo using File -> Export Bitmap (Shift+Ctrl+E), set your Bitmap size and resolution, and - important - manually add the file-extension*.png to your filename! As long as you publish in PNG (Portable Network Graphics), you will get a transparent background in your published version.
    Hope this helps...

  4. Very useful logo design tutorial you have posted here. I appreciate your work

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. Thanks for great tutorial. One question though: Isn't it a good idea to use layers for the various components? E.g. text in one layer, the “half moon” in another etc. Any disadvantages doing this?

    1. It's always a good idea to use separate layers for related components! In vectorgraphic editors however, the content of a layer is not merging like in bitmap editors (Photoshop, Gimp and the like), layers therefore are more a matter of good structure, not a mere necessity.

  7. A really helpful tutorial. A question:when we make a logo , with its components on different layers , how do we unite or combine the objects? If we group them , can they be submitted for professional use?

    1. You don't need to merge the content of your layers. Just keep the structure of your vectorgraphic file - whenever you publish in bitmap format (for example in order to use your logo on a web page) the layer/object structure is discarded anyway. For print jobs layer structure is not important either - but a "heavy" file with a lot of groups and layers can slow down the printing process significantly, especially on network printers...

  8. I had read this article.. This is very informative article. Thanks for sharing

  9. Hi! I love your tutorial! What i want to know is, if i was to start doing this professionally, and i was to save it in the appropriate formats and was to sell the logo, would my client be able to edit it in illustrator without a problem? Being that its considered as the"industrial standard"? My reason being i love designing logos but i do not have the money to buy or subscribe to adobe products and i dont want to go about it the illegal way.

    1. Hi Jay: Thanx a lot :-)! And yes - the svg format is perfectly interchangeable...

  10. Very informative tutorial. make me wonder why I didn't download inkscape before.

  11. Thank you for this great topic, it's very helpful

  12. Great article. Thanks!

  13. Thank you Marc this was an AWESOME tutorial. I began looking for free versions for illustrators so I can continue to create my own logos, vectors etc.. and once I saw this tutorial I felt a lot more courageous to use this program rather than paying almost 2,000 for adobe master suit collection. lol. You're awesome!!

  14. You're so welcome, Dawneshia - glad to hear, I helped you saving money ;-). And you're absolutely right - there is no need for the master suit collection...

  15. This is very educational blog. I really like this blog as it contains so many information which I was searching for. Thank you so much for this blog. Its really worth reading. Web Design Miami

    1. Thanks for your kind words - much appreciated :-)!